IrisVR Case Study: From Wow to Workflow

Based in Houston, Texas, the Engineers Without Borders-Johnson Space Center Chapter (EWB-JSC) is designing and implementing a water and sewer system and biogas digester installation at the Giika Orphan Rescue Center site in Giika, Kenya. The rescue center is home for about 30 teenage boys who were previously homeless due to their families not having the resources to support them. The EWB chapter was founded in 2005 and is one of the oldest in the organization which itself goes back to 2002.

To develop the biogas digester system EWB-JSC partnered with the and the Longhorn Project, a Houston area vocational agricultural non-profit. Each group is using the project to explore a different application: EWB-JSC is interested in the technology for its work in Kenya, the Longhorn Project for local education, and NASA for potential applications on Mars. In Spring 2016 NASA awarded an innovation grant to the Sustainability Office to further the partnership’s mutually beneficial work. EWB-JSC provides the design engineering while the Longhorn Project provides the cattle and facilities. EWB-JSC designs both the Kenyan digester array and the space analog digester for Mars mission design. 

 

EWB-JSC during their first assessment trip to Kenya in September 2015 with some of the young boys who live at the Rescue Center. 

EWB-JSC during their first assessment trip to Kenya in September 2015 with some of the young boys who live at the Rescue Center. 

“VR helps us to fully understand our design and to evolve it. It’s one thing to see it on screen; it’s another to “stand” next to it.”
— James (Jake) Mireles, EWB-JSC Chapter President

Designing with Virtual Reality

The Team at IrisVR spoke with James (Jake) Mireles, EWB-JSC Chapter President to learn more about the design and the role virtual reality was playing in EWB-JSC’s work at the Giika Orphan Rescue Center. 

Q: Could you explain the role of a biogas digester?

A biogas digester takes cow or other animal manure and mixes it into a slurry that is kept in a closed container at a consistent temperature—about the temperature of a cow intestine. Keeping the mixture in a closed container enables the anaerobic bacteria present to continue digesting the manure over time. The digestion process generates methane gas and fertilizer effluent. Biogas digesters are common in third world countries where the methane they generate is used for cooking and the liquid effluent is used to help fertilize crops. NASA is interested in methane production for cooking and also as a rocket propellant and in the effluent for fertilizer.

For example, in the picture above, there is a small farmyard behind the building which will supply manure to the digester which is located downhill. The resulting methane gas will be piped back uphill to the buildings for fuel and the effluent will be sent further downhill to crops and a fish farm. 

Q: What was it like to integrate virtual reality into the project?

We built a 3D CAD model entirely in SketchUp and then used IrisVR Prospect to render the model in VR using the HTC Vive.  We then used Prospect to study the model in the VR environment for design review, which allows us to more fully evaluate the refine the design. 

We went from “wow to workflow”—from a simple show-and-tell to a full-fledged design review—very quickly, with team members suggesting improvements based on their view in the VR environment. IrisVR enabled our team to fully immerse in the design and get a sense of the scale of the array as well as its technical operation. We figured out many improvements that would not have been discoverable without VR. 

Q: How did you use virtual reality to communicate the vision for the project?

Outside of our team, we presented the design twice to the Johnson Space Center community. The first presentation was at our September [EWB-JSC] Chapter meeting and the second at an Innovation Days event held in early November 2016. 

We had 260 visitors stop by the Innovation Days event, including senior Johnson Space Center senior management. Our presentation received the 2nd place “People’s Choice” award out of 36 presentations on various technological innovations.

Q: How has the engagement and reaction been in comparison to other meetings without VR?

The proof of its impact on our clients was the recognition we received at the November Johnson Space Center presentation. We have been invited to make a presentation to Johnson Space Center senior staff in January 2017, directly as a result of using IrisVR.

“When I set up the VR walkthrough, I thought we would spend maybe 15 minutes to half an hour total. After about 15 minutes the team moved past “wow” and started working on the design. The session turned into a full-blown design review lasting two hours.”
— James (Jake) Mireles, EWB-JSC Chapter President
Images Above: (1)  Chapter President James (Jake) Mireles examines the design in VR (2) Project co-lead, Mana Vautier, explores the design and tests an operator’s reach from a particular location to control systems (3) Team members Nick Shumny, Jack Bacon (project co-lead) and Tom Bryan (chapter treasurer) monitor the walkthrough (4) SketchUp 3D model inside IrisVR Prospect during walkthrough

 

Workflow & VR Hardware Setup

The EWB-JSC team created a virtual reality experience of their project by modeling all the components in SketchUp, then dragging and dropping their file into IrisVR Prospect and using the HTC Vive headset to explore. Here’s how they did it:

First, create your content: The model was built entirely in SketchUp in two parts - one was the digester design and other was the environment which included the campus, buildings, and terrain. The refined integrated model was then imported into Prospect.

