How We Work: The Challenge of Virtual Reality in AEC

There is a looming challenge for the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry as we get excited about virtual reality (VR).  The challenge is that we lack tools that can be used in VR environments.  AEC folks like tools – think hammers, backhoes, tower cranes – but our current ways of doing our work don't yet fit with the VR platforms being created.


Every building project in the world needs drawings to be built.  That means that either a CAD or BIM program is used to produce a representation of what is being built.  When making drawings or models, have you ever checked how many times an hour an architect, engineer, or drafter clicks their mouse?  We used a click-tracking tool to measure how often a modeler interacted with the software environment.  The average was 488 clicks per hour.  That's a lot of clicking to produce drawings or models.

 If you're in a VR environment, how do you click your mouse? 

People don't talk about VR in the context of mouse clicks because VR is almost exclusively used for viewing environments.  Put on a set of goggles and you’re immersed in a scene that lives entirely in a computer.  It is amazing technology because it so closely mimics how we view actual buildings – looking around by moving our heads and bodies.  But what tools are available to us in VR?

 The gaming industry has given us many gun-like tools to "shoot" within VR spaces.  But there are few, if any, modeling or drafting tools in VR.  If you're in an AEC VR environment, you can interact and influence AEC geometry that results in a new set of drawings or models.  In the absence of VR-specific modeling or drafting tools, VR is a passive viewing platform where you can't engage and change the environment. 

 What's the answer?  Less clicking.

 It would be easy to say that we need the VR community to provide us with better input devices that allow us to better capture our "clicks" in VR environments.  But the bigger question is why are we using tools that require that much clicking?  AEC users should demand tools that are more productive and less manual.  With those tools, we can make VR environments work for AEC.

Tags: Virtual Reality AEC

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