Luxury car brand, Audi, was quick to see the potential in immersive visualizations of automotive designs to enhance the customer buying experience. With more than 50 models and each having well over 100 configurations, every Audi dealership can’t stock a truly representative sample of their cars. Using 3D visualizations, however, Audi can now offer customers an immersive and accurate look into the car of their dreams.

What industries are turning to real-time 3D?

Like Audi, many luxury car manufacturers are seeing the potential in immersive visualizations of automotive designs to improve the car buying experience. Aside from automotive industries, design-led industries, such as architectural, engineering and construction (AEC), aerospace, oil and gas and manufacturing have incorporated immersive technology into their workflows. These industries have seen how immersive technology can bring efficiency and innovation to their design to manufacturing workflow.

Why real-time 3D?

Audi uses 3D visualizations to enhance the customer buying experience. With a VR experience that acts as a virtual car configurator, dealers can display any Audi model with all the possible custom-configurations that a customer may want. Customers just need to strap on a VR headset to view their dream car in a life-size model, be able to instantly visualize all the configurations they like and make customization decisions more effectively. Naturally, other automotive companies are following their lead to improve customer satisfaction.

From master models to VR

Audi holds the highest standards for the VR models shown to customers, they need them to be indistinguishable from the original design. To achieve this,  the company used the master vehicle models developed by the car designers and engineers from the construction process, as a foundation for their visualizations. Master models are highly complex and detailed. Since they were used in the design, engineering and manufacturing stages, they contain every single screw and fuse in the car. These models are far too complex to render in real-time, and some very technical aspects (like the cars electrical system) were simply not needed for the immersive visualization.

Goal: Audi needed their models to be rendered in real-time in 90 FPS to meet the requirement for modern VR headsets.

To achieve this goal, Audi added a process to manually decrease the complexity of their models and improve the real-time visualization. The process took a week or two per 3D model, a cost in time and money that not many can afford in the industry. The manual process included deleting assets that weren’t necessary for the VR visualization (like the very technical parts) or instancing duplicate assets that were repeated throughout the 3D model.

Cleaning up 3D models by hand is not only time consuming but making mistakes (like accidentally deleting a vital part) is common! Audi quickly realized they needed an automated solution to prepare their engineering models for their VR showrooms.

The preparation process

For Audi and many other companies tapping into 3D visualizations, manual optimization is expensive and inefficient. To overcome these challenges, Audi decided to outsource the work to a 3D visualization services company that would help them optimize and manage their CAD design models. They also partnered with Nvidia to use their Quadro P6000 graphics cards to reduce latency in their VR experience and ensure a positive customer experience.

An alternative solution

Meshmatic, a 3D optimization software, is designed and developed to improve companies in industries like automotive to streamline their internal visualization workflow and ensure their complex CAD or non-CAD (such as FBX, STL and OBJ) models are best optimized for real-time. Using Meshmatic, Audi’s manual optimization process could have been cut down to 1-2 hours per model, saving the project many weeks.

Audi has now implemented over 1,000 VR showrooms in dealerships across the world, elevating the car buying experience for their customers and being seen as innovators in the automotive industry!

Do you work in the industrial visualization industry? Are there any tools you wish you had that would make your workflow simpler? Leave your suggestions in the comments below!