January 1, 2023
Virtual Reality (VR)

Lincoln car configurator Part I, hardware and concept

Author photo
Zoltán Szaniszló

There is a tradition of car configuration. Even the slightly curious are eager to explore the playfulness of customisation, dreaming while doing it. It's precisely these daydreams that are the most important aspect of purchasing a car. It helps to set goals, it helps to play with the idea. And the more it convinces our minds with its realism, its diversity of features and options, the more it has an impact on our lives

That's why we've been thinking a lot about what's missing from today's configurators. We know the solutions of all the major brands. Without exception, it relies on server-side generated image sequences. It makes any computer slowly display square-by-white image bundles in your browser. No matter the performance of the visitor's computer, it eliminates the risk of viewing at the wrong angle. But one thing is serious and common, it ties our hands and our imagination.

We've drawn the foundations of a system on our whiteboard that works seamlessly in full synchronisation with the full user experience, from virtual reality, through augmented reality, along installable apps, to browsers.

Everyone is starting to have better or worse experiences of virtual reality. Let's be honest, the initial wow factor is severely diminished after a few minutes of "clumsiness". The visuals are nauseating, zigzag, unpolished. Most VR scenes are exciting in themselves just for the effect of filling the first "field of view", although they do put significant limitations on our eyes on the initial tools. Yet how can we overcome these inconveniences and turn VR into a comfortable dreaming scene?

Let's start with the basics. "VR sickness" weighs on the faint-hearted, so our bodies judge our brain's trickery as poisoning us. Our in-house research and international studies have already given us the answers on how to avoid all this. It's all about getting 90 FPS per eye, keeping latency to a minimum. It should be noted here that cordless solutions delay just enough that, even though we don't notice it, our stomachs start to churn. Don't move the user in the scene, but if you need to, darken the scene before moving and then fade it out.

Although I believe that in space, the user should be limited to the least interaction and the least movement. Forget teleportation, any element that requires explanation. Do everything intuitively, as you would in real life!

Today's HMD (Head Mounted Display) devices are still cautious about viewing angle and resolution due to the hardware capabilities, precisely because of the aforementioned refresh and latency. Visibility and stability will be enemies for some time to come, that's what we're here for. Optimizing scenes, knowing the limits of hardware to a high degree, will give us a competitive edge and thus give us room for more research. Year by year, we see slow progress along the lines of widening field of view and screen resolution. Today, the top, clearly, is the Quest Meta Pro. To be honest, the first set I was willing to wear for an extended period of time. Why? Come to our office and I'll be happy to introduce you!

Another great feature of the Meta Pro is its ability to rely on an external power source with almost imperceptible latency. It then acts as a display device. So the headset itself is no longer trying to squeeze frames out of the photorealistic scene. When packed with the right hardware (~4090 RTX up to), it gives you a lot of freedom to visualise.

So much for the basics. But how does this become a car configurator? More on that in the next part.