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News of  April 25, 2000


DaimlerChrysler Opens State-of-the-Art Virtual Reality Center

virtual reality center


virtual reality center

Photos: DaimlerChrysler

Sindelfingen Germany - DaimlerChrysler's new Virtual Reality Center in Sindelfingen, Germany houses more virtual reality capabilities and compute power than any facility of its kind in the automotive industry.

The Company estimates the new facility will reduce costs of making Mercedes-Benz prototype models by up to 20 percen and substantially shorten product development times while improving quality.

"Simulations and visualization allow us to examine a greater number of variants in a shorter period of time and at lowe costs," said Hans-Joachim Schöpf, Chief Engineer for Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars and smart. "As a result, we ca rule out non-viable options more quickly."

The combination of various virtual reality tools under one roof is what makes DaimlerChrysler's facility unique. The key systems are described below.

The "Powerwall" - The 23 feet wide by 8 feet high Powerwall is a visualization screen that can display both two-dimensional and three-dimensional data in detail or in actual size. The Powerwall will be used primarily for small group discussions. Several projectors cast images of the generated model onto the semi-transparent screen. Data-intensive test, such as simulated crash tests are viewed on the Powerwall. After a virtual crash test, engineers can fade out certain parts to get a better view of what happens to components on the inside that are normally concealed.

The "Cave" - To analyze design options involving the interior or driver controls, DaimlerChrysler engineers retreat to the one-of-a-kind Cave. The five-sided Cave has three, eight-feet long sides and a ceiling and floor. Unlike other caves, the walls are made of acrylic glass for much clearer and more detailed images than traditional fabric walls. Each of the five walls projects images from its own graphics computer. The difference between a Cave and a conventional monitor display or large-scale projection is that the user is not only an external viewer but the user becomes part of the virtual environmental. By wearing a data glove, an engineer's actual hand movement can be viewed in the virtual world.

Curved-Screen Projection - Once the vehicle has reached an advanced stage of development, the teams begin working with a partially constructed vehicle in front of a curved-screen projection surface. The screen is a 14 feet by 23 feet cylindrical projection screen covering a 200-degree angle. The user is immersed in a virtual world with sight and sound. For example, the screeching tire sound of a vehicle in a tight curve is heard while the driving dynamics are viewed on the screen.

The Virtual Reality Center uses a graphics computer from Silicon Graphics; this clustered computer has more than 6 processors, 15 gigabytes of RAM and 14 graphic subsystems (graphic pipes) that operate independently. As configured I Sindelfingen, the computer has a memory bandwidth of 22.4 gigabytes per second -- more than 200 times the computing power of a typical personal computer.

(April 17, 2000)


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