It really didn’t look like much, at first glance it was just another Virtual Reality demonstration at one of what seemed like a million booths at this year’s CES show. However, as I took hold of the controller (think handheld joystick) after pulling the HTC Vive virtual reality headset over my eyes, powered by Dassault Systems Immersive 3D experience software, I reached my hand out and I grabbed the handle on the drivers side door of the DS 4 Crossback. Of course I wasn’t really grabbing the handle, but merely pulling the trigger on the VR controller. However, as anyone who has experienced highly immersive VR knows, it’s only a matter of seconds before you become completely entrenched in your new reality; looking, reaching, touching and experiencing an explosion of the senses.
The platform I was standing on was about 7 feet wide by 10 feet long with nothing but a single chair located under the carefully calibrated grid that I was undergoing the demonstration on. A monitor behind me allowed onlookers to see what I was seeing, but I will be first to say that this didn’t do justice to the immersion felt once partaking in the demo. Looking around, I heard the staffer helping with the demo say to me, “Look up, you can open up the sunroom.” I immediately started looking around and putting two hands toward the ceiling, as if I was raising the roof. I didn’t see the sunroof, and a moment later I heard the person say “Wait, wrong car, this one doesn’t have a sunroof.” I had already come to realize that but in my slight state of high-tech confusion I was uncertain if I had missed something.
A moment later, after exhausting all of the options such as modifications to the dash and changing out the seating surfaces (a cool but somewhat unrewarding VR experience since my next instinct was to touch the seat), I turned to the drivers side door, grabbed the virtual handle and pulled the trigger. The door opened and I stepped out. I lifted my legs awkwardly as I attempted to step out of the car. It was time for me to inspect the exterior and do a walk around. I laughed to myself as I stepped out of the car as if there was a door in my way and a ground to step down to. I knew it wasn’t there but my brain was firing cross signals that I couldn’t quite discern. Once outside I walked around and with a simple touch of the trigger I was changing colors, upgrading my rims and doing a 360-degree walk around of the automobile.
VR + 3D + Collaboration = The Future of Product Design and Consumer Experiences
Today, I was experiencing this as a controlled demonstration at CES, but I immediately came to realize that this is what the future of product development and product experience will look like. Not to mention this was a terrific example of the blending lines of VR for consumer and enterprise use. My demonstration may have felt like a consumer demo, but as manufacturers are designing products, every stitch, every USB jack and so much more will be modeled for creating the ultimate user experience; precisely what brands are aspiring toward in the age of digital transformation. I can already see how powerful blended reality experiences like this could be used with product design teams that are distributed around the world. Sitting in their desk chairs, using collaboration software embedded inside of their VR design studio, the teams could be discussing endless details in real time while all being immersed inside of the product being developed. This will expedite product design and innovation all while allowing more contribution to the design of new products. Current modeling processes simply do not allow this type of immersion and a certainly more limiting on participation throughout the design process.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing of all about this type of technology is that in the future, I won’t have to fly to Las Vegas, deal with hours of sitting stand still traffic and shoulder to shoulder crowds to experience more intimate product demonstrations like I did at CES 2017. Heck, I believe that by next year there is no reason that I won’t sit in the car, design the car AND drive the car in a way that feels so real that I would certainly be able to complete the buyer’s journey from the luxury of my sofa. That surely isn’t to say that some other must see, must know and must be first announcements that take place at the show won’t go pulling me back. But heck, with this type of technology looming out there, maybe soon we won’t need to head anywhere for CES, maybe the show will come to us, in our living room, strapped into the future of Virtual Reality. An idea that is perhaps slightly dystopian, yet highly likely based upon what I experienced at CES 2017 this year!