Second, setup your VR headset and station: The team uses the HTC Vive to create a room-scale VR setup using camera light tripods to place the trackers. The complete rig is mobile and transports in a rolling hard shell toolbox purchased at a hardware store.

“Room-scale VR is far superior and Prospect’s “teleportation” technique ensured that no one experienced the slightest motion sickness. The team worked in the VR for two hours with no ill effects felt by anyone.”
— James (Jake) Mireles, EWB-JSC Chapter President
Image Above: Chapter President James (Jake) Mireles sharing design in VR with participant. Provided by the NASA-JSC Imagery Online Database, NASA Photographer: Bill Stafford.

Image Above: Chapter President James (Jake) Mireles sharing design in VR with participant. Provided by the NASA-JSC Imagery Online Database, NASA Photographer: Bill Stafford.

What's next for the team?

Keep up with the developments of the Giika Orphan Rescue Center and the teams work by following their Facebook group, here. More recently they won the People's Choice Runner Up award at the 2016 EISD Technology Showcase at NASA's Johnson Space Center.
 

Adding Virtual Reality to Your Workflow

Virtual reality is not a tool of the future, but a tool available to designers today. Incorporating VR as an asset to your project really is just as simple as seen in Miele's workflow above. All that you need to get started are four components:

1. 3D Model of your design

2. VR Headset (HTC Vive or Oculus Rift)

3. Computer that meets hardware requirements for VR

4. IrisVR Prospect installed on your machine

Enhancing Storytelling for Architecture

Presenting your project using Virtual Reality

At Iris, we are actively developing support for presentations to allow architects to tell the stories of the buildings they design in the most effective way. To do that, we have released Viewpoints, a new tool for Prospect. We like to think of Viewpoints as the chapters in the building’s story. Our objective is to help the designer narrate their vision while the client interacts with the space through a 360° degree view. 

Each architecture proposal is the result of a series of decisions made by the designer. This set of deliberate choices shapes the space that is meant to best represent the core values of the individual, the family, the community or the organization that requested the services. As an architect, the designer’s role is to take and abstract the principles shared by the client and to analyze the context in which the building will be constructed to create a new and unique entity. As a result, the story of the building is an elaboration of the client’s narrative, a more developed version of events using the building itself as the medium. Naturally, the architect is the narrator.

The story of a building

The story of a building

Storytelling in Architecture is highly complex. The first step is creatively addressing both the client’s explicit requirements and their dreams for the new environment. This is followed by meetings meant to get the client engaged in the process by presenting how their aspirations will be possible thanks to the form, structure, and materiality of the new space-to-be. To fully convey the message, it is key to travel through a series of crafted moments showcasing the expected behavior inside and outside the projected building. Sharing points of view and perspectives in a clear sequence is a fundamental part of the process. As a designer, you can now do this easily using Virtual Reality.

Different perspectives of a kitchen in VR

Different perspectives of a kitchen in VR

Read our step-by-step guide on creating your own narrative in virtual reality.


How to Create & Curate Your Presentation in Virtual Reality

Prospect integrates seamlessly with the existing design flow in Revit, SketchUp, Rhino, and Grasshopper. 3D Views, Scenes, and Named Views are already being used for documentation and rendering in each of the authoring tools just mentioned. Each of these experiences is then collected and displayed in the Prospect Library

The following steps describe how to curate the presentation to enhance your story. 

Prepare your presentation

1. Click on View in VR in the toolbar (for Revit and Rhino files) or click on Import in the Library (for SketchUp files).

View in VR button in the Revit toolbar

View in VR button in the Revit toolbar

View in VR button in the Rhino toolbar

View in VR button in the Rhino toolbar

Import button in the Prospect Library

Import button in the Prospect Library

2. In the dialog window that pops up in the Library, turn off the Auto-Launch toggle and turn on the Auto-Save toggle. This will automatically save the virtual reality experience to the Library and will not launch the file to be viewed in VR right away, allowing it to be edited.

