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Ford designers around the globe can now work together digitally in VR

Ford stylists in Dearborn and Shanghai can collaborate in a virtual world.

Ford

As a global company, Ford has designers spread out all across the globe. But now they're able to work together at the same time -- without flying across the world -- thanks to Ford's experiments with VR software called Gravity Sketch. Using a feature called Co-Creation, which Gravity Sketch developed in collaboration with Ford, the company's many global stylists can work on one car design together in VR.

Gravity Sketch allows Ford's designers to create 3D car models more easily.

Ford

Ford gave me a chance to experience Gravity Sketch for myself earlier this year. It allows a designer to draw lines and shapes around him or herself while wearing an HTC Vive headset. The benefit of this type of design program, Ford design manager Michael Smith told me, is that it saves time and allows for developing more creative designs.

The Co-Creation feature is set to speed up global car design even more by allowing designers from different markets to give feedback on designs more rapidly. Ford says it's critical to get multiple points of view because "an attractive design in one region may not be as appealing in another." Doing it in real-time in VR is faster than creating multiple 2D and then 3D models. Co-Creation supports as many as 10 people in VR at once, but a Ford spokesman said the system works best with no more than 6 people at a time.

"The Co-Creation feature adds more voices to the conversation in a virtual environment, which results in more efficient design work that may help accelerate a vehicle program's development," Smith said in a statement.

Another perk to the system: Because one person can move to another's point-of-view in the virtual reality world, Ford says the system can be useful for helping train new designers. And it's not just designers: Ford says that engineers, marketing staff and others could join the virtual design session.

Ford designers are experimenting with Gravity Sketch Co-Creation at studios in Dunton, UK; Merkenich, Germany; Melbourne, Australia; Irvine, California and Dearborn, Michigan. The teams are studying "workflow feasibility" for Gravity Sketch, with Ford saying that, "shifting to a model that designs and evaluates in virtual reality could revolutionize the entire process by drastically reducing development time."