Who watched Lawnmower Man, the 1992 futuristic sci-fi flick, and found themselves imagining what it would be like to venture into a virtual world? I sure as heck did — and ever since becoming a civil engineer I’ve have found myself thinking back to Lawnmower Man and wondering how the world of Civil & Structural design could use some of it’s ideas. Not-so-much the indiscriminate killing, but the Virtual Reality (VR) parts.
I’m a strong believer that VR will, in the not-so-distant future, make it incredibly easy for designers to communicate their ideas to clients and contractors — and in doing so ensure that the designer’s ideas have the best chance of being accurately recreated in reality.
As is often the case, the bit in-between the designers mind and construction is laced with a lack of clarity, largely due to the use of two-dimensional design documents. VR will help solve this. Needless to say I have been waiting long and eagerly for engineering software companies to make my Lawnmower Man inspired VR dream a reality. When I think of how smooth first person video games are and how far VR has come in the gaming world, I wonder why this technology isn’t available en-masse to the engineering fraternity?
But there appears to be hope!
This week I stumbled upon a design firm in Sydney, Australia who are integrating virtual reality into their day-to-day building design process. They offer a ‘live’, VR driven design experience to their partners and clients.
This is made possible by storing all the design details and specifications of a building project in a Building Information Model (BIM). Doing so allows people involved in the project to interact with a 3d model of the building in real-time over the web. Their website outlines the VR process they have adopted to improve their communications.
Like me, they believe that communication is faster and easier with Virtual Reality (VR). I would imagine that providing clients with such a tool would give them a greater understanding of the project, as they can explore the project in 3d, rather than at a desk in-front of flat two-dimensional drawings.
Indeed, the ability to take a person inside the building in three dimensions; to move left and right; scan up and down; zoom in and out, can be an incredibly powerful communication tool. The principal aim of this technology is to ensure the alignment between expectations of both designers, clients and of course construction.
And while I am excited that my VR dreams are becoming a reality, I do wonder how well the technology used for geographically-constrained building projects can be adapted to geographically-larger infrastructure projects. Would file sizes be too large and experiences to laggy to provide the same benefits?
I look forward to things to come.
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