Virtual reality is on the list of top technologies throughout the world, and for good reason. For more than gaming, music events, and education, virtual reality is shaping the way things are done for major industries. Virtual reality in construction, manufacturing and healthcare is helping improve processes, while first identifying why a certain process was developed and why it's no longer necessary or beneficial to the industry as a whole. The construction industry has seen rapid developments in VR technology for construction purposes. Let's get a quick overview of what it really is before getting 5 articles on virtual reality in construction.
What is VR in Construction?
First, virtual reality is an immersive technology that uses digital rendering to create a virtual environment with which to interact. There are several levels of immersion to virtual reality- from computer games where the user remains entirely aware of their surroundings by using limited immersion tech, to exposure training where the user is fully immersed within the virtual environment using HMDs designed to completely eliminate the physical world and sensors to detect physical movement and sensory input from outside sources to create a completely immersive world.
There's a vast array of virtual reality applications, and reasons why you would want to use any of them. Even in virtual reality, there is a time and place for each level of immersion. For instance, designing a project could take a very small amount of immersion, where as taking somebody on a tour of a work in progress, or viewing the site with a full building before it's actually created would take a nearly fully immersive virtual reality experience. Here are some of the benefits and use cases of virtual reality in construction.
Virtual Reality in Construction Benefits and Use Cases
Benefit- Reduce On-Site Visits: With the ability that stockholders, project managers, and designers have to look at the way a project is shaping up from a distance, virtual reality can limit the amount of time many people would spend going back and forth from the site to the office, or other work sites.
Use Case- Say that a new site is being worked on and city officials want to have an accurate view of how the plan will benefit the landscape and the people around it. This is generally difficult to do because at this point, though blueprints and 3D mock-ups are a thing, they still rely heavily on the imagination and limit accuracy. With virtual reality, the imagination isn't necessary to get an accurate view of the area, and how the plan fits into the operation of a city.
Benefit- Fix Problems Before They Become a Problem: Virtual reality can give accurate representations of where designs are flawed, or where material is limited and account for issues before they arise in the construction phase.
Use Case: Virtual reality can give better representations of the design that prototyping can't. The point of prototyping is to see where the design is flawed. This can be difficult in construction, where, in order to get a good feel of the site, walking through it is necessary. Without the site being completed, a walk through it is impossible. With VR designs, project managers can do a virtual walk through of hallways and rooms to make sure they're not too small or narrow.
Benefit- Improve Customer Experience: From communication and collaboration to final walkthroughs, virtual reality helps project managers stay in constant contact with the client, offering a better, more efficient customer experience than before.
Use Case: From the initial design phase, to the final product, construction managers can give the client an accurate representation of what the project looks like at every step of the process. If there's an issue with part of the design, or the client simply doesn't like the way something is shaping up, they can quickly and efficiently voice concerns and offer suggestions that the manager can implement with little to no frustration.
Benefit- Better Training and Safety: Training scenarios within a virtual environment is highly beneficial in that it gives trainees the opportunity to work with heavy or dangerous equipment before ever stepping foot inside of a big rig, or dealing with other types of heavy machinery. Beyond this, the act of physically training in the virtual environment helps solidify critical information by way of repetition in a stress-free environment.
Use Case: Dealing with heavy machinery is one reason that many potential employees turn jobs down. The machines can be intimidating and cause the person to worry, and for good reason. A healthy dose of one's mortality is always a good idea. Using virtual reality to train gives employees the confidence they need to take on the job tasks with ease and understanding, limiting the number of on-site injuries to themselves and others.
Benefit- Ease of Collaboration: Virtual reality offers a space to collaborate where before there was none. Designers, architects, and workers can meet together within the virtual space to ensure that the design is sound, that any flaws are accounted for, and create the best project possible.
Use Case: Meeting with crucial members of the construction process within the virtual space allows immediate designs changes and enables them to see how those changes effect the overall flow of a project before ever stepping foot on the site. The ease of collaboration is also a great benefit for those not working directly in the construction process, such as the buyer.
5 Articles on Virtual Reality in Construction
This Research Gate piece, Virtual Reality in Construction: A Review
, offers a more in depth review of the specifics of virtual reality in the industry as well as examples of successful adoption of VR technology as it applies to construction itself.
Virtual Reality is Changing Construction Processes for the Better
talks about the benefits of virtual reality, as well as a few real-world use cases for VR tech in the construction industry. If scenario-based use cases aren't enough for you, go check out the ways that companies are actually implementing VR into their workflows.
VR in Construction
- How to Optimize Your Design and Building Processes with Wide Immersive Environments gives a more in depth look at the creation of designs within a VR environment.
As a whole, virtual reality offers the construction industry better financial, time, and product outcomes by enabling designers, managers, and workers the ability to see at length the amount of effort in these various areas will need to complete, no more- no less. VR in construction can give an in depth understanding of critical processes, while maintaining an effective workflow. VR technology is changing the way things are done, giving rise to a more productive and effective workflow. For these reasons, virtual reality is sure to shape the world around us and create a future of immersive experiences that benefit every industry.