By on May 29, 2019

Like all automakers, Volvo is keen to promote itself as a cutting-edge manufacturer, and now has a new tool in its arsenal to impress tech-obsessed shareholders. Thanks to a corporate partnership with Varjo, the brand says it will begin implementing the latest in VR headsets to help streamline development. However, Volvo’s plan is more concerned with augmenting our existing realities than creating new ones.

By using Varjo’s new XR-1 headset, the automaker believes it can manufacture plausible portions of augmented reality littered with virtual obstacles and encounters that are as real to the driver as they would be to the car — without putting either in any legitimate danger. This is ultimately supposed to allow the company to effectively test real vehicles sporting autonomous hardware while subjecting living subjects to the same experience. But the full depth of these simulations has yet to be explored. 

For now, the XR-1 can be used to help Volvo decide what visual cues stand out most to drivers by simulating events like wild animal crossings or road closures. In the future, some vehicles might incorporate expansive head-up displays. By tapping Varjo’s headset to test what locations and imagery are most effectively in drawing the human eye, Volvo could get a head start on the competition. This advantage could spill over into the fine-turning of established active safety solutions while mitigating production costs by eliminating the need for so many prototype models.

Eventually, the automaker intends to use the system to virtually “drive” vehicles that are still in development and test design elements without ever having to fabricate anything physical. While there’s no guarantee it will pay off, it’s an interesting concept that sounds plausible enough on its surface.


“With this mixed reality approach, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board,” said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. “Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, we can test concepts on the road immediately. This approach offers considerable potential cost savings by identifiying [sic] priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.”

Varjo promises that the headset boasts near-perfect retina resolution and no perceptible lag, which is why you’re supposedly able to get away with wearing one while driving. That combination is said to make the system the most advanced VR headset currently in existence. Pricing is yet to be announced, though should reflect that aspect of the product.

If you want an early taste, Volvo and Varjo plan to display the XR-1 at the Augmented Reality World Expo in Santa Clara, CA, this week. The headsets won’t make their way to the automaker’s R&D facilities until later this year. For a time, the two companies’ partnership will be exclusive. Yet Varjo has already indicated that it intends to make its products and services are available to all manufacturers once its exclusive deal with Volvo ends. The XR-1 will be a free agent before the start of 2020.

[Images: Volvo Cars]

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5 Comments on “Volvo to Implement ‘Mixed-reality’ Development Tool...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Here is an (un)mixed reality: Accident lawyers everywhere are drooling.

    • 0 avatar

      You can go with transparent OLEDs for augmented reality. Light goes both ways so if things get laggy for whatever reason, you can still see what’s going on in real-time through the clear displays. Haven’t tried them yet myself, but I might order some up when I get the time to play with them.

  • avatar

    Uhhhh..FUBAR! (Google it if necessary!)

  • avatar

    “.. now has a new tool in its arsenal to impress tech-obsessed shareholders.”

    Geely owns Volvo outright, and is itself privately held. No shareholders or Wall Street to impress. Li Shufu runs the outfit he started making fridges.

    I can’t quite figure out what this set of goggles is really meant to do, mixing reality with artificiality, but the porn industry is no doubt panting at the possibilities.

    • 0 avatar

      Volvo is always making these little tech here and there. Things they did in the past like a pony tail friendly head rest (Y shape), radiator coating that “cleans the outside air” with a catalyst coating, and of course, this.

      I’d rather they make it a helmet to improve safety with mixed reality inside, at least it is better for you.

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