Virtual Reality: Business Case for Having Fun

Client meetings have never been so much fun as in the Middle East since virtual reality headsets were introduced as a way of bringing our project designs to life.

It all started when BIM lead, Gerry McFadden, decided to investigate how to turn BIM content into 3D models for viewing on inexpensive, off-the-shelf virtual reality headsets.

“I quickly discovered that with just a Samsung mobile phone and the Samsung Gear virtual reality headset that you can buy anywhere, you can create a 360o panorama at any point in your BIM model,” Gerry explains. “Using the power of the Cloud the BIM model can be rendered very quickly, the files are small so can easily be sent over the phone, and the process costs next to nothing. Some of the images are really impressive, with incredible detail. As soon as we started showing it to clients, their reaction was amazing – we couldn’t wipe the smiles off their faces!”

“This is a really valuable tool, which is great fun to use while having a serious role both in presentations to new clients and also for resolving issues for on-going design work,” says Gurminder Sagoo, business development director. “You get a real feel of the building – the space, the light, the reflections, the finishes – that just can’t be replicated on a 2D screen.” He goes on to describe how it helped solve a dispute between a client and the architect of a hotel project. “Looking at the architect’s renders, the client felt that the lobby would be too big. We rendered it for the VR headset, which enabled the client to look around and actually experience the space. It gave him confidence in the design.”

Different types of software can also be incorporated, such as adding sound to the 3D visual via headphones for an as-live demonstration of how different acoustic treatments would affect the sound in a space such as an auditorium.

“It’s also very useful for parts of the building we don’t normally see, such as plant rooms,” Gurminder continues. “Is the space accessible? Is there enough room for operators to move around safely? Is the environment acceptable? The 3D model is very helpful from a health and safety and operational perspective.”

“We’ve been doing this for just a few months and we’re already looking at the next generation of the technology, including wireless equipment, and the next step will undoubtedly be mixed reality. But for the moment we’re doing something quite different from everyone else by bringing the very simplest technology to as many people as possible. It’s all connecting with people and engaging them – and of course our amazing Middle East projects do give us an edge on the visualisation front,” concludes Gerry McFadden.