Five Real-Life Applications for Large Scale Immersive VR Environments
When one of the world’s largest cruise lines was ready to introduce their newest ship to VIP customers and members of the media, they wanted it to be an unforgettable experience. They wanted to build excitement; encouraging guests to explore the ship by walking the decks and touring the indoor swimming pool. The only problem was that the ship was still under construction.
Rather than relying on traditional CAD drawings and artist renderings to paint a picture, they transformed the CAD data into a room-sized virtual reality (VR) experience. This walk-in VR room (a CAVE) allowed everyone to realistically tour a 1:1 scale replica of the ship before construction was even close to completion. The simulation allowed them to tour decks and see every detail – right down to leaves fluttering in the wind and waves rippling as the ship sailed.
Virtual reality is a powerful tool that can bring any product or environment to life long before it’s physically completed. 3D CAD data contains a wealth of useful imagery and information that can be used to create virtual experiences. CAD drawings can be converted into photorealistic models using the latest game development engines, such as Unity or Unreal Engine. This bridges the gap between the design stage and the finished product. By adding readily available graphical artifacts, such as deck chairs and cruise guests, designers can create compelling and realistic immersive experiences. Game engines also allow the addition of navigation and physics-based interaction with elements of the virtual model.
For companies that only use VR experiences occasionally, it isn’t cost-effective to keep software specialists on staff to convert CAD into VR models. For these organizations, there are content development firms that bring years of VR expertise to this service.
Head-mounted displays (HMDs) can be easily used for the immersive experience because they operate natively with game engine software. However, HMDs are single-user devices and may not be practical for large groups and shared experiences. Large-scale projected VR systems, like a CAVE, allow multiple viewers to share a very realistic 3D interactive experience. Enabling Unity to display in an immersive CAVE requires a plug-in, such as getReal3D, to synchronize projected images across multiple walls and the floor.
An immersive experience can be used for visitor centers and public relations events like the cruise ship unveiling, as well as for training, research, or simulations of situations and events. With the right software, devices, and team to bring it all together, the applications and possibilities are endless. Here are a few of the common applications where content is being converted or newly created for immersive experiences:
Virtual training and simulations provide cost-effective ways to educate and prepare workers:
- Trainees can experience hands-on learning by practicing tasks in an easily repeatable manner.
- Offers the learning management solutions for scoring and progress reporting.
- Experienced workers and supervisors can continue production rather than lead training sessions.
This approach alleviates the need to purchase and replace the physical tools used or damaged during training exercises.
2. Research Insight
Virtual reality provides unique insight into simulations and visualizations with perspectives that would be impossible in real life.
It plays an important role in research to enable discoveries based on spatial relationships:
- Standing inside microstructures as they react to different conditions.
- In medicine, it can provide three-dimensional perspectives on how tumors may grow, or how a virus may behave in the human body.
- In the automotive world, it gives a realistic view of how a concept vehicle performs with different tires and on different terrains.
When R&D teams use simulations to understand how an object will respond to external stimuli, VR provides a realistic display of those results at every stage of development so that changes can be applied before the finished product is created.
3. Collaborative evaluations
- The ability to review and assess an object or environment before it’s built can save organizations millions of dollars and potentially years of development time.
- By transforming CAD drawings into an environment that can be virtually toured and examined, teams can inspect every detail and rivet to ensure it meets specific standards.
- Immersive visualizations can reveal errors and flaws in time to make changes before construction begins.
4. Customer experiences
- Once a design is complete, a VR tour brings a space to life for customers and evokes emotions that traditional drawings and models can’t achieve.
- Homebuilders and developers often use model suites to show buyers the potential for each space. With VR, they can realistically show multiple model variations, including options for furniture placement, and various construction details.
- It’s a unique and immersive way to allow buyers to “try before they buy.”
5. Re-creating work and/or hazardous environments
- Simulated immersive tours of industrial environments are beneficial to the facility, workflow, and equipment positioning planning.
- VR allows participants such as firefighters and emergency responders to practice working in a representation of hazardous or unsafe spaces, boosting confidence and safety practices before encountering the real thing.
- This approach can protect both the viewer and the environment, while still giving participants a chance to be in the center of the action.