Auto-save ON.JPG

3. Click on Start Processing for VR and close the dialog window once the file has been saved.

4. Select the row that holds the newly added file. On the drawer menu that you can find on the right side of the Prospect Library, you can select/deselect Viewpoints. More detailed screenshots of Viewpoints can be found here.

Revit viewpoints in the Library.JPG
  • Choose to make active only the Viewpoints that are pertinent to your meeting. This menu will always be available to you, so you can select different Viewpoints for other presentations as necessary.
  • If you would like to search Viewpoints by name, you can do so by using the search bar at the top.
  • Viewpoints can be reorganized by dragging and dropping.
  • The name of each Viewpoint can also be updated. Once in Virtual Reality, a tag with the viewpoint name will be shown every time you transition into that Viewpoint.
Viewpoints Tag.png

Present your project

1. Start your presentation by clicking on the Launch button located in the same row as your saved experience in the Prospect Library.
2. Help your client put on the HTC Vive or the Oculus Rift headset
3. Use the arrow keys on your keyboard to move through the Viewpoints in the same order you prepared in the Prospect Library.

Keyboard.jpg

4. To ensure your client is focused on the correct space in every Viewpoint, you can choose to let them view the experience without holding the controllers. This will avoid distractions, as they will not be able to teleport in the model.

A designer uses the arrow keys to present a project

A designer uses the arrow keys to present a project


Tips for a successful presentation

  • Select 5 to 10 Viewpoints for your presentation. Keep it concise.

  • Choose carefully the order in which the Viewpoints will be presented and the distance or visual relationship between the objects in each location to ensure your client understands the connection between spaces as you walk her through the project.

  • Rehearse the pace by walking a colleague through your experience. Just like in any other type of presentation, you want to make sure that you the client will have enough time at each Viewpoint to recognize the space being discussed.

  • Explain to your client the process of how you will move them through your presentation by “jumping” them from one space to the next. 

  • Running behind or out of time? Take advantage of Prospect’s white-model mode and outlines settings. Consider starting your presentation using a more abstract approach by disabling the materials (use M on the keyboard) and showing the edges (O on the keyboard) to then turning on the material textures and colors of your project.

White mode model with outlines/material rendering in VR

White mode model with outlines/material rendering in VR

  • Prospect provides a menu that lets you adjust the sunlight conditions. Choose a time and date that best represent your project with the sun settings feature. 
Adjustment of sun settings in Prospect  

Adjustment of sun settings in Prospect
 

ProspectSnapshot0228104057.png

IrisVR Case Study: Miele

 

Miele is a globally recognized company founded in 1899 focusing on the manufacturing of multi-award winning, high-end home appliances as well as world renowned cleaning and clinical sterilization machines. Last year, Miele’s Australian branch began using IrisVR Prospect to visualize their event and trade show designs for upcoming installations. 

Large trade show events are highly coordinated behind the scenes choreographies of booth assemblies occurring within compressed timelines. Typically exhibitors are given 24-48 hours prior to the commencement of the show to have their exhibit constructed. All aspects of the design must be thoroughly examined and prepared to precision to avoid costly last minute revisions or an unsuccessful booth.

“VR is providing significant cost savings and workflow efficiencies, but is also providing a tangible productivity benefit in that it’s speeding up the approval process.”
— Kym Porter, National Merchandising Manager Miele AU

 

Leveraging Virtual Reality for Trade Show Design

To tackle the many challenges of trade show design in the most effective way, the Miele design team created a virtual reality walkthrough of the installation by first modeling all the components in Sketchup, then dragging and dropping their files into IrisVR Prospect. Prospect, is IrisVR's Windows-based standalone platform which allows for native Sketchup, Revit, OBJ and Rhino files to be imported and quickly converted into virtual reality experiences, using the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift.

Creating virtual reality walkthroughs allows the team to engage all the team members and facilitate conversations around the built space. Establishing a way for the executive team members to provide constructive feedback without the need to understand how to read 2D architectural drawings. 

It also helped the team cut down on costs by eliminating the need to build physical mock-ups that quickly become outdated. As designers made changes to the 3D model, they could quickly recreate the virtual reality experience in just one click.

With every VR walkthrough, the team was able to evaluate product and brand placement, and marketing hotspots from the view of an attendee prior to its construction. Adding a clear sense of the space and trust in the final product. 

