How Real is VR for Design?

Use of extended reality (XR) products has become an increasingly hot topic in the design space.

Use of extended reality (XR) products has become an increasingly hot topic in the design space.

The use of extended reality (XR) products—incorporating either virtual (VR) or augmented reality (AR) solutions—has become an increasingly hot topic in the design space, at least in theory. AR/VR capabilities are cropping up in a number of software tools for design review and other applications, and workstation manufacturers are touting more units as VR-ready.

 

As I write this, a host of AR/VR products are being rolled out at the annual CES show in Las Vegas. More than 330 companies had AR/VR products on display at the show, including stand-alone headsets and new HDR-capable VR glasses from Panasonic.

According to IDTechEx’s “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” report, the industry is attracting increased levels of investment and interest, particularly as remote assistance and training applications expand. Technology improvements are also helping increase investment.

According to IDTechEx: “There have been great advancements in resolution, for example, in the past decade. This creates a more immersive experience for the user. Although this experience is far from perfect, as some users still experience motion sickness, it shows that in the future this field will continue to grow as there is continued update of these devices in the future.”

The Virtual Design World

What does this mean for design and engineering users? So far, the data is mixed. Interest is increasing, but actual usage remains relatively low.

In our own annual Technology Outlook Survey (published in our December 2019 issue), we found that 32% of respondents believed that AR/VR would have a big impact on product design in the next five years, and 33% agreed that AR/VR will revolutionize the design engineering process. Just over a quarter of respondents (29%) indicated they had plans to incorporate AR/VR tools in the future. However, just 11% reported they were currently using or developing products for AR/VR.

“There have been great advancements in resolution, for example, in the past decade. This creates a more immersive experience for the user.”

— IDTechEx “Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality 2020-2030” report

The technology was cited as “very familiar” to just 13% of respondents, while 49% reported being somewhat familiar with it. 

PwC research from a few years ago does indicate that among companies already using the technology, product design and development topped the list of applications. According to their 2015 numbers, nearly 40% of companies using AR/VR were doing so for design and development, and another 18% used it for virtual assembly and improved design processes.

In this issue of Digital Engineering, we’ve asked our team of experts and editors to take a look at the multiple facets of XR/VR/AR use in our industry. Senior Editor Kenneth Wong surveyed industry analysts and researchers to see how they thought the use of AR/VR would unfold over the next few years, and also provided us with an overview of how the technology could affect CAD tools. 

We’ve also included coverage of AR/VR training and simulation workflows, as well as the use of the technology to help reduce or eliminate the cost of building physical prototypes. What will the incorporation of AR/VR mean for the engineering workstation? We’ve provided some insight into how those computers will need to be configured as well.

We hope this issue can provide you with some guidance and inspiration when it comes to AR/VR. We also welcome your input and opinions on how the technology could be used to enhance the design process, and when you think that might actually be practical. You can send your thoughts or AR/VR experiences to [email protected].

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