The collaboration will be further strengthened by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund’s decision to invest in Varjo.
The Tech Fund is Volvo’s venture capital fund, which invests in high-potential technology start-ups.
The two companies have made it possible for the first time to drive a real car while wearing a mixed-reality headset, seamlessly adding virtual elements or complete features that seem real to both the driver and the car’s sensors, for development purposes.
Until now, no other car maker has been able to do this.
The Varjo XR-1 headset, launched today, provides photorealistic mixed or virtual reality at a high-definition resolution better than anything currently available. As such, the XR-1 can radically reduce development timeframes by creating the new ability to evaluate features and designs almost immediately.
Compared with its predecessor, the XR-1 adds high-definition cameras to the headset and enables mixed reality. This allows Volvo Cars’ designers and engineers to ‘drive’ future cars and evaluate all features in a simulation environment many years before they exist, enabling the company to develop the safest cars with the most refined user experience possible.
“With this mixed-reality approach, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board. 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 identifying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process,” said Volvo Cars chief technology officer Henrik Green.
The XR-1 also allows Volvo Cars’ engineers to develop and evaluate active safety solutions much easier. Safety experts are able to drive real cars while wearing the XR-1 headset at Volvo’s research facilities in Sweden, testing virtual active safety systems imposed via augmented reality on the real-life environment.
Highly accurate eye-tracking technology embedded inside the XR-1 makes it easy to assess how drivers use a new functionality and whether they are distracted in any way. This technology-based approach to measuring distraction levels ensures that Volvo Cars can develop new features without causing additional distraction.
“From the very beginning, our vision has been to create a product that can seamlessly merge the real and the virtual together. The incredibly advanced ways in which Volvo Cars uses the XR-1 show that Varjo’s technology enables things that have been previously impossible. Together with Volvo, we have started a new era in professional mixed reality,” said Varjo founder and CEO Niko Eiden.
Volvo Cars is a trailblazer within the car industry in using augmented and virtual reality in its design and development work. The partnership with Varjo is the latest and most advanced manifestation of the company’s strong position in this area. Volvo Cars believe in the power of smart partnerships with leading tech companies to develop next-generation technologies.
“Varjo is a clear leader in its field. The company’s technology promises a lot for the future, but also offers clear applications already today for Volvo Cars. Varjo is a textbook example of the type of companies we seek to invest in,” said Volvo Cars Tech Fund CEO Zaki Fasihuddin.
The Varjo XR-1 headset and Volvo Cars’ application of the technology are demonstrated as of today at the Augmented Reality World Expo in Santa Clara, California. A patent has been filed for the application of the technology.