Virtual Reality (VR): Best Practices
VR technologies are used in many areas. First of all, these are, of course, video games, followed by trade, real estate sales, health care, education, the army and many other areas.
In the article "Virtual Reality (VR)", a review was made of the numerous and highly heterogeneous VR technologies that are already used in many areas of activity. First of all, of course, video games, followed by trade, real estate sales, health care, education, the army, the broadcast of shows, the demonstration of films and TV shows, virtual tourism, design in all its varieties, from furniture to architecture and urban planning. In the future, the penetration rate of VR in these areas will increase and new ones will be added to them. In this article, we will consider the best practices of using VR in the industry.
Virtual reality in the industry
In the industry, virtual reality technologies can be used at all stages of the product life cycle: from ordering, continuing with the design phase and ending with sales and after-sales service. The product can be presented to the customer even before it is made. Thanks to the use of VR, products of the company can be effectively demonstrated at trade shows, in sales offices and simply in crowded places. Training specialists using VR devices is much cheaper than using specialized training stands. Some experts consider this area the most promising. Others believe that an enterprise can get the greatest economic effect due to the virtual prototyping of future products, the organization of joint design and the remote interaction of specialists.1
The use of virtual prototyping centers allows solving the following tasks:
- reducing the product development time (according to various estimates, from 15 to 30%);
- reducing the number of errors in the development both within the company and among subcontractors;
- improving the quality of the product due to a more thorough study of ergonomics, repair and operational characteristics;
- increasing customer satisfaction with the product by involving them in the build process;
- reducing repair and maintenance costs by developing and prototyping not only the product itself, but also its production and subsequent operation processes.2
Ford uses VR projects at the car design stage. In the design center of the company, located in Cologne (Germany), a studio is equipped in which design engineers can comprehensively evaluate a car without having a physical prototype at their disposal. This allows them to work more quickly and efficiently on the layout and appearance of the car, as well as to work out the details of the trim. Working in this studio, Ford designers were able to choose the best location for the dashboard, seats and controls for the new Ford Fiesta.3
Lockheed Martin Corporation developed the Ship/Air Integration Lab (SAIL) virtual prototyping center for the F35 Lighting II fighter design program.4
The cost of it was about $ 6.7 million, and the return was about $ 75–100 million, i.e. the efficiency of investments turned out to be 1 to 13–15. This indicator of the effectiveness of investments in virtual prototyping centers correlated with data on the automotive and oil and gas industries.
Lockheed Martin Corporation also conducted a rough estimate of the cost of correcting an error in product design and the cost of adjusting the production technology at various stages of development. If the error is not noticed immediately and is not corrected in the first year, the cost of such an adjustment will increase by 2–5 times in the second year of the project, and 10 times in 5 years. According to experts of the company, virtual prototyping has made it possible to correctly build and work out the F35 program in the early stages, avoiding a large number of corrections in the final stages of its implementation.5
At the end of 2017, Nvidia announced the development of virtual reality, designed for collaboration of engineers and designers. The VR system, called Holodeck, allows several participants from engineering centers located in different cities or different countries to gather in a common virtual space. Three-dimensional objects are displayed in it with a high degree of detail and can be represented in full size.
Thanks to these features, designers can work together on the appearance of the object being developed, whether it is a car or a building (in such cases a virtual model of the object is displayed on the table at an appropriate scale, which can be viewed, rotated and presented in various sections).6 As in the case of F35 fighter creation program, by developing a design in virtual reality, a company that turns to this technology will save money that would be spent on modeling a new product in the physical the world.
