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Combining Physical and Virtual Reality

The old adage that, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure,” is as true at the corporate level as it is at the curb.

The old adage that, “One man’s garbage is another man’s treasure,” is as true at the corporate level as it is at the curb. Proof comes in the form of Ford’s Programmable Vehicle Model (PVM), an interior buck with external gantry that has 51 axes over which its component parts can move. Designed to place designers and executives within a physical interior that can be adjusted to show relationships between components, it had fallen into disuse as Ford transitioned toward virtual reality design reviews. Not one to waste an opportunity when she sees it, Virtual Reality and Advanced Visualization Specialist Elizabeth Baron grabbed a bunch of tripods and Vicon motion-capture cameras, and placed them around the PVM.

“I just saw the buck sitting there,” she says about her after-hours caper, “and realized that adding the motion-capture system could greatly increase its value.” By the following Monday, Baron had a rough system up and running, and showed it to her bosses. One of the people most interested in the revitalized system was Pat Schiavone, design director, Ford Trucks. Like most designers, he’d like the beltline to be as high as possible to give each vehicle a better stance. However, this often leads to arguments over visibility and comfort. “We’d fight over a few millimeters like our lives depended on it,” says Schiavone, “take a long time to make a decision, and not end up with an optimum solution before the PVM was modified.” Used extensively on the Ford Flex, Schiavone says the unit let all of the vehicle shareholders see the changes in real time and make a decision on-the-spot. “It saved about six months,” he says.—CAS