The Utility of Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) no longer solely resides in the realm of Sci-Fi movies or with cutting-edge video gamers. VR’s use within the architecture, engineering, and construction industries is increasing exponentially, and Hixson is finding ways to maximize its value throughout the design process.

VR can be implemented in many different ways, but the basis of how it works is the same: The user puts on a headset containing lenses, sensors, and screens that use stereoscopic images to place the wearer in a world much more immersive than that of just looking at a computer monitor. Sensors placed throughout the room track the headset, allowing the user to travel and move as they would in a real facility, from looking under objects to over ledges. While it may seem like fun and games, Virtual Reality provides serious value for both clients and the design team:

  • Getting Design Right the First Time. By adding depth to images, VR gives stakeholders a more accurate perspective on how the project would truly lay out in the real world. For example, using VR allows maintenance staff to determine if there is enough clearance around a piece of equipment to effectively and ergonomically work on it. VR can also be used to visualize how exterior and interior finishes will look, and determine whether occupants have enough room to exit via egress pathways. Any necessary changes can be made in real time, giving clients the ability to watch changes to their project come to fruition in front of them. Doing these checks before construction helps avoid costly re-work and delays on projects.
  • More Efficient Coordination and Review. At Hixson, VR is also being used in the discipline coordination process, ensuring each part of the project comes together in harmony while minimizing clashes. Traditionally, discipline coordination was done by comparing 2D drawings. Now, thanks to the excellent synergy of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and VR, discipline coordination can be done by virtually walking through a facility. Hixson is able to quickly export BIM models into a VR format that can be explored by both clients and engineers alike. Clashes and other conflicts stand out much more clearly while wearing the VR headset than by comparing drawings on paper, and VR offers a unique perspective of projects resulting in catching details that could have otherwise gone unnoticed.

While it may seem like fun and games, Virtual Reality provides serious value by enabling stakeholders to envision the project before it is built, resulting in less rework, optimal layouts, and realized expectations.

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