Ford Considering Holograms For Future Product Development

Ford Motor Co. is studying the potential of holographic technology as a means to compress product-development cycle times. In fact, the Detroit automobile manufacturer will give visitors to the 1999 North American International Auto Show in January a look at its Ford P2000 Prodigy concept car with what is believed to be the world's largest full-color display hologram -- a 50% scale, three-dimensional image projected from a 40-sq-ft panel. J. Mays, Ford vice president of design, describes holography as "a promising technology in its infancy. Perhaps it's also a glimpse into the future of product development at Ford." The hologram visitors will see is not a reproduction of a physical object, but an image created directly from 3-D electronic design data from computers in the company's Advanced Design Studio. It also has full parallax, meaning that viewers can stoop down and see underneath the image while a taller person can look down on the roof. "Our designers and engineers today work on a globally linked computer system that processes all data in three dimensions," says Tom Scott, director of Ford Advanced Design. "What's missing is a fully interactive way to visualize that data. Holography appears to be the most promising technology to produce that breakthrough, and we are encouraged by our research efforts in this developing field." Ford Motor Co. is among a number of companies participating in an advanced "replacement reality" research project into practical applications of holograms and related technologies.

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