by Alain Tiquet

NVIDIA is working with Scalable Graphics and PSA Peugeot Citroën to reboot the French auto manufacturer’s virtual reality (VR) systems. Let’s take a peek at how NVIDIA Quadro workstations are helping to power their next-generation VR studio.

PSA has invested in VR since 1999, using a three-pronged approach to immersive visualization.

First, the auto maker uses a total immersion room, called the Cave, where five active-display screens create the illusion of a complete virtual world. PSA’s designers can sit in a prop seat and experience the look and feel of a prototype car as it drives through a virtual environment.

Second, its Holobench display system uses two active-display screens in an L-shape (one on the wall, one on the floor) that lets engineers and designers experiment with changing various elements of the car in 3D.

Third, it employs a passive stereo display to show an exact scale replica of the car being designed.

PSA wanted to overhaul the technology behind these systems to handle the massive file sizes of increasingly- larger CAD models. To do so, it needed a VR architecture that would deliver faster frame rates. It also needed to obtain higher resolution and better image quality, the ability to provision computing resources more flexibly, and flexibility to future-proof the system by working with standard processors and displays for easy upgradability.

Enter Scalable Graphics, based in Villers-les-Nancy, France, which provides immersive visualization solutions to companies around the globe. For PSA, it deployed a solution that uses NVIDIA Quadro cards and its own Direct Transport Compositor technology which allows computing resources to be pooled and allocated as needed.

A cluster of 20 workstations using NVIDIA Quadro FX5800 GPUs drives the PSA VR system. Previously, compute resources would be assigned to one of the three projection systems. But with resource pooling, those workstations can be switched to feed another display, increasing performance and improving the immersive experience. For instance, if the Holobench projection system isn’t in use, its workstations can be assigned to the Cave, rather than sitting idle. 

Thanks to the workstations’ graphics-rendering power, PSA’s VR experience is more immersive and interactive than ever, allowing PSA to host reviews of larger and more accurate models. The system is capable of rendering up to 400 full-HD images per second and is working at full HD and above resolutions.

For many industries, VR is a competitive advantage. The more realistic your VR, the better you can collaborate and make decisions, the faster you can get products to market and the more you reduce the cost of product development while increasing innovation.

We’re glad PSA sees NVIDIA Quadro as key to achieving those benefits.