On Dec. 10, German automaker Audi brought VR showrooms to dealers as early as 2016, and the number has reached about 1,000.
At the VRX 2018 conference in San Francisco, Lorenz Schweiger, VR strategy director of Audi Business Innovation Group, introduced how they brought real-time VR visualization to distributors.
Audi uses VR to provide a virtual vehicle configurator, he explains. After wearing the VR Head Display, users can browse the real size of the car model, and can choose the color and configuration.
Audi has maintained a high standard for VR visualization displayed by customers, which means that the engineering development of the whole car is the basis of visualization. Schweiger explained that these models are too complex to be presented in real-time VR visualization because they include every panel, screw, fastener and fuse in the vehicle.
Therefore, the company has developed a manual process to reduce the complexity of the model so that it can be rendered in real time to meet the 90 FPS requirements of modern VR headsets. For this, it takes one to two weeks to make each car.
However, the bottleneck of converting new models into real-time models every year is the efficiency of VR development. Schweiger and his team sought an automated process that optimized the model and rendered it in real time.
Some solutions that focus on automatically reducing the geometric complexity of models inevitably sacrifice the visual quality of models. To maintain high visual quality, Audi worked with a company called 4D Pipeline to develop a solution that greatly reduces the complexity of the model, reduces GPU rendering calls, and preserves geometric details by combining multiple pieces into larger components.
The results are very impressive. Schweiger shows some screenshots and videos of the optimization model, which render a very clear appearance in the VR of 90 FPS. Both inside and outside the car have lifelike lighting, reflection, and interaction functions (such as opening or closing doors or headlights).
Schweiger said the 4D Pipeline solution shortened the previous manual optimization process from one to two weeks to 20 minutes. This process is also directly based on Audi's vehicle model file, which means that if engineers want to make changes to the vehicle, the VR optimization process can be started immediately and completed quickly without additional work.
In addition, the process also applies to Audi's parent company Volkswagen vehicles, because the two companies'main vehicle archives are based on the same structure.
Schweiger said that as the company continues to use VR to create more attractive sales experience, Audi has now deployed VR showrooms for about 1,000 dealers around the world. The company has previously said that it is using VR technology as an assistant tool for technology development and production, as well as a training tool for new employees.