Meet The Virtual Reality Immersion Laboratory Coming To Melbourne

Elizabeth Baron helps a virtual immersion candidate prepare to go inside the car.

A room similar to the virtual technology centre at the Ford headquarters in Detroit is being built in Melbourne and is expected to be launched in August, according to the car maker.

Designers and engineers have used the state-of-the-art virtual reality lab to check tens of thousands of details on almost 200 virtual vehicle prototypes built in the immersion lab as ghost cars.

A designer explores the virtual vehicle by donning a headset which projects an image on to the eyes. They then check everything about the design, sometimes using a virtual flash light to see into dark corners.

An ultra high definition wall screen, four times the resolution of a television, also shows what the designer sees.

Elizabeth Baron, who runs the Detroit lab, says the benefit is that engineers and designers can look at everything about a car virtually and make changes on the fly.

“If you build a prototype, you have just one car. Here you can have thousands. We are changing things, refining and we can improve a lot quicker,” she says.

“If we need to change it a little bit, we can do all the changes here.”

Building a car becomes a global collaboration with engineers from Europe and Australia joining America colleagues via video conferencing. They see and hear everything the immersion engineer can see in Detroit.

“We do global collaborations and we have the world dial in,” says Elizabeth Baron. “Everybody is seeing what the immersed person sees in real-time or very small delays, under one second to Germany and two seconds to Australia.”

Having a virtual reality lab in Melbourne will allow Ford to work time zones more efficiently, pushing projects forward during the Australian day when the American lab is closed for the night.

See through the eyes of a virtual reality immersion engineer here.

The virtual immersion chair.

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