The New Realities: How VR & AR Are Changing the Way We Operate & Use Buildings
The You Are Here indicator – usually found on wayfinding maps in malls or large public spaces – doesn’t always solve the problem of how you get 'there.' Now, not only do we have the ability to get there, we can even bring 'there' to you by using Virtual & Augmented Reality (VR & AR).
Within the commercial real estate realm, we’ve already seen some widespread adoption of AR/VR. And as the technology evolves, there will be even more robust use cases. The time is now to look at how to bring this technology into your workflow.
Along with Virtual and Augmented Reality, you may have also heard the term Mixed Reality, or MR. To confuse things even more, the umbrella term for all the realities is XR or Extended Reality.
To clarify, AR is the next computing platform. Everything you currently do on your desktop or mobile device, you will eventually be able to have projected into your field of view using a wearable such as Magic Leap or Apple’s heavily-rumored AR Glasses.
VR is really a destination. You are fully immersed and are able to experience a 3D environment as if you were actually there.
MR or Mixed Reality is a blend of the physical world with the digital world in a way that makes both seem real. It is also where a person may be projected into a virtual world but that person appears as they are in real life.
XR for Architectural Engineering & Construction (AEC)
There are myriad use cases for this technology, but as the future screams towards us, we will focus less on one reality or another and more on seamlessly moving between our real and digital landscapes. When thinking about how to leverage XR in your business, it’s important to consider a broader vision. Companies can utilize XR across all business lines—a architectural design and engineering, interior design, sales and marketing, even training – essentially the entire BIM lifecycle and beyond. Alongside this direct business utility, virtual desktops, virtual meetings and remote technical assistance will become standard practice in the near future.
Within AEC, the value of XR is clear and there are many powerful software solutions and platforms that can enhance every stage of design, visualization, collaboration, sales and marketing. There are existing tools that will allow ingestion and translation of 2D and 3D architectural renderings into game engines such as Unity and Unreal. From there, architects and designers can continue the design process from within the environment.
Visualization in VR is one of the most valuable and widespread solutions. Architects can share VR walk-through models for stakeholders and clients. Designers can build out infinite versions of the space. Contractors can plan and project manage. Collaboration between teams can be done remotely, yet in the virtual environment, with tremendous savings in both time and budget.
As is the case with any large project, the process entails working with multiple factions in key decision-making stages. Doing this is VR, and in many cases in real time, is far more effective. VR supports multiple people in a virtual environment, significantly shortening timelines and allowing teams to spot potential issues.
Within a VR headset, you are transported into the environment at a 1:1 ratio. As a result, the nuances of scale can be far better assessed. For example: does a space feels too tight, how is the flow from room to room, are the ceilings high enough. This holds true even more so with furnishings and interiors.
We recently worked with a firm designing a new restaurant from the ground up. They were very close to submitting the final designs for approval. In the kitchen, the clearance between the prep tables, the stoves and the large wood burning oven appeared sufficient in the drawings. However, when the chef did a walk-through in VR, he noticed that the long-handled peel used to move food around in the oven would potentially interfere with the prep line on the opposite side. He would never have noticed this by the drawings alone.
If clients can be shown all of their options, see the finished results and sign-off, this can mitigate the risk of costly surprises later on. In theory, an entire building could be designed, virtually constructed, fully furnished and sold before even breaking ground.
A single project can result in the following visualizations and 3D Assets using both AR & VR:
- Client Approval
- Iteration and Redesign
- Interior Design
- Future Design Inspiration
Building an XR Strategy
Bringing XR solutions into your business is, in most cases, still a cost center. That said, there is inherent value to your clients which will ultimately benefit your company and increase revenues. It separates you from the pack, and as this technology becomes ubiquitous, you will be poised to leverage it in a way that is far superior to your competitors.
When looking at different solutions, the most important component is building a 3D asset library for your company. Every scan, every imported 3D model should live in a centralized database available across each of your business units.
Whether you are using Revit, AutoCAD, SketchUp, 3D Studio Max or one of the other standard 3D rendering applications, there are some built-in capabilities and plenty of translation applications which will allow you to import these models into the primary game engines, Unity or Unreal. If you are using an engine other than these, beware. These are the industry standards and offer the tools and capabilities that will allow you to grow with the technology. Proprietary engines will lock you into a single company, their license fees and in most cases, no ability to customize your solution internally, should you want to do so in the future. Even if you are licensing a solution from a well-established software developer, ensure that they are built on top of these engines.
