When we first launched InsiteVR, we knew virtual reality would have an impact on the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry beyond a simple visualization tool. Our mission has been to help people use VR to review and iterate on building designs before changes are permanent and costly. We chose to focus on the conversations among clients, architects and contractors. These are conversations where information is often lost in translation, especially when different firms are trying to convey different visions with 2D mediums – VR is the universal translator. However, the people in the room making the decisions and walking through VR environments aren’t the only ones affected by the final building design.
Like software, the built environment needs to be user tested. The end result of the design and construction process is about more than environmental certification, or budget requirements, or artistic merit – it’s about the humans that inhabit the space day to day. For something as permanent as a building it’s shocking there isn’t more rigorous user testing. Only some projects get foam or cardboard mock ups, however not all projects can afford this expensive and time consuming luxury.
We knew VR would be a catalyst for more cost-efficient user feedback, but our first goal was to get people to even show a VR walkthrough to their clients. From projects like SFO Terminal 1 to new home sales, our focus on mobility and collaboration has made InsiteVR an integral part of the design process. As we’ve seen VR begin to sweep the AEC industry we think it’s time to start proving that VR technology is more than just this year’s hot new toy.
As the name InsiteVR implies, we want people to go into their virtual sites to learn more about them. Today we’re adding a new set of tools to the InsiteVR platform – Analytics. With Analytics, VR walkthroughs can be replayed and analyzed to learn more about user behavior in a space. The heatmap functionality provides additional data on the distribution of users’ attention while going through a virtual representation of the space.
After walking people through a space in a GearVR you can return to the desktop InsiteVR application and replay the walkthrough. This data is a window into the second to second decisions users make while exploring the space. The avatars representing each user help you understand where someone was standing when they paused to look at a particular feature or strayed from the path that was intended by the design.
In addition to being able to replay walkthroughs we wanted to provide insight into where people look when they explore a space. The blue represents areas with no engagement and red represents the areas most looked at.
For instance, what does visibility of a basketball stadium from a particular seat look like? With our new Analytics one could verify that key areas are clearly visible and visually engaged with.
One of the most compelling uses of the heatmap feature is to test the effectiveness of signs. We have seen hospitals, airports, and other public spaces use VR as a way of understanding wayfinding. With InsiteVR Analytics, the space can be presented to users in VR and the resulting heatmap can be analyzed to ensure people are seeing the signs and reacting accordingly.
How It Works
All InsiteVR customers now have access to Analytics. All you have to do is upload a model to InsiteVR, let people explore the space in the GearVR, and then open the InsiteVR desktop app to access the Analytics menu in the bottom right corner.
We have a lot to learn about how VR can be used as a method of deriving more data on how a space affects its inhabitants, but we believe this is a good start. We want the conversation to continue even after the meeting with a client is over. And in the future we hope to create a distributed method of allowing people to provide feedback to projects.
This feature is still in beta and we’re looking for more firms to join us in using VR as an analytical tool to help optimize the built environment for the everyday humans that inhabit it. There are many hypotheses to be tested as we begin to understand how VR can serve as a testing ground for real environments. If we can test and iterate while a building is still pixels we can make the world a more user-friendly place.
MMoser Associates is one of the first firms to begin using our new set of playback and heatmap tools for one of their NYC projects and we are excited to share more information and results as the project becomes more public. If your firm is interested in testing our new feature please request a demo and specify you’re interested in Analytics.