“This test case also revealed unexpected benefits,
such as space and dimensional issues as well as
highlighting optimal branding and marketing
hotspots.”
— Kym Porter, National Merchandising Manager Miele AU

Images Above: (1) Interior of Finished Built Trade show (2) Sketchup Model of booth design (3) Interior of Finished Built Tradeshow (4) Sketchup Model of Trade show Floor Layout

 

Design Workflow

The Miele design team created a virtual reality experience of their project by modeling all the components in Sketchup, then dragging and dropping their file into IrisVR Prospect. Here are the steps they took:

1. Sketchup 3D Model

2. IrisVR Prospect with Oculus Rift

3. Done! Ready for Virtual Reality Walkthrough

“... The impact VR is already having on design and
marketing takes it well beyond a cool techno toy and into a vital business tool.”
— Kym Porter, National Merchandising Manager Miele AU

 

Adding Virtual Reality to Your Designs

Virtual reality is not a tool of the future, but a tool available to designers today. Incorporating VR as an asset to your project really is just as simple as seen in Miele's workflow above. All that you need to get started are four components:

1. 3D Model of your design

2. VR Headset (HTC Vive or Oculus Rift)

3. Computer that meets hardware requirements for VR

4. IrisVR Prospect installed on your machine

The Sky Is Too Blue! Explorations Into Global Lighting & Shadows

On November 1st we released Prospect v1.0 after almost two years in development. This was a huge milestone for IrisVR - it was the culmination of our team's work across many codebases, and in our early tests we were seeing vastly improved framerates and 2x faster loading times. What we hadn't anticipated was the seemingly unanimous frustration from our users regarding the addition of a blue tint to their experiences.

Our Favorite VR-ready Hardware: How to get the most out of Prospect

The Rapidly-Evolving World of VR

A lot has changed in the virtual reality hardware landscape in the last nine months. Not only have we seen the commercial release of the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets, but graphics card manufacturers have also continued to push the limits of what’s possible in VR with increasingly powerful Graphics Processing Units (GPUs). The GPU is the most important single piece of hardware for running a desktop VR experience. Powerful GPUs are continuing to drop in price, and are more readily available. Today many more PC manufacturers realize the importance of supporting VR experiences, both for consumers and enterprise users, and specs on top-of-the-line machines are starting to reflect the needs of VR users.

 

The Latest and Greatest GPUs

If you’ve been running Prospect on an Nvidia GTX 960 or even an older GPU, you might not be getting the most out of the latest features in Prospect.  The Nvidia GTX 1080 is the current flagship VR GPU and is our personal favorite* for testing and demoing IrisVR Prospect. It simply blows away other GPUs in benchmark testing and in terms of user experience. On a GTX 1080, Prospect runs with blazingly-high frame rates, even in complex models with high polygon counts. This allows for the most seamless, realistic experiences whether you’re using Prospect for usability studies, client demonstrations, or immersive design reviews.  

*Our recommendation as of post date. What's best in VR hardware changes quickly, so we always recommend users do their research before investing in VR computers and headsets.

 

Availability

The Nvidia GTX 1080 is available in a number of desktops and laptops, many of which are priced comparably to a typical high-powered enterprise workstation. For top-of the line performance in a (relatively) portable package, the MSI GT73VR laptop is the standout choice. Though not exactly lightweight at 8.5 pounds, its 2.7GHz i7 processor, 32GB of RAM, and SSD + HDD combo give users the resources to power any and all VR and modeling needs. It’s available on Amazon or via one of MSI’s resellers. For users running VR in a dedicated space at the office or site, where portability is less crucial, the MSI Nightblade MI2 is a blazing-fast desktop, and a top pick for those who want to get the most out of their VR investment. 

 

“Having a portable VR laptop reduces the barriers to using VR for meetings outside your office. A few weeks ago in Los Angeles, I ran our software at a construction site!”  

- Shane Scranton, IrisVR CEO   

Shane showing off VR's portability (though not at a construction site). Photo Credit: TCA Architecture.

Shane showing off VR's portability (though not at a construction site). Photo Credit: TCA Architecture.

Test Your System

Think your current system might not be up to spec?  Download the Oculus Hardware Check Tool or the HTC Vive Performance Tester.  Remember that Prospect publishes slightly different minimum requirements than HTC or Oculus, so make sure to check the results of these tools against our minimums here: Prospect Minimum Requirements.

Love your hardware? Have tips on how to get the most out of your setups?  Share on the forums or drop us a line about it.  We always love feedback from our users.

 

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