How Virtual Reality is Going to Change Construction
We hear a lot about VR these days – you get basic headsets that allow you to have a very basic VR experience, just using your phone. It’s interesting and quite fun but is it ever going to have a real impact on day to day living?
And will businesses be able to use VR to improve the way that they do things? Let’s consider the construction industry as an example. Could a day come where the site supervisor or manager checks on progress simply by climbing onto a holodeck?
Okay, so we have not quite reached the Star Trek level of technology yet, but virtual reality is a factor in our lives. It is no new concept in the construction industry either.
Will virtual reality ever really come to have a significant impact on real life? And aside from daily living applications, are there ways in which VR can be utilized for business? Could a construction manager or superintendent one day be checking up on site work by stepping onto the old holodeck?
While a construction project manager might not have adventures in VR that are as dramatic as a Star Trek episode, the reality is that virtual reality as a construction technology tool is not a new concept.
The idea for what we now call Building Information Modeling started in the seventies and the first BIM software release went out in 1987. This front-runner software program was known as ArchiCAD.
It didn’t take long before people started realizing that there was a real benefit to being able to bring up a 3-D mock-up on the computer screen as opposed to using blue-prints. Even structural models were found less useful as the software allowed people to “walk” through all the rooms.
This development made it easy for people to envisage exactly what the project would look like when done and also to pick up practical flaws quickly.
Changes could be done with the typing of a few keys instead of having to have to redraw the plans to accommodate the changes.
So, why does it seem like so few people are aware that this technology exists? Was there a flaw in the makeup? Whilst the program worked really well, there was one downside, and it was a real spanner in the works. Your firm also had to have a good IT department if you wanted to use the software, because of the level of knowledge required in the creation of these systems.
Fortunately, the last decade has seen some great improvements in this area. Many industry giants like Microsoft have been trying to put out VR software and the relevant accessories at an affordable rate. These can be adapted for BIM uses quite easily.
This new trend towards making VR more accessible is not just making it easier to plan out your layers in 3-D either. BIM models today go a few steps further, allowing you to work in both 4-D and 5-D too. This means that the project manage can work within the 4-D and program the work schedule straight into it. Working in 5-D makes it possible to also include the costs for the project.
This means the presentation of the full package and a means to make changes quickly with minimal costs.
The bigger construction companies, like McCarthy, have been using BIM VR technology quite extensively and have found it of great benefit. While most of us might associate VR with gaming, it has become clear that there are a lot more potential uses for it.