Immersive technology offers widespread options

by March 25, 2020 0 comments

Tithi & Gautam Tewari, Founders of SmartVizX and Creators of Trezi, feel that through collaboration, millions of dollars can be saved worldwide which would have otherwise been spent on shopping samples and mock-ups across ever-increasing distances—benefiting the environment greatly.

Online collaboration tools are on the rise, what are the reasons for this and what is the current status of the collaboration industry?

Each industry is different, and painting all cases with a broad brush wouldn’t be a useful heuristic to assess the need for collaboration. However, collaboration—especially when enabled through cutting edge technological developments such as IoT (Internet of Things), Immersive Tech, or Predictive Analysis—serves, broadly, the same purpose regardless of the field within which it is practised: That of bringing all stakeholders on the same page and enabling informed decision making.

Let’s take the building industry, for example. One of the most prolific sectors for growth and investment, the building industry is presently valued at US$8 trillion, with the numbers predicted to rise to US$ 15.3 trillion by 2030; China, US and India alone will account for 57% of all global growth. However, behind the stunning statistics lies the stark reality that nearly 2/3rds of all projects run behind schedule, or go over budget—owing to these time and cost overruns, nearly 10% of the total project value is typically lost.

The need to build is ubiquitous, but even as our endeavours scale to meet the demand of the global economy, our building processes and workflows have failed to catch up. We are lagging behind on taking up crucial systems that can organize our efforts and reduce inefficiencies in the way we design, build, and maintain our built environment. A significant part of the problem is the fact that much of the communication and collaboration needs within the AEC space are still address using traditional means, which typically entail 2D drafting, in-situ prototyping, and numerous visits to the project site to communicate intent, troubleshoot issues, and coordinate between various stakeholders. While some of these traditional means of communication have certainly evolved in the recent years—most notably, the introduction of 3D modelling and rendering software, Building Information Modelling (BIM), and construction estimation systems, among others—we are still largely limited to interpretations of data with varying levels of accuracy and ease of understanding, as opposed to unambiguous visualization.

This is where effective collaboration comes in. Varying interpretations of the same data set may lead to ineffective decision making, but uniform visualization cannot. Modern collaboration tools can ensure that all stakeholders of a design project, for example, are always on the same page—through an immersive, at scale, and real time experience of the project data that leaves little room for errors or inconsistencies in perception. It’s as simple as the difference between trying to understand a project’s design through a 2D drawing, as opposed to stepping inside the project and experiencing it for yourself.

As of today, collaboration as an industry is largely predicated upon Virtual Reality. The VR market has boomed in the 2010s and now commands a US$45 billion opportunity worldwide —which is expected to grow to US$95 billion by the year 2025.  A sizable chunk of this user base is currently from the construction and real estate industries—at 13% and 7%, respectively, with the numbers steadily rising. Collaboration, simply put, is the way forward for any industry.

What are the major advantages and drawbacks that can be overcome using collaboration tools?

Collaborative tools, especially VR collaboration, are helping stakeholders scale their operations and increase profitability, worldwide. For instance—clients who sign off on designs usually make their decisions based on the drawings and 3D imagery presented to them (which is still represented as 2D images on a screen, at best). These may translate with ease to an architect or a civil engineer, but most people don’t see space that way. Predictably, most clients feel dissatisfied when projects are realized on-site, as their expectations (or more accurately, their interpretation of data) don’t match up the actual space. As such, it becomes common for projects to go through multiple iterations and adjustments, and even despite best efforts might not match up to the initial vision. A client who has had the chance to review the space before it is actually built, using VR collaboration tools, is much likelier to be satisfied—and without the incurrence of extra expenditure or delays.

Similarly, the building industry presently relies on physical mock-ups and on-site prototyping to gain a close approximation of the end product. These are time-intensive, resource-heavy, and require extensive back and forth between the building team and the suppliers. This not only extends the project timeline, but also restricts the building team in terms of choice— whether of the material (by physical proximity), or by the manufacturer (by acquaintanceship). Without reliable means to test out possible design, material or product options, building teams cannot possibly expand their scope without running the risk of delays and errors—which causes resources at hand to go underutilized. However, through VR collaboration—such as enabled by Trezi, India’s first fully immersive VR product for the building industry—stakeholders can step into the virtual world and experience, review and modify a project’s design in real-time, including browsing actual product catalogues within the virtual workspace and testing samples therein. Through the use of collaborative tech, millions of dollars can be saved worldwide which would have otherwise been spent on shopping samples and mock-ups across ever-increasing distances—the environmental burden of such a high volume of material movement notwithstanding.

What all industries can use immersive collaboration? Can you give some examples of how they work?

All major industries across the world stand to benefit from Immersive Collaboration. As per the Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research and the PwC Global Construction Report, the application of VR/AR presents a trillion-dollar opportunity with footholds in the gaming, construction, military, healthcare and retail industries, among others.

Within the building industry, Trezi as a VR product for collaboration has been able to capture a sizable niche by enabling architects, designers, building product manufacturers and other stakeholders to review, modify and experience a project’s design in an immersive virtual environment at full scale and color. Within this virtual workspace, Trezi provides the opportunity to collaborate by enabling users to meet and speak within the virtual work space via audio chat, as well as explore and edit a project’s design in real-time. In a similar vein, products harnessing VR are being used for surgical mock-ups and walkthroughs, as well for non-invasive teaching procedures in medical colleges.

5G is expected to greatly increase connectivity on a larger scale. How will that help enhance collaboration?

Better Internet bandwidth equals better connectivity. Take Trezi, for instance—developed with the Microsoft Accelerator in India program as a breakthrough SaaS product, Trezi hosts its collaboration and product integration features on Microsoft Azure. Cloud connectivity has enabled greater agility and efficiency of the product, making it lighter to boot, faster to run, and easier to connect over multiple devices. Utilizing internet connectivity—which will only be boosted with 5G bandwidths—is a key component to shaping Trezi as the world’s first platform for architects and building product manufacturers. Trezi provides designers with the option of browsing actual product catalogues within their virtual workspace and adding samples therein and also provides ongoing user support, cloud integration for object libraries and meeting reports, and regular updates with new and exciting features to address the ever-evolving needs of the industry—each of these features only become easier to access with each significant boost in connectivity.

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