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Volvo’s New Safety Tech Could Be A Game Changer

Technology / Comments

This new innovation could radically reduce safety feature development times.

Volvo has always been at the forefront of safety technology. As part of its plan to make its models death-proof by 2020, the company recently announced a 100-mph speed limiter to be fitted to all new Volvo cars and tech that can detect if a driver is drunk or drowsy. Now, the Swedish automaker has revealed new innovative tech that could change how cars are developed.

Volvo has teamed up with Varjo, a Finnish company that manufactures high-end augmented reality headsets, to create a "world-first mixed reality approach to evaluating prototypes, designs, and active safety technologies." For the first time, this makes it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed reality headset that seamlessly adds virtual elements or complete features that look real to both the driver and the car's sensors.

A video showcases the company's new Varjo XR-1 headset in action, which can provide photorealistic mixed or virtual reality at a high-definition resolution better than anything currently available. As a result, Volvo says the XR-1 can radically reduce development times since designers and engineers can 'drive' future cars and evaluate all features in a simulation environment many years before they exist.

"With this mixed reality approach, we can start evaluating designs and technologies while they are literally still on the drawing board," said Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo Cars. "Instead of the usual static way of evaluating new products and ideas, we can test concepts on the road immediately. This approach offers considerable potential cost savings by identifying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process."

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The XR-1 also makes it much easier for Volvo's engineers to develop and evaluate active safety features. Safety experts can drive real cars while wearing the XR-1 headset at Volvo's research facilities in Sweden to test virtual active safety systems layered onto the real-life environment via augmented reality. The XR-1 also features highly accurate eye-tracking technology, making it easy to assess how drivers use a new functionality and whether or not they are distracted by the new features.

"From the very beginning, our vision has been to create a product that can seamlessly merge the real and the virtual together," said Niko Eiden, founder and CEO of Varjo. "The incredibly advanced ways in which Volvo Cars uses the XR-1 show that Varjo's technology enables things that have been previously impossible. Together with Volvo we have started a new era in professional mixed reality."

The Varjo XR-1 headset and Volvo's application of the technology are being demonstrated at the Augmented Reality World Expo in Santa Clara, California. Volvo has already filed a patent application for the technology.