Technology is no stranger to the construction industry. New and more efficient tools and equipment are often put into practice during building construction before they are used in other industries. Virtual reality (VR) is no different. VR is a natural development when considered within the context of existing technologies such as building information modeling (BIM) and 3D CAD drawings, but VR has the ability to change the construction industry in profound ways across a range of stakeholders.
Increased Consumer Input
VR is the logical next step from BIM files and 3D CAD. In fact, VR is built from the same files but the data is projected in a different manner. Instead of being displayed to the lay-person on a flat screen or blue-print, VR provides the consumer with an immersive experience. Viewers see 2D images projected via a headset where the images are angled in a manner that creates fluid stereoscopic imagery. Through the use of head gear, customers are able to virtually walk the building’s hallways, interact with fixtures, move possible furniture and make informed purchase decisions.
Interacting with a building’s design and features facilitates informed discussion with architects and builders about building design and usability. Buildings are vetted fully before construction begins, which saves costly remodels and revisions that might otherwise occur during the construction process.
Just as consumers have the opportunity to fully interact with the building’s design and features, construction company employees have the ability to experience immersive training with machinery and tools. Software engineers have developed safety training programs and equipment operator simulations that provide employees with a chance to train on simulators, much the same way pilots have trained for decades.
Through VR simulations, employees gain experience operating cranes and excavators as well as training for work in confined spaces or extreme heights.
VR promotes collaboration across continents, if necessary. With every stakeholder having access to the simulation, the ease of contributing their expertise to the project increases. Efficient collaboration leads to timelier project completion, further keeping down project costs while still satisfying the buyer.
VR technology is developing rapidly with a focus on making the end-product less unstable. Complaints about VR include the instability of the experience; many users find the simulation nausea-inducing and jarring. However, improved eye-tracking technologies and faster rendering of visual stimuli have decreased these unpleasant sensations. As more affordable head-gear become available, more consumers will feel comfortable with VR in general and with VR as a construction management tool more specifically.
Within the next decade, or sooner, VR use within the construction industry could very well be commonplace, but no less beneficial.