by Mike Stark, Assistant Project Manager, Kraus-Anderson
Do you ever wish you could walk through your new school, hospital, or hotel project before the first shovel ever hits the ground? How about experience the last play of a game-winning drive through the eyes of an NFL quarterback? Save a life while performing a virtual brain surgery? These ideas may seem far-fetched or something out of the Ironman movie series, but these are possible . . . Today! Virtual Reality has been around for many years, but it is not until the last few that it has really exploded into the forefront of game changing, disruptive technology for many industries.
What is Virtual Reality?
“Virtual Reality(VR) is an artificial environment which is experienced through sensory stimuli(sights and sounds) provided by a computer and in which one’s actions partially determine what happens in the environment.” This means you can create any environment you can think of in a 3D immersive environment that you can then experience through a computer connected to a VR headset.
Prior to 2016, the available VR headsets on the market were ones like the Google Cardboard or the Samsung Gear VR(both required use of mobile phone). Recently however, high end VR headsets like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive have become available for purchase to the general public. The availability and reasonable cost of entry for a VR headset has fueled an acceleration of investment and development of this technology in many industries. Companies such as STRIVR in the sports industry are changing how quarterbacks study and evaluate defensive schemes and blitzes, all from the safety of the film room. The sports industry is not alone though. Healthcare has also jumped head first into virtual reality through companies like Surgical Theater who are working with universities such as UCLA to develop a virtual reality training program for brain surgeries that allow the surgeon to train on the procedure prior to the real thing(See link below)3.
Virtual Reality and Construction
With the advancements and integration occurring in other industries with Virtual Reality what is the construction industry doing? How can it change or improve the way we design and construct buildings? Virtual Reality can truly change the way architects, contractors, and owners interact and collaborate on projects. For many, the spatial qualities of a building or design can be hard to render through a 2D set of construction documents. With VR you can bring those drawings to life and walk through that building to determine whether there is enough space in my classroom, operating room, or new apartment unit. The ability to experience the design before it is built presents unlimited opportunities for efficiencies that can be gained in the construction process. Recognizing a needed change in finishes or design in the virtual environment can potentially save an owner time and money on a change order later.
With safety of utmost importance all on projects, virtual reality can also become a vital training tool for field and office personnel for identifying safety hazards on project sites and resolving hazardous issues from the safety of training classroom. Virtual reality can even take BIM to a whole new level. Through virtual reality designer, contractor, and subcontractors could perform a virtual walkthrough of the project with the ability to visually experience potential building system clashes and then review solutions all while being located in different parts of the country.
With all the possibilities that Virtual Reality can bring to construction, the industry is still in its early stages of implementation. Kraus-Anderson recognizes the value and opportunity that virtual reality can bring to our clients and our subcontractor partners. With this in mind Kraus-Anderson’s Research and Development team has been testing and exploring Virtual Reality equipment, software, and applications for use.
Various Virtual Reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Google Cardboard are being explored in conjunction with software platforms such as Unity and Fuzor4. As Kraus-Anderson continues to refine and identify our uses for Virtual Reality we hope to begin utilizing this technology on future projects such as the KA Block.
The world of virtual design and construction is not coming, but already here. So grab your glasses, get on board, and let’s all take a virtual tour.