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How Ford Designers Across the Globe Gather in the Same Room Without Leaving Their Countries

A designer from Shanghai, China, and another from Dearborn, Michigan, together step into a virtual design space to make changes to a global vehicle design. Both walk around a 3D model, review it and make changes on the fly. Once finished, the two remove their VR headsets and return to their separate workspaces—thousands of miles across the world.

Thanks to Co-Creation, a feature developed by Gravity Sketch in collaboration with Ford, designers across the globe can create, collaborate and evaluate vehicle designs with one another in real time without leaving their physical workspace.

Ford claims to be the first automaker to work with Gravity Sketch—a 3D virtual reality tool that enables designers to create more human-centric vehicle design. Designers trade in their sketchpads for a headset and controllers to become immersed in virtual reality, imitating gestural interactions through motion tracking that replicates sketching with pen and paper. Designers can draw, rotate, expand and compress a 3D sketch. The Co-Creation feature allows multiple designers to engage in content creation, while making these real-time adjustments.

Consumer purchasing trends differ in each global region, meaning an attractive design in one region may not be as appealing in another. Co-Creation gives designers from different regions the opportunity to come together in one space and review a 3D sketch to make important decisions earlier in the design process.

”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,” said Michael Smith, Ford design manager.

Gravity Sketch allows designers to speed the process from weeks to hours, skipping the 2D stage and working with a 3D model from the beginning. Through Co-Creation, a designer can transfer to another designer’s point of view within virtual reality to see from his or her perspective. This is especially helpful when training other designers in Gravity Sketch, according to Ford.

Across five global Ford design studios, dozens of interior and exterior designers are now experimenting with Gravity Sketch for workflow feasibility and its capability for real-time co-creation and collaboration. Shifting to a model that designs and evaluates in virtual reality could revolutionize the entire process by drastically reducing development time and allowing for more 3D representations in the evaluation stage, according to the company.

“Our collaboration with Ford designers,” said Oluwaseyi Sosanya, Gravity Sketch CEO & Co-founder, “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.”