Investing in Virtual Reality Technology
Forsspac is a professional service provider in the construction industry operating at the leading edge of 3D for building design and believes that appropriate adoption of technology is essential for the future development and effectiveness of our business. It is exploring the opportunities available through using Virtual Reality (VR). Augmented Reality (AR) will be considered at a later date.
Our aim is to find out through experimentation just where the software and hardware products derived from gaming technology fits into our business, how it can be used effectively in the design process, aid design development and then convey “built” virtual environments to our engineers and customers.
Forsspac is starting this journey with VR, the key questions we want to answer are:
How will we change the mind set of our engineers so that they can embrace and derive benefit from the new “reality” 3D which demands a degree of cross discipline collaboration that we have not seen before in the building services design industry
Can we quantify the real benefits during design of using this technology to fuel further investment
How can we produce useful building services design output that will enable our customers to engage and benefit from this technology
What value does the “walk through” of a fully rendered architectural space bring to our customers.
Before we set about answering the above questions we should first of all look at the available technology solutions and why we have chosen our particular visualisation system.
Virtual Reality is a computer system in which the user experiences an immersive simulation. VR technologies are diverse and the term can encompass anything from 3D cinema to an interactive application using a Head Mounted Display (HMD).
The most mature technologies are for 3D cinema (walls), caves and domes. A cave is a VR display where an image is projected onto multiple walls that surround the user and may include the ceiling and/or floor. Domes are curved surfaces onto which images are projected. VR has largely been used within the entertainment industries, the exception being aircraft flight simulators. Applications may include, the ability to manipulate the model, sound and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment.
There has been a growth in the use of VR in recent years for industrial applications by the architectural, automotive, aerospace, construction and ship building industries for the design of end products, manufacturing processes and marketing. This has primarily been accomplished through the use of walls and caves, it offers non-designers a greater appreciation of the design leading to better communication at an earlier stage. In the architectural and construction industries this can include aesthetic, access and health & safety issues.
In the last year VR headsets have become commercially available, their largest market will be for gaming and media viewing. The simplist is the Samsung Gear into which a Samsung phone can be simply clipped.
The dominant HMDs and the most popular for industrail applications are the HTC Vive and the Occulus Rift, they give a more immersive experience than caves or walls. Tracking systems associated with the HMD’s enable users to move around in a real size environment. The view of the person wearing the HMD is also be displayed on a screen for the benefit of other participents watching in, the sesson may also be recorded.
Forsspac has been developing its understanding of the system and currently able to set up 3D models, convert them into viewable media along with active objects using a plug in application.
Physical props can be included in an applications, e.g. car designers may include a real seat and steering wheel when designing the displays and facias.
A Near Miss Simulator developed as a health and safety application for the construction industry includes a real lift cage. The user presses a real button which matches the virtual button seen in a HTV Vive to make the cage rise over a large construction site, it finally drops to the floor although some people find it too real to carry on to the top.
Over the coming months we will be publishing more articles that address the four questions that we set ourselves at the beginning of this article.