Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Virtual Reality Hits the R&D Lab

Through many eras, the toys of past, with advances in technology, often turn into the tools of the present. Nowhere is there a better current example of this than the world of Virtual and Augmented Reality. Normally associated with entertainment culture and the gaming world, VR/AR tech has found a valuable role in the manufacturing and engineering industries.

In a recent announcement, global firm AECOM and tech corporation HTC, pledged to jointly develop and produce virtual reality technology designed for mass architecture, engineering, and construction efforts. Although the announcement revolves around HTC's Vive software and brand new VIVE-FOCUS headset, exclusive to the Chinese market, it is indicative of a trend the US has shared for some time.

US manufacturers have already demonstrated not only an openness towards VR integration, but real-time transformation, as well. In a survey back in 2015, PWC found roughly one-third of manufacturers had planned or were already adopting VR/AR equipment for their daily product development and design. The use is only increasing, so much so that North American companies like Fleetway Inc. employ virtual reality for all its marine and navy architecture concept designs.

Ford Motors was utilizing VR even back in 2012
The advantages of VR/AR in manufacturing exist in the cost and time effectiveness. Creating VR models an engineer can interact with reveals potential design and application flaws that would cost tremendous amounts of money and effort even at the prototype stage. In addition, demonstrations for potential investment partners are exponentially more informative and impacting than a PowerPoint presentation.

As a new industrial model adapts to smart data and lightning-fast information exchange, simple but efficient development and research will be crucial. VR/AR technology was once thought of as a novel way to spend free-time, but it may soon prove invaluable to the serious business of moving America into 21st century manufacturing. 

Donal Thoms-Cappello is a freelance writer for Rotor Clip Company.

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