Designing in Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality is breaking into every aspect of the industrial design world. Here at the Toyota Design Center this is no exception. VR technology will become indispensable during product developments. No matter if it’s a small appliance or a huge vehicle, virtual reality has the benefit of seeing an item on a 1:1 scale, with genuine materials, in a real environment.

We started using VR back in 2016. First we settled for a custom desktop machine with Intel Kaby lake top-of-the-line processor. After some time we noticed that moving around with a desktop and all the VR accessories was becoming burdensome, so we decided to switch to mobile. We just upgraded our gear with state-of-the-art Alienware 17 R4. It boasts a desktop spec NVIDIA 1080gtx and pairs well with HTC VIVE. It definitely gives a punch that we need to make all of those hyper realistic renderings in 360 view.

Toyota VR Alienware HTC

While mainly being used in our design development, Virtual Reality is becoming a big part of communication too. It will help us to connect different teams within our international organisation and create a truly global virtual design studio. We have already developed a process in which we can start a sketch in 3 dimensions using HTC controllers, later importing it to Alias software to surface the model and adjust it further with a dedicated VR plug-in. In the final stage we use Unreal engine with bespoke realistic environments and simulations to present our projects to management and engineering teams. We are striving to take VR to a new level where we can minimise prototyping time, while reducing wasted materials and presenting ideas in the most compelling manner.

But VR development can be applied in many more ways than just design. We see a potential in this technology for all members of our team. For instance, we plan to use VR in order to test UX and graphic design concepts. This will allow us to see screen positions, ergonomics and different light conditions: basically simulating the real world. Lastly, we’re also investigating how to connect with other departments in order to integrate VR as a full product development process.

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