Dearborn’s Ford Uses 3-D Virtual Reality Tool for Design

Ford has started to use Gravity Sketch, a virtual reality 3-D design tool. // Photograph Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Motor Co. in Dearborn Tuesday announced its designers have started to work with Gravity Sketch, a 3-D virtual reality tool that enables designers to use a headset, controllers, and gestures to create a design seemingly in mid-air. The goal is to make more human-centric vehicles and unleash creativity.

“Jumping right into 3-D gives us a 360-degree view of a vehicle as it is being created,” says Michael Smith, design manager at Ford.

Traditional automotive design starts with a sketch that is scanned to produce an illustration. After the renderings are evaluated, a few are translated into data using computer-aided design software to create a 3-D model. The model is transferred into virtual reality for further evaluation to determine the design’s feasibility. This can take weeks, so designers must be extremely selective about which designs make it to the 3-D modeling stage.

Gravity Sketch allows the process to take hours, as the 2-D stage is skipped, and the model is 3-D from the start. Designers can anchor drivers at the center, rotating designs to view them from any angle to create a scalable vehicle around the driver. They can also step inside the vehicle sketch to adjust design attributes to best suit occupants.

“This application has the potential to help ensure we are delivering the very best vehicle designs for our customers,” says Smith. “It moves the entire process into the world of virtual reality, giving us greater options for reviewing more models in the 3-D environment to create the best possible vehicles.”

Dozens of interior and exterior designers are experimenting with Gravity Sketch for workflow feasibility and its potential for real-time co-creation and collaboration.

“Our collaboration with Ford designers has enabled us to get immersed in their creative process and discover ways to help fine-tune this application to better suit their needs, so they can build the best possible vehicles for their customers,” says Oluwaseyi Sosanya, co-founder and CEO of Gravity Sketch.