Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR) is progressing at a steady rate in many sectors but especially in engineering design. VR is often associated with cumbersome helmets and video gaming, but within industry ‘powerwalls’ are used. A projector displays a large 3D image, where multiple users wear 3D glasses, similar to those used in the cinema. The system optically track the position of the user via the glasses, automatically adjusting the position of the image to suit the user’s perspective. Interaction with the image – normally a CAD model – is via a handset control which is also optically tracked.
The application of this design tool is helping companies to design much more efficiently. Bombardier, the train manufacturers, uses VR to demonstrate design modifications to customers, before going on to the next stage of mock ups, saving both time & money. They have found VR & AR is reducing costs in the region of 70% in producing prototypes – quite a saving. Jaguar Land Rover who are also early adopters of this technology, state £8 million was saved in development costs in prototype development in 2010 – again very significant!
VR & AR are making real improvements in engineering design work, and it will be interesting to see where it goes in the next 10 years !
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