Integration of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Building Information Modeling: The Next Frontier in Civil Engineering Education

Integration of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in Building Information Modeling: The Next Frontier in Civil Engineering Education

Sai Rohit Chenchu Boga (VIT University, Chennai, India), Bhargav Kansagara (VIT University, Chennai, India) and Ramesh Kannan (VIT University, Chennai, India)
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2110-5.ch012
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In an educational perspective, unlike other disciplines, hands-on practice is difficult to come by in Civil Engineering. By providing a student with a realistic 3D simulation, we propose a concept that improves the understanding of the individual and eliminate guess-work entirely. Our platform that makes education fun and interactive by eliminating the constraints of a conventional teaching environment by incorporating Virtual Reality (VR) or Augmented Reality (AR) as a tool. AR can help the target audience visualize a model (to scale) in all three dimensions in the palm of their hand. This chapter explores the use of interactive 3D game environments in design visualization in Building Information Modeling (BIM) by adopting various available software packages and APIs. VR will allow the prospective customer to enter and explore a structure before it is constructed. This can be achieved by making use of a powerful game engine, in this case, Unity3D. In this chapter, we will describe ways to pivot Unity's functions towards the benefit of civil engineering.
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As defined by Wikipedia, “Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data” (Wikipedia, 2016a). Augmented Reality helps improve the person’s optical sense by superimposing a computer generated image over the user’s view of the real world. By contrast, virtual reality replaces the real world with a simulated one. With newer AR technology like adding computer vision and object recognition, the surrounding world of the user becomes interactive and docile. Information about the environment and its objects is overlaid on the real world. See Figure 1.

In technical terms, virtual reality or virtual realities (VR), also known as immersive multimedia or computer-simulated reality, is a computer technology that replicates an environment, real or imagined, and simulates a user's physical presence and environment in a way that allows the user to interact with it (Wikipedia, 2016b). Simply put, Virtual Reality can be defined as the digital emulation of an environment that can be experienced by a person’s multiple senses. An individual has more senses than the standard five of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. For example, the sense of balance is essential to human locomotion.

Figure 1.

Consumption spreads faster today -Harvard Business Review


Our entire perception of reality is a combination of sensory information processed by our brain. With virtual reality, we present our brain with made-up information, and trick it into believing in a world that doesn’t actually exist.

The pace of technological evolution and adoption is growing exponentially in the modern age. Every major stream of science and art rushes to incorporate the next “big thing” developed by technology. We have seen this in the past. We will continue to see the same trends in the future. Beginning before 1900, it took a couple of decades for the telephone to touch 50% of households. It took five years or less for cellphones to accomplish the same level of penetration in 1990. These statistics are reported from the Harvard Business Review (McGrath, 2016). HBR goes on to state that, by analogy, firms with competitive advantages in those areas will need to move faster to capture those opportunities that present themselves. New innovations are being adopted faster than ever. What is certain is that the smartphone population is rising, and with this, the level of processing power is too. More and more consumers are carrying phones capable of displaying AR/VR content.

We would like to go on record and make a wild assertion that augmented and virtual reality are the next big things to hit all fields. On closer inspection, the statement will prove to be quite sound. VR/AR aren’t new kids on the block but they are the most ‘popular’. Panoramic paintings in the 1800s were the first attempt at virtual reality aimed at surrounding the viewer making them feel present in an historic event. In 1838, the first stereoscope viewers were created. In the 1930s, science fiction writer, Stanley G. Weinbaum, described devices very similar to the modern day VR headsets. The mid-1950s creation, “Sensorama” was a major step for consumer virtual reality. It presented an immersive experience in an arcade-style setup featuring stereo speakers, a stereoscopic 3D display, fans, smell generators and a vibrating chair. VR and AR has only picked up mainstream traction in recent years.

Fast forward to modern times, CES2016 finally ushers in an explosion in consumer AR/VR devices and applications. Shawn DuBravac, chief economist for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA), which puts on CES, predicts sales of VR and AR headsets will grow from approximately 200,000 in 2015 to over 1.2 million in 2016, which marks a 500% increase (Harrison, 2003). Major companies like Samsung, Microsoft, Oculus VR, Intel, Qualcomm and many more, have made significant investments and contributions to augmented and virtual reality platforms. VR/AR has many future applications. It is generally accepted that early adoption will be majorly done by the gaming industry because of the massive backing from Playstation VR and Microsoft. In our opinion, it is important for the construction and real estate industries to be quick in the adaptation of this technology.

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