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Ford brings virtual reality presentation to UCF

Contributing Writer

Published: Sunday, September 23, 2012

Updated: Sunday, September 23, 2012 16:09

Ford lab

Lily Maxwell / Central Florida Future

Xun Liu, a junior information technology major, tries Ford’s “Virtual Reality Buck” in UCF’s Engineering II Building atrium Thursday.

Ford Motor Company came to UCF Thursday to demonstrate its “Virtual Reality Buck,” a visualization technology that allows engineers to experience and evaluate a car before it is even built.

Engineers from Ford displayed the technology for students and faculty to use and experience how it’s being used on the 2013 Ford Fusion. Researchers at Ford’s labs chose to bring the Virtual Reality Buck to the university because UCF is a leader in innovation and technology, said Audrey Morris, spokeswoman for Ford in the Southeast.

“When I had the opportunity to choose where I was going to bring this technology, it’s a perfect fit for the University of Central Florida. The departments here are leading in the state and even in the country. It makes a lot of sense to be here,” Morris said.

The Engineering II atrium was full of students interested in the automotive industry, eager to learn new information and test Ford’s Virtual Reality Buck.

Among the students was UCF freshman, Brett Holland, whose dream job is to work in the automotive industry.

“I look forward to hearing how they use the simulator to actually make the car,” Holland said.

In the presentation, Elizabeth Baron, virtual reality and advanced visualization technical specialist at Ford, demonstrated the innovative methods the company is using to design higher quality cars.

This all takes place in Ford’s immersive environment lab. The lab is a state-of-the-art facility that allows the engineers to assess multiple design options against a number of criteria and fully understand a vehicle and all of its parts before it has been built. The facility provides digital evaluations of vehicle concepts in a virtual 3-D world.

Baron explained how this technology allows Ford to design higher quality cars more efficiently, saving months of time and money in overall production. This virtual technology, Baron said, provides engineers the opportunity to evaluate design options including headroom, visibility of controls and displays, reach, steering wheel angles and many more. This virtual reality allows them to reach places that otherwise would not be reached and see things that had not been seen before car parts are involved.

“All the virtual tools we are using are just phenomenally successful and this is the result of that,” Baron said while showing how the number of prototype and manufacturing issues has plummeted over the years.

“I love what I do. … It’s wonderful to know what we are doing is making a difference,” Baron said.

After the presentations, students were able to stick around and ask questions as well as get a unique opportunity to see first hand the role that ergonomics research plays in the industry and design. Students got to stay, talk with the engineers from Ford and try the Virtual Reality Buck.

“It was good, it showed me their new technology and how much easier it is to design a car and make sure it works properly,” Kevin Stephens, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, said.

Stephens also said he liked how Ford can use the simulator model to actually sit you in a car so you can experience what it is like to be in a vehicle that has not even been made.

“It [technology] makes everything more efficient, it speed lines production times; it’s the future. I plan on working in the automotive industry, so this is right up my alley,” said mechanical engineering senior Donovan Williams.

Advanced research and technology, such as the virtual reality, have allowed the engineers at Ford to cultivate technologically advanced cars.

“You get to open your eyes to something different that they are doing right now because everything today is innovative, so it’s really one of the new innovative approaches they are taking towards automobiles and I think it is amazing,” Williams said.

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