Hi Elliott, This is a great breakdown and very generous in sharing your process and insights, you came a long way from the vending machine days!
Are you planning on releasing the UE4 project to the public? Or only builds? I'd love to play around with it in the editor if possible!
BMW has become the first car manufacturer to introduce a mixed reality system into vehicle development that has been devised entirely using components from the computer games industry. This offers some significant advantages over the VR systems that have existed to date, and is the first step towards making virtual reality a very real part of many developer workstations in the not-too-distant future.
This step is said to potentially save a great deal of time and effort, especially during the early stages of development. VR investigations were only a dream for most companies. Now, every modification can be tested and adopted very quickly. This will also allow developers to take part in development proccess without any need to travel to production facility.
VR systems has been employed in the development process since the 1990s, but now these systems will become widespread. New technologies enable more vehicle functions to be translated to a VR model in ever more realistic fashion. It is now possible to scale the system to many different developer workstations with little effort.
All the time, the development engineer will have the impression of sitting in a real car in a real driving situatio, so that he can test all the functions as if this test drive was real. With the help of mobile computing manufacturer HTC, several HTC Vive developer kits have already been in use in pilot projects since autumn 2015.
This headset’s core components consist of two high-resolution screens and a laser-based tracking system that covers an area of 5 x 5 metres in the BMW application. The graphics are computed by software that normally serves to produce the very best computer gaming graphics. BMW uses Unreal Engine 4 from Epic Games for this task. This enables stable rendering of 90 frames per second while achieving photo-realistic quality too. The computation is performed using high-end gaming computers with water-cooled, overclocked components (including Intel Core i7 and two Nvidia Titan X graphic cards). Further advances are expected in terms of both the headset hardware and software, and these will be evaluated at regular intervals.
BMW also uses a reusable interior assembly, which enhances perception by producing a mixed reality experience. Realistic stereoscopic acoustic playback adds to the immersive experience. This method is stated to be unique for the industry.
The HTC Vive Lighthouse tracking system that is used floods the room with an invisible light field that is tracked by sensors on the VR headset and the controllers. The system’s lasers refresh the tracking field at intervals of just a few milliseconds, thereby enabling ultra-precise tracking of every body movement and even the slightest alteration in the viewing direction. It is thanks to this supremely accurate and stable tracking that the wearer is able to move around in the virtual environment with zero interference – this is essential not just for creating a spatial impression that is as true to life as possible and maximising the level of immersion, but also for making the VR headset easy to get accustomed to. The overall mixed reality system that was developed in-house by BMW ensures optimum interaction between the individual devices and components, such as the VR model, rapid prototyping, VR headset and tracking.