What does a VR developer actually do? (David Kuri, Volkswagen AG)

Virtual reality is conquering automotive construction. Using sophisticated VR tools, new cars can be designed – quickly, flexibly and efficiently. David Kuri programs this software.

The virtual path to new models.

David Kuri is submerged in another world. A world where he is currently building a new car. Not a real one, but a virtual one. Effectively, he is not building it, he is designing it: the body is attractively aerodynamic, the headlights are perfectly circular, there are narrow handles on the doors – Kuri draws all this with powerful hand and arm movements in the air. Bystanders follow the creation process on a computer screen. In his world, David Kuri can experience it almost as if it were real, in a 3D space. He can move around in his world, viewing the car from above and from the side – thanks to the VR glasses he is wearing. Kuri is not a designer. But his job at Volkswagen involves supporting designers and engineers in their work – using software. Designers use it to shape the detailed appearance of new Volkswagen models: virtually, without having to use any materials.

Important for product development.

David Kuri is a VR developer. He works with around 30 colleagues in the Volkswagen Group IT Virtual Engineering Lab at the Wolfsburg factory. His primary task is to support technical development and design in digitising processes. Designing a car via VR, for example. ‘When I started here two years ago, we were only three people,’ says Kuri. The incredible speed at which the department has grown illustrates the huge transformation being brought about by digitisation. It also shows the importance that Volkswagen attaches to the use of virtual-reality technology for product development. The aim is to allow processes at many points to work together more quickly, independently of location and time, in order to bring products to market sooner.

3D games set the example.

Kuri and the team in the Virtual Engineering Lab are doing pioneering work. ‘The main principle is: we write our own software!’ says the 26-year-old. The challenge is building tools that designers and developers can then operate easily and use efficiently, he adds. ‘At the moment we are working on a software module that saves the steps of the virtual design,’ says Kuri. That is important in order to be able to test and, if necessary, discard design ideas without losing the work done to reach that point. ‘The games industry is driving forward development in the VR sector a great deal,’ says Kuri. This is something he and his colleagues in the lab benefit from. ‘We are close to the innovations developed by the games industry. We use the same tools as the developers there.’

Sprinting to the finish line.

Employees spend six to eight months on a project, then generally pass it on to other departments that are responsible for maintenance, training, support and so on. ‘Here in the Virtual Engineering Lab, we do agile work in line with the scrum method,’ says David Kuri. That means the task is completed step by step in short sprints, in a dense exchange network. David Kuri sees all kinds of areas of application for virtual reality at Volkswagen, for example the simulation of aerodynamics. ‘There is high demand for virtual vehicle tests,’ he says. This allows cars to be virtually put in different driving and environmental situations. ‘In virtual reality, the car then swerves through a hilly landscape in southern Italy or rides along a motorway in the north of Germany,’ says the VR developer. For the programmers, it makes no difference.

Advertorial disclosure: Volkswagen Group is a premium partner of Ada Lovelace Festival 2018.