The Future is Augmented

Video games can be beneficial to any industry. It is an art form that can allow users to immerse themselves through visual, auditory, and even tactile senses, to allow one to see through the perspective of the creator. So if video games are created to allow players to experience the designer’s unique perspective, why can’t we use this application in “professional” work? We can, and we can make many workflows more efficient through the use of programs designed with game engines.

As an engineer, picking up video game design as a hobby has allowed me to see the countless possibilities of combining the two unlikely genres. It also allowed me to understand that development is possible with a small, passionate team. It took around 2 years for a team of four to develop “Celeste” – the best indie game of 2018. If a team of four could create an award-winning game in two years, there is definitely potential for a small team to create an interactive experience that could benefit engineers around the world using a similar engine.

 

Celeste – Game Award 2018 “Best Independent Game”

In order to test our capabilities, I worked with a fellow developer to create Augmented and Virtual Reality applications using Unity. By taking models from commonly used software such as CADWorx, or Revit and displaying it in a game engine, we can showcase the model from various perspectives. Looking at a miniature model on a table, or being immersed as a character in the model can give you immensely different perspectives compared to a computer screen. The biggest challenge so far, has been to convince companies to adopt these technologies into their workflow, and to embrace the innovation.

 

Smart List – Touching Word Highlights and Generates Arrow for Easy Location

“Why? Because it’s always been done this way.” It’s a line we hear many times, both in our personal and work lives. When faced with a problem it is almost natural to rely on tried and true solutions, and age old rules of thumb. But where does this leave new ideas, concepts and technologies? Is it not the fear of the unknown consequences that make innovation so slow to be adopted? To continue to push the boundaries of technology and make innovative interactive experiences commonplace is my main goal. But what benefits can we propose to industry workers?

Let us take a look at Augmented Reality. Though the technology is relatively new, it is constantly being updated and improved upon from both a software and hardware perspective. To be able to look at a 2D drawing on a sheet of paper, and have it come to life through your mobile device allows people to see an overview of their model as if it were a miniature model. From floor plans, to facility equipment layouts, it is easier to give an opinion with more visual understanding. Now we add on the fact that these models can be interactive, with the potential to walk around in first person or control a character walking and view in third person. Menu screens can point to the location of buildings, simulate emergency situations, and act as a 3D map complete with arrows showing the safest routes to travel. There is potential for immense cost savings, reducing training time and transferring knowledge of procedures and safe practices through Augmented Reality.

AR – View A Smart Model Superimposed on your 2D Drawing

Bringing 2D drawings to life is one thing, but what if you wanted to stand in the building you designed? Do you truly have to wait until the building is constructed to realize you required more space in a particular area, or that the layout is more impractical than it looked on the computer? This is where Virtual Reality can really shine. To be able to walk in a model of a facility you created can give you an immense advantage of spatial awareness over a computer screen fly through. To take a stroll around a facility you designed before it has even been built is a unique experience extremely difficult to implement in the past. Even when the facility has been constructed, for office workers to be able to walk through the buildings, and prepare for site before heading down can save time required on site. Virtual reality can be used as a training tool for new hires, and a preparation tool for experienced workers.

 

VR – Walk Though the Facility as a Character in the Model

So what can you do to embrace this new innovation, and get a better understanding of it? Do some research; learn the concepts of AR, the development kits available, and the game engines that can utilize them. Try the current applications available, from downloading AR phone apps to visiting VR arcades around your city. Understand what is currently available and imagine the potential it has for the future. Close your eyes, and imagine a surgeon wearing a Hololens with a CT scan superimposed on his patient’s body. Imagine yourself in a garage with an instructions overlaying your newest project. Imagine the endless possibilities, and get excited for the future.

Written by Robert Wong Tek Kong, EIT.

Originally published in LinkedIn.