Since 2007, Airbus has been using the VR RAMSIS technology (Realistic Anthropological Mathematical System) to simulate the internal design of cabins. Taking into account ergonomics, this system allows maximizing the space inside the aircraft cabin and improve passenger comfort, while at the same time taking into account such factors as ease of maintenance and installation of cabin equipment. In a limited space of airplanes, even small changes can have big consequences. The VR immersion experience helps manufacturers comprehensively consider possible changes, paying particular attention to important safety features such as the availability of oxygen masks and life jackets.7
BluePrint Automation (BPA) is engaged in the automation of packaging machines and the development of customized solutions for the food industry. The equipment being developed is becoming more and more complex; static 3D models no longer make it possible to visually assess the possible result. Therefore, it was decided to switch to VR technology. This allows the visualization of complex CAD models in real time and in virtual reality. With the help of VR technology, BPA designers are able to more clearly animate various mechanisms, as well as check their ergonomics, evaluate development even before its production began, and save time and money. Virtual models allow the company’s engineers to review key indicators such as performance and maintainability at the design stage. And BPA customers are able to provide feedback on the development even before the equipment production begins.8
Not only virtual prototyping is a promising application of VR technology in the industry. Production is automated, increasing the need for highly and very highly qualified personnel – operators, technologists, technicians and even warehouse workers. Training staff at all levels is not a trivial task. On the one hand, it should be as close as possible to the real conditions. On the other hand, no one will allow practicing on the existing expensive equipment. But the cost of training stands may be comparable to the cost of the equipment itself, so virtual simulators are becoming the most attractive alternative (although you will also have to spend time and money on their creation).9
Lincoln Electric uses a virtual system designed to train welders. In addition to the VR helmet of the welder, it uses a welding machine, a welding stand, a welding gun, and welding samples. All this imitates well the real welding equipment, so the actions of the learner in virtual reality are very similar to the real ones.10
In the summer of 2017, HP introduced the HP Z VR product – a virtual reality backpack.11 It contains a high-performance computer powered by two external easily replaceable batteries. A person with such a backpack (weighing only 4.6 kg) behind his/her back and a VR helmet on his/her head can move relatively freely in a real and at the same time virtual environment. According to the developers, the HP Z VR is an excellent system for training people, primarily the military. However, doctors, industrial workers, technical support staff, drivers, cosmonauts, and other professionals can also work with this backpack.12
UPS specializing in express delivery and logistics uses virtual reality technology to train truck drivers. The UPS car park has more than one hundred thousand cars, so training in safe driving is a very important area of activity for the company. Its specialists have developed a training program in which drivers learn to respond to visual and audible signals that indicate potential hazards.13,14
Not just prototyping and learning
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, virtual reality technology in the industry can be used at all stages of the product life cycle.
For example, to present the results of equipment diagnostics, to conduct virtual business meetings, to demonstrate a project, etc.
Siemens has developed a virtual model of a gas turbine, which provides a new quality of equipment maintenance.15
From the sensors installed on a real turbine, the VR system feeds data previously processed by artificial intelligence. The system analyzes data from sensors and displays them in a user-friendly form. In particular, the temperature of individual parts of the turbine is displayed in colors. In addition, artificial intelligence analyzes the full set of data received from sensors and assesses the physical wear of components.
At the end of 2016, WorldViz announced the testing of the Skofield platform designed for business communications. A year later, this virtual reality system was renamed Vizible.
"Modern communication technologies such as telephony, video conferencing and sending PowerPoint presentations still do not allow decision makers to familiarize themselves with complex products before purchasing them," – Andrew Beall said, CEO and co-founder of WorldViz. – "To get around this limitation, companies all over the world spend huge $ 1.25 trillion on business trips, and even then suppliers still have to turn to 2D projects or expensive physical layouts that help them sell their products. We believe that Vizible is the answer to this challenge."
Practically no technical knowledge is required to use the Vizible system since the system was designed to provide intuitive methods for creating virtual presentations, as well as the ability to quickly and easily import 2D content into it, such as PDF files or PowerPoint slides. "For VR developers, a lot of various software was created, and Vizible is a virtual reality for the rest," – the company’s website states.
Participants in Vizible sessions can enter into virtuality and check 3D models, allocate space with virtual pencils, use laser pointers and much more. The Vizible program can be used for business meetings, training, project evaluation, demonstrations, and creating step-by-step guides for online collaboration in all its varieties.16
Virtalis has developed the Visionary Render 2 application. It allows visualizing complex and three-dimensional VR models in stereoscopic 3D mode in real time.
The company believes that its product has sufficient potential to completely revolutionize the process and become exactly the software that is necessary for Industry 4.0.
"We use Visionary Render 2 for virtual prototyping, for creating learning applications, for connecting to the Internet of things and for streaming real-time data to the digital twin of the product, so we are considering the possibility of using Visionary Render, which has been updated and has become a valuable living asset cycle products", – professor Reb Scott, head of VR and modeling in AMRC association, writes on the company's website.17
Virtualitics18 has created a virtual platform that uses machine learning technologies, big data and mixed reality to visualize data on 3D displays and to interact with them later. On the VIP platform (Virtualitics Immersive Platform™), users can view their data, analyze it and collaborate with them in the VR space. It is believed that the innovative presentation of data through VR is an important step in presenting information about business processes and is useful when searching for potential customers.19
Instead of conclusion
Experts and analysts of the VR industry agree on one recommendation – a VR project should solve a real-life problem or seriously facilitate/reduce the price of an existing and working process. As of mid-2017, the market was experiencing a lack of published data on the effectiveness of VR implementations in various industries.