Virtual reality has a huge multitude of applications, from transporting people far-off exotic locations without leaving their homes (or even when they’re already on vacation), to playing video games that take them to brave new worlds. However, the automakers at BMW are looking to use its technology for a whole new purpose: making better cars.

BMW has announced today that it is using HTC Vive virtual reality headsets and mixed-reality to help develop new vehicle models. By utilizing computer imagery instead of the usual draft models that the company has come to rely on, many improvements are expected, including greater flexibility, lower costs and faster results.

“The adoption of this computer system makes it possible to save a great deal of time and effort, especially during the early stages of development,” the press release states. “VR investigations could previously only be conducted at costly specialized facilities. By incorporating consumer electronics, the developers gain an unprecedented degree of flexibility, because any modifications can be implemented and tested very quickly.

“In addition to this, developers around the globe will be able to take part in the decision-making process from their own office without having to travel too far. Only once the draft designs have been approved with the help of the 3D headsets will they actually be built for further testing.”


BMW is no stranger to VR technology, having utilized it through the development process since the 1990s, but this is the first time it’s being fully implemented into the creation of new vehicles. The company is also using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 technology to power the tech, which creates a rendering of photo-realistic quality when it comes to creating the right kind of vehicle. Given how Epic Games is making a big name for itself in virtual reality development, and the fact that McLaren will also be using Unreal Engine 4 to design its high-performance sports cars, this shouldn’t be too big of a surprise.

There’s no word on which models this new design process will impact, but given the efficiency of the HTC Vive technology, we wouldn’t be surprised if BMW began announcing virtually designed models sometime this year.