Volvo and Varjo launch mixed reality app for car development

Volvo Cars and Varjo, the Finnish maker of high-end augmented-reality headsets, have created what they claim is a world-first mixed-reality approach to evaluating prototypes, designs and active safety technologies.

The collaboration will be further strengthened by the Volvo Cars Tech Fund’s decision to invest in Varjo. The Tech Fund is Volvo’s venture capital fund, which invests in high-potential technology start-ups.

Volvo Cars and Varjo have made it possible to drive a real car while wearing a mixed-reality headset, adding virtual elements or complete features that seem real to both the driver and the car’s sensors, for development purposes.

The Varjo XR-1 headset provides photorealistic mixed or virtual reality at a high-definition resolution said to be better than anything currently available. The two companies claim that the XR-1 can radically reduce development timeframes by creating an ability to evaluate features and designs almost immediately.

“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 identifiying priorities and clearing bottlenecks much earlier in the design and development process.”

Highly accurate eye-tracking technology embedded inside the XR-1 makes it possible to assess how drivers use a new functionality and whether they are distracted in any way.

“Varjo is a clear leader in its field,” says Zaki Fasihuddin, CEO of the Volvo Cars Tech Fund. “The company’s technology promises a lot for the future, but also offers clear applications already today for Volvo Cars. Varjo is a textbook example of the type of companies we seek to invest in.”