The technology behind virtual reality is steadily changing more professional industries in practically every field. Some people hear the term “virtual reality” and only think of the newest high-tech gaming devices, but there’s so much more potential to the tech than that. Professionals in many industries from oil and gas to research and development are experiencing dramatic shifts as these newer more advanced methods start to take over. The top minds in the realm of construction are constantly seeking new methods to apply VR in their field, thus revolutionizing the way workers do just about everything.
When Computer Modeling Isn’t Enough
For many years, computer-based designs were the most advanced and innovative option for professionals to use. Nowadays, CAD software and BIM – building information modeling – is seen as inferior to the advantage that VR offers. More and more, experts in this field are using a confluence of these two sophisticated techniques. Some are even ditching computer modeling altogether to put themselves purely in a virtual world.
The problem that arises with entirely computer-generated building specifications is it lacks the experiential nature that VR is known for. When a client can’t see what a completed project is going to look like, they might walk away with an accurate feel for what the construction team is working to accomplish. This is what leads to those dreaded discrepancies between what the client originally thinks they’re getting and what actually ends up being constructed. Virtual reality is a way of cutting out the guesswork and uncertainty, allowing construction teams to build with confidence.
Saving Time and Money: Getting it Right the First Time
Anyone who’s ever worked in construction knows that things don’t always work out exactly the way you envisioned them. In fact, this is usually not the case. There are too many variables when building complex structures in the notoriously complex physical world to be able to perfectly plan out everything that’s going to happen over the course of your project. This is where VR comes in.
With the use of virtual simulations, future roadblocks that are otherwise difficult to foresee become apparent. Architects are better equipped to draw up fully accurate blueprints that won’t require costly and time-consuming redesigns. Contractors can now explore every inch of every room in a house before ever setting foot in it to ensure that they have all the necessary information to proceed with the job.
How We Build: The History of Construction Tools
It could be said that the very first simulation tools ever invented were the pencil and paper. Though basic to us now, the ability to map out a plan ahead of time in a way that’s visually clear and descriptive was a big breakthrough for the people of ancient times. The birth of planned construction as a concept occurred when people started using whatever tools they had available to create an overall design for their project ahead of time, thus fine-tuning the potential of the end result. To give their designs greater visual depth and make them fly off the page, early architects and construction workers built scale models and mock-ups of their design ideas to get a better sense of the potential problems before trying to build the full-size one.
BIM and VR: The Best of Both Worlds
Building information modeling is a way of rendering both 2D and 3D representations of construction projects at the same time. The upshot of this is easier management and extraction when it comes time to develop and fine-tune your vision. Virtual reality takes this BIM advantage and brings it to the next level by allowing professionals and clients to walk right into the project together long before it will ever see the physical light of day.
The best way for any contractor to deliver exactly what their clients want is by working with them along every step of the way and listening to their input. In the past, the average layperson wasn’t able to just look at the blueprints and other design plans with easy comprehension. It took a degree and years of experience in the field to have the ability to look at a construction plan and see in your mind what it will look like when it’s finally erected.
That’s not the case with virtual reality. Now, clients and contractors can stand side-by-side, going over every element of the plan and literally walking through each floor of the project. With these tools, any “Oh, that’s not what I had in mind,” comments can be taken care of before things are rendered in cold, hard steel and concrete.
In the past, when we were limited to conducting business and training in the physical realm only, it was difficult to devise safe and efficient methods of training heavy-equipment laborers. It’s hard, for instance, for someone to gain experience operating a crane in a totally risk-free environment. VR comes into play here with training possibilities that would’ve sounded like something out of one of the Matrix movies to the people of a couple decades ago. This makes it possible to fully develop the necessary skills in a truly risk-free environment, leading to an altogether safer workplace.
For many, the changes caused by virtual reality are uncomfortable or even frightening. The worst-case scenario that keeps numerous insecure workers up at night is the thought of being innovated out of a job, which seems to be the result of new tech adoption in other industries. However, the growing list of innovative applications of VR is nothing to fear. As more people start using these incredible tools and the more they’re developed, the easier it will be for contractors to collaborate with clients, work in a safer and more efficient way, and create structures that truly bring the virtual into reality.