Getting it right is paramount at General Motors' design studios. A lot depends on putting their engineers and designers in the driver's seat, literally. Capturing and testing exactly what a driver will see and experience is critical to evaluating its automotive product designs.

When Steven Powell, virtual reality studio manager for GM, was faced with a nearly decade-old inertial tracking system that was showing signs of age, he asked what was new. What was better, faster and could help the team at GM's Virtual Reality Studios do their jobs better? He recognized that gaining a competitive advantage means reducing costs and improving time to market, benefits that a state-of-the-art virtual reality system can help deliver. Easy and and affordable VR can provide the richness of physical prototyping – but only when the quality of interaction between the real and virtual worlds is intuitive.

After hearing about Vicon's reputation in the market and seeing the Apex system in action, a few demos and conversations was all it took to see the difference it could make within their studio.

"We had seen a demo of Vicon's optical tracking system at Siggraph and we were intrigued. There are similar systems on the market but few offered the same level of quality and capabilities, and none at the same price point."

Our motion capture technology, backed by the immersive virtual environment provided by RTT, combined for an advanced solution that solved GM's challenges and offered new advantages. The 3D tracking system's capabilities were essential – particularly its quick and easy perspective changes. As we humans are unable to perceive 3D from stereoscopy alone, head tracking is imperative to providing a true immersive experience. Traditional virtual reality set-ups suffer from high latency and poor accuracy, which prevent the required suspension of disbelief for the best results.

"Gone are the days of grabbing the geometry and physically moving it around to change the perspective," said Powell. "Now I can look up at the front of the car and it grabs the hoodline. I can zoom up and rotate to see the sheet metal lines of the hood; it's pretty impressive." The high-resolution visual quality and modular configuration of the display system make it easy to install and configure, and advanced calibration is simpler and faster.

Finally, the Vicon system is virtually plug-and-play, requiring very limited onsite training. The key is for designers and engineers like the team at GM to be up and running immediately, intuitively using the system and focusing on design - rather than technology challenges.