How A PS3 Controller Helps Design Cars

I'd never claim to be an expert on automotive design, but this still surprised me: one of the tools that Ford uses when creating new car models is ye humble olde PlayStation controller.

I got a guided tour of Ford's design and research HQ in Detroit earlier this week (yeah, it's a tough life being a journalist). I always figured car prototyping would concentrate on all that traditional hoon stuff like going faster and putting flames down the side, but it turns out one of the aspects that car designers are spookily obsessed with is working out what light reflections off the car will look like. And it further turns out that one of the easiest ways to assess that is using some custom software to look at prototype car designs from a variety of angles, and using a games controller to vary the viewing angle and light sources.

On reflection (bad pun apology), it makes sense: games controllers are such a familiar part of life that there won't be any additional training needed. But as Tracey pointed out to me, it does make you wonder: how would they have solved this problem if we weren't already all hopeless console addicts?


    Much more natural than using 2 mouses/(mice?) or joysticks.
    Every console game I've worked on has had a debug fly cam mode where you use the 2 sticks to move around (sometimes with shoulder buttons to vary speed).

    Quite natural and a perfect fit for this kind of thing.

    A good solution, but a mouse would be almost as good, as it is reasonably unlikely that you'll be spinning the light and the car at the same time.

    Personally I would still prefer WASD and a mouse for viewing. Otherwise when I use 3D modelling programs most view changes are done with only a mouse and combinations of left click, right click and wheel for zoom.
    I've never seen the need to use 2 analog sticks or a controller.
    Personal preference I guess. I'm also much more a PC gamer than a console gamer.

      Totally different experience though, you're not after precision you're after highly smoothed movements and the ability to do it handheld. Obviously you need a mouse/wacom/keyboard in 3dsmax/maya/etc when you need rapid precision movements, but its definitely not the preferred method of navigating the scene when you want to show someone or give it to someone less experienced with 3D to control.

    That's funny, seeing as though it feels like a car designed the PS3 controller. SNAP!

    I'ma take a stab in the dark here and say the obsession with lighting is for safety reasons. I mean, if you design a rad looking car where from a certain angle the sun can bounce of a panel and majorly blind an oncoming driver, you might wanna know that before you release it.

    It could be for safety reasons but also to see what looks good in a showroom. After all, if no one buys it all the other features are irrelevant (and many people do buy cars based on showroom impressions alone.)

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