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, then 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.