Virtual reality (VR) has become invaluable in the areas of digital entertainment, manufacturing, construction and collaborative workspaces. Virtual applications share something in common: all work with 3D modeling and their levels of detail and value are improved by the use of point clouds.
So why is VR so important for point clouds and how does the future development of this technology look like?
Why VR is important for point clouds (and vice versa)
Ultimately, VR is a way to visualize 3D models based on 3D point clouds (not raw point clouds – a distinction to note – point clouds are a virtual representation of the environment and the model is a more or less precise 3D drawing based on this point cloud). Some companies offer software to view point clouds in VR, such as Veesus, ATIS.cloud and FARO Scene, to name a few.
A picture is equivalent to a thousand words. Concepts become understandable, meaningful and memorable by using images. Virtual reality can provide context, illustrate principles, emphasize connections, and reduce ambiguity. People learn and understand more deeply from immersive 3D representations than from words.
One of the key aspects of virtual reality is to convey a sense of realism. Virtual reality consists of transporting the user into a credible simulated reality. The creation of 3D models with the highest standards of realism is therefore of vital importance. The use of technologies such as the PX-80 handheld scanner and the ATIS.cloud make it possible to create simulations as dense and detailed as possible.
What are the opportunities for VR?
Commercial VR applications are growing rapidly: from cinema to television, games to education, e-commerce to construction, trips to medicine, etc. Let’s see some of the areas where this has an impact.
One of the emerging applications for virtual reality is training. VR technology can easily be used to simulate an environment like a construction site. Without leaving the training center, students can safely “visit” a range of sites and scenarios to learn security procedures and protocols. It is also an interesting way to reuse 3D BIM (Building Information Modeling) models to provide examples of different types of sites at different stages of completion.
According to research company IDC, “Interest in virtual reality within the company continues to grow as more and more companies use technology to pilot a wide range of training scenarios. We note a significant increase in the interest in using VR for training in non-technical skills provided by managers of business sectors. “Employees are now trained to do everything from customer service to handling a major workplace incident, and virtual reality makes it even easier. Walmart, for example, has distributed 17,000 VR headsets which allow employees to access more than 50 learning modules. The program includes nearly 4,600 Walmart stores in the United States and more than one million employees.
Using virtual reality, customers can leave unique experiences on their future products before they are finished. As virtual worlds become more prevalent, they will have an obvious place in marketing, events and exhibitions. Rather than a simple stand, visitors could put on a VR headset and explore the twentieth floor of an unfinished skyscraper or visit the renovation of an ancient monument.
Realistic “digital twins” for all types of real estate can be created allowing customers to explore and assess properties with ease. The virtual experience can streamline the decision-making process for tenants, buyers or potential investors. It can even make various pieces of furniture and accessories in situ to allow customers to “browse” the simulation to get an idea of the layout and quickly identify potential problems.
One of the applications of virtual reality that has quietly gained ground is therapy. A variety of situations that a therapist would find difficult to recreate can be explored using VR. People with PTSD like veterans can explore traumatic environments from a safe place. Certain phobias can also be treated: immersion therapy for arachnophobia would have previously required a collection of spiders, fear of public speaking would require a crowd, claustrophobia would need a small real space, etc.
The importance of detailed and realistic analyzes of places to make virtual reality as real as possible cannot be underestimated in such cases – and who would have known that therapy would represent a potential market for surveyors and their skills in 3D scanning?
Virtual reality has completely transformed the way we design and manufacture products. Automotive engineering is a good example. Jaguar Land Rover, for example, generates a 3D model of each part of a car so that they can visualize the inside of the car to see how it fits. These models also allow the company to simulate the performance of components, systems and the entire vehicle.
Virtual reality even helps in the design of factories used to assemble vehicles. It simulates the vehicle going through all stages of the manufacturing process to optimize tools, installations and processes. This ensures that each vehicle can be manufactured as planned by engineering.
For several years, law enforcement and judicial experts have been investigating crime scenes with 3D laser scanners. The resulting point cloud captures an incredible amount of detail. But viewing a 3D model on the screen doesn’t really reflect what you feel on the field. Now that the data has been converted to VR, it can be used by law enforcement and legal professionals without any advanced training. Investigators can now “browse” crime scenes, examine the relationship between objects and even explore possible angles of fire.
Virtual reality also opens up opportunities for virtual tourism in the form of visits to popular tourist destinations. This is ideal for those who want to travel and explore certain places but who cannot – for example, the disabled cannot access certain historic buildings. VR gives them the opportunity to virtually visit these monuments.
Benefits of VR
There is a direct link between visual stimulation and understanding. VR helps better communication with customers and improves remote collaboration between specialists. It improves areas such as user experience, design and maintenance.
- End-user experience – Personal experiences in a given environment can be tailored to the individual by creating and processing digital models, allowing immersive visualization of constructed environments.
- Design and layout – Virtual reality can speed up the execution of manual processes and improve accuracy. It also makes it possible to collaborate effectively on a project.
- Facility and Equipment Maintenance – Especially in specialized or critical environments, virtual reality can dramatically reduce the time required to safely maintain equipment and facilities.
- Collaborative work – Virtual reality improves collaboration by allowing teams to interact with data and environments, which makes workflows more efficient. It also allows remote collaboration because information can be shared.
Make virtual reality real
For VR to be really useful, you need to start with a good point cloud. 3D laser scanners like the PX-80 can take VR to the next level.
Expanding the reach of VR will require new ways of thinking. Individuals will need to be able to see, touch, smell and interact. A virtual meeting place, a manufacturing plant or even an outdoor environment will require skills and a vision to create an engaging VR world. Once done, this will undoubtedly unlock new possibilities and new interactions.
It will be a challenge to produce quality digital twins for VR cinema. This will require technology leaders in a variety of fields – and 3D surveying skills will top the list. VR is the perfect way to visualize point clouds, and point clouds will in turn be the basis for exciting new uses for VR.