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 accurate 3D drawing based on that point cloud). A few companies offer software to visualize point clouds in VR, such as Veesus, ATIS.cloud and FARO Scene, to name a few.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Concepts become understandable, meaningful and memorable 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 is about 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 mobile laser scanner and the ATIS.cloud allow to create simulations as dense and detailed as possible.
What are the opportunities for VR?
Commercial VR applications are growing rapidly: from movies to TV, games to education, e-commerce to construction, travel to medicine, and more. Let's take a look at some of the areas where it's having an impact.
One of the emerging applications for virtual reality is training. VR technology can easily be used to simulate an environment such as a construction site. Without leaving the training center, students can safely "visit" a range of sites and scenarios to learn safety 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 firm IDC, "Interest in virtual reality within the enterprise continues to grow as more companies use the technology to drive a wide range of training scenarios. Let's see a noticeable increase in interest in using VR for soft skills training delivered by line-of-business managers. "Employees are now trained to do everything from customer service to handling a major incident in the workplace, and virtual reality is making it even easier. Walmart, for example, has distributed 17,000 VR headsets that give employees access to more than 50 learning modules. The program includes nearly 4,600 Walmart stores in the U.S. and more than 1 million employees.
By using virtual reality, customers can witness unique experiences of their future products before they are even finished. As virtual worlds become more prevalent, they will have an obvious place in marketing, events and exhibitions. Rather than just a booth, visitors could put on a VR headset and explore the twentieth floor of a still-unfinished skyscraper or tour the renovation of an ancient monument.
Realistic "digital twins" for all types of real estate can be created allowing clients to explore and evaluate properties with ease. The virtual experience can streamline the decision-making process for potential tenants, buyers or investors. It can even render different furnishings and fixtures in situ to allow clients to "walk through" the simulation to get an idea of the layout and quickly spot potential problems.
One of the applications of virtual reality that has been quietly gaining ground is therapy. A variety of situations that a therapist would struggle to recreate can be explored using VR. People with PTSD like veterans can explore traumatic environments from a safe place. Some phobias can also be treated: immersion therapy for arachnophobia would previously have 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 location analyses to make virtual reality as real as possible cannot be underestimated in such cases - and who knew that therapy would be a potential market for surveyors and their 3D scanning skills?
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 every part of a car so they can visualize, and even look inside the vehicle to see how it fits together. These models also allow the company to simulate the performance of components, systems and the overall vehicle.
Virtual reality even helps in the design of the factories used to assemble the vehicles. It simulates the vehicle going through all stages of the manufacturing process to optimize tools, facilities and processes. This ensures that each vehicle can be manufactured as planned by engineering.
For several years, law enforcement and forensic scientists 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 the scene feels like. Now that the data is converted to VR form, it can be used by law enforcement and legal professionals without any advanced training. Investigators can now "walk through" crime scenes, examine the relationship between objects and even explore possible shooting angles.
Virtual reality also opens up opportunities for virtual tourism in the form of tours of popular tourist destinations. This is ideal for those who want to travel and explore certain places but can't - for example, the disabled can't access certain historical buildings. VR gives them the opportunity to virtually visit these monuments.
The advantages of VR
There is a direct link between visual stimulation and understanding. VR helps with 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 of a given environment can be tailored to the individual by creating and processing digital models, enabling immersive visualization of built environments.
- Design and layout - Virtual reality can speed up manual processes and improve accuracy. It also allows for efficient collaboration on a project.
- Facility and equipment maintenance - Especially in specialized or mission-critical environments, virtual reality can drastically reduce the time required to safely maintain equipment and facilities.
- Engaged collaborative work - Virtual reality improves collaboration by allowing teams to interact with data and their environments together, making workflows more efficient. It also enables remote collaboration because information can be shared.
Making virtual reality a reality
For VR to be truly 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, feel and interact. A virtual meeting place, a manufacturing plant, or even an outdoor environment will require skills and vision to create an engaging VR world. Once done, this will undoubtedly create the potential to unlock new possibilities and 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 survey skills will be high on the list. VR is the ideal medium for visualizing point clouds, and point clouds will in turn be the basis for exciting new uses of VR.