Once you create a library of models, you can use them every step of the way – concept, design, construction, sales and marketing. These same environments can be created and utilized over and over again. This is how you reach an economy of scale. This is how you build your edge. As your library grows, you will find other uses for these assets. Once it is created, you can utilize it in any environment at any time. You can even create baseline structures, schematics and interior designs for all your future work. Think of it as a mix and match library of inspiration and innovation.
In short, XR is not a mysterious technology. It’s here to stay and it can benefit your business in myriad ways. It’s all about the approach, but most importantly, it’s about a willingness to embrace new technology. Like it or not, the future is upon us.
Emerging technologies that impact Corporate Real Estate and Facilities such as AR/VR, AI, Autonomous Vehicles, Robots and others, will be discussed at CoRE Tech 2018 which will be held on Nov. 14-16 in Silicon Valley. For more information, visit Program Details.
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UPCOMING REALCOMM WEBINARS
Controlling a Building from Your Phone – OCCUPANT EXPERIENCE Platforms Arrive - 2/28/2019
The initial focus in mobile technologies was on meeting room reservations; then came lighting, heating and cooling, then access control. Over the last 24 months it has become apparent that there are many more occupant experiences that can be delivered via mobile phone. Managing parking, reporting maintenance issues, ordering coffee, scheduling an exercise class, viewing security cameras, and other applications were quickly added to the list. With so many options and approaches available, what are the best strategies for occupant experience? Build versus buy, functionality selection, solution integration and ongoing support are just some of the topics to be addressed by the industries’ most respected professionals.
Chuck Niswonger has over 30 years of successful leadership experience in technology-related roles that range from operating his own consulting company (www.nicenets.com) to directing the IT strategy of a real estate investment management firm to manufacturing and technology-enabled education. Chuck has also been the chair of the Realcomm Investment Management (IM) Advisory Council for the last ten years, managing content selection for the conference educational sessions, IM forums, workshops and webinars.
Matthew Lennan has been integrating IT and building system technologies for more than 30 years. He has developed and implemented computing infrastructures for global financial firms, major healthcare facilities, manufacturing, entertainment complexes and traditional smart buildings. Most recently, Matthew has been working in software development to refine the customer experience for smart buildings in Office, Retail and Residential environments. He is currently responsible for driving Innovation across Oxford Properties’ portfolio.
Jared Summers is a motivated execution-oriented high performance individual who has extensive experience managing large-scale global programs. He brings a unique ability to understand and articulate complex technologies in a relatable way while rapidly fielding innovative capabilities. Currently Jared is the Data, Analytics & Technology Manager at ExxonMobil, delivering on the promise of transformational change enabled by digital technologies across the entire global real estate portfolio.
Joshua has over 15 years of successful leadership experience with early-stage disruptive companies. He has an extensive background in property technology, focusing on amenities that drive tenant experience across commercial real estate, multifamily residential and student housing. Josh has lead national sales and support teams with an emphasis on customer success, brand recognition, and occupant experience.
Elizabeth Dukes is the Co-Founder and CMO of iOFFICE, the leading workforce-centric IWMS software and the first 100% SaaS platform designed for the Digital Workplace. Dukes drives strategy for iOFFICE and advocates for the confluence of people and technology that unleashes the full potential of the workforce and the workplace.
As Head of Sales, Nick is responsible for leading the sales organization including domestic sales, product implementation and customer success. Nick’s 20+ years’ involvement with technology dates to the 90s when Peapod did its best to teach him UNIX. Nick’s IT responsibilities over his various positions have included End User Support, System/Platform Administration, Business Continuity Management and Project, Facilities, Procurement, Contracts & Maintenance. Most recently Nick served as Vice President at Environmental Systems Design (ESD).
Matt leads the product development and roadmap strategy for Modo Labs. With broad experience across mobile and audience engagement, along with a customer-centric mindset, he is the company’s product leader for both Workplace and Campus solutions. Matt and his development team continue to enhance the Modo no-code platform, empowering higher education and enterprise organizations to quickly create personalized applications and ensure students and employees have access to the information they need most.