Volvo to Implement 'Mixed-reality' Development Tool

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
volvo to implement 8216 mixed reality development tool

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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  • Sgeffe Sgeffe on May 29, 2019

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

  • Conundrum Conundrum on May 29, 2019

    ".. 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.

    • PandaBear PandaBear on May 30, 2019

      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.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Drove a rental Cherokee for several days at the beginning of this year. Since the inventory of rental cars is still low, this was a 2020 model with 48k miles and V6. Ran fine, no gremlins, graphics display was easy to work, plenty of power, & very comfortable. Someone must of disarmed the lane assistance feature for the steering wheel never shook (YES!!!!!!!!). However, this woman's voice kept nagging me about the speed limit (what's new!?!?!?!).I was impressed enough to consider this a prime candidate to replace my 11 yr old Ford Escape. Might get a good deal with the close out of the model. Time will tell. 🚗🚗🚗
  • Bullnuke One wonders if this poor woman entered the US through Roxham Road...
  • Johnds Years ago I pulled over a vehicle from either Manitoba or Ontario in North Dakota for speeding. The license plates and drivers license did not come up on my dispatchers computer. The only option was to call their government. Being that it was 2 am, that wasn’t possible so they were given a warning.
  • BEPLA My own theory/question on the Mark VI:Had Lincoln used the longer sedan wheelbase on the coupe - by leaning the windshield back and pushing the dashboard & steering wheel rearward a bit - not built a sedan - and engineered the car for frameless side windows (those framed windows are clunky, look cheap, and add too many vertical lines in comparison to the previous Marks) - Would the VI have remained an attractive, aspirational object of desire?
  • VoGhost Another ICEbox? Pass. Where are you going to fill your oil addiction when all the gas stations disappear for lack of demand? I want a pickup that I can actually use for a few decades.