Get a glimpse at the Honda VR Design Studio in Los Angeles with this brand new video, and see how Honda is utilizing cutting-edge virtual reality (VR) and mixed reality technology to speed up the production of modern vehicles. It’s no secret that VR has become an essential tool for Honda designers when creating electric cars (EVs), which is why they are expanding its use both in LA as well as Japan.
The 2024 Honda Prologue full electric SUV was the first of its kind to be designed primarily through virtual reality visualization technology, which proved invaluable when it came to conquering collaboration and efficiency issues during the era of COVID-19.
“Our design teams used the latest VR technology to envision Prologue in different environments and to accelerate cross-collaboration between Honda styling teams in the U.S. and Japan,” said Mathieu Geslin, Honda VR design leader. “It’s an ongoing effort to further explore the technical capabilities of VR and mixed reality in our development centers globaly, and we’re really excited about what this will mean for the Honda products of the future.”
You can see the video below (scroll further down for a summary and commentary).
The video starts off by showing us the Prologue EV, a vehicle that’s supposed to come out next year. Unlike most Honda vehicles, the Prologue EV was mostly a design job. Honda started out with GM’s upcoming Chevrolet Equinox EV, which will be based on the Ultium Platform.
In the past, Honda has made some major missteps which have left me shaking my head — like sending Clarity cars to the crusher and neglecting to introduce either a Honda e or hybrid Acura MDX into US markets. That last one is especially disheartening for us because my wife loves her MDX, but we had no option to upgrade it with a plugin hybrid powertrain.
Fortunately, Honda decided to change directions in 2022. Evidently, the company saw that electric vehicles would be an indispensable part of US and European markets in the future. And, it needed to get back on track ASAP.
Though it might not appear so at first glance, partnering with GM — a laggard in the electric vehicle space compared to Tesla — could be beneficial for catching up to other players. The last few years have seen GM take fewer risks, but it has been prepping for something special: tapping into an untouched market segment of $30,000-$35,000 cars. GM is determined to take on Tesla in the electric vehicle market, and it’s signifying just that with its recently lowered prices for Bolt EV and Bolt EUV models as well as a $30,000 Equinox EV model.
By providing assistance, GM has presented Honda with the chance to swiftly serve a key sector and avoid beginning from scratch when developing its electric vehicle program — allowing it to stay ahead of the competition, or at least not fall so far behind that it becomes completely irrelevant.
But, that didn’t mean Honda could just buy vehicles from GM and swap the badges. In the past, companies have tried to do that kind of “badge engineering,” but buyers can see what they’re doing and it could make the company look bad. It had to do something more to make the vehicle really be a Honda, despite the underpinnings coming from GM.
Oh, and it had to make this happen FAST. And during a global pandemic that was making in-person work and international travel a lot harder. So, VR technology was a natural fit. After all, Honda had already been working on the idea of using VR for design since 2017, and just needed to put the techniques into action.
It used to be that Honda’s designers would do the traditional thing and start with a clay model, which they’d then turn into a digital model for further work and collaboration. This time, they did it the other way around, starting with a digital design created in a VR environment and only using clay cuts later to verify that it all looks good in the real world.
Now, Honda has a 2500 sq. ft. space dedicated to VR. The team needs all of that space for not only modeling, but moving in the real world around virtual models instead of just clicking and zooming around with a mouse or something.
Another huge advantage for Honda was being able to collaborate virtually with designers around the world. The pandemic made this problematic to impossible, but going forward it’s going to also lower the environmental impact of design and help things move faster, so the pandemic ended up giving the company something that’s going to be useful later by shaking its ways up.
But, this wasn’t just strapping on an Oculus/Meta Quest and dancing in the living room. They actually created physical mockups of the vehicle to make the VR match up with real-world touch and feel. This allowed the designers to get a real feel for what the design would actually be like for drivers, which helped make a more usable design from the beginning.
All of this meant less change later with other teams that design and build interiors, pick materials, etc. So, the speed gained was very real.
The collaboration was also able to be real-time between teams on different continents. Instead of sending files or even clay blocks back and forth, the team members were able to look at the same thing at the same time early in the design, meaning everybody’s ideas and input ended up being part of the process early instead of later. Once again, this was convenient, but it also added a lot of speed and efficiency to the process.
But, don’t think this is the end. Honda got a taste of what VR could do for it during the pandemic and the design of the Prologue’s uniquely Honda elements. So, they’re pressing forward and trying to find ways to make VR do even more work for it in the future. The company is looking forward to what it could mean not only for the convenience and speed of the teams’ work, but how it could help Honda make better electric vehicles in the future as it expands into fully-Honda platforms.
Featured image provided by Honda.
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