We see two technicians wearing virtual reality Oculus glasses in a large empty room. One is wearing gloves and the other is manning the controls. One reaches out to touch something in midair, the other crouches down and they both walk around in circles. We can’t see it, but they’re analysing the car that will be displayed in a few days at the Paris Motor Show. “What do you think about the different wheel?” “It’s fine, perfect” they both conclude.
Just as in the medical, scientific or videogame sectors, virtual reality is also essential in the auto industry, and is a technology that SEAT has been using for the last 20 years: “It helps us optimise our production processes and accurately visualise the product we’re going to manufacture” says Javier Díaz, head of the SEAT Prototype Centre. More specifically, the use of this technology has reduced by 30% the production time of prototypes, the stage prior to the launch of a car.
The difference has been substantial. Before, tables measuring more than 10 metres in length to spread out the plans, countless lists of car parts and months of work were needed, but now, thanks to virtual reality, a single computer is all that is necessary to visualize the entire car and make improvements much more quickly.
This technology has cut in half the number of prototypes to build prior to launching a model. The optimization of time and other resources has a positive impact on the customer – not only on the precision and quality of the product but on the final price as well.
A good example is the new SEAT Ateca, where the entire process has been followed with virtual reality: “More than three years elapsed since the moment we saw the initial images until the car went on sale. During that time we analysed every centimetre of the car and made numerous decisions to improve it; in particular we implemented more than 800 improvements in the virtual stage”, adds Javier.
The two SEAT technicians take off their glasses. For the moment it’s still a confidential model. The rest of us will have to wait to see the real car at the upcoming Paris Motor Show.