Engineers working in the grid integration unit of ABB’s Power Grids vision are now using a virtual reality (or VR) platform to model and review designs in collaboration with their customers.
The platform is based on a popular development platform called Unity, which is used for real-time animation in animation and video gaming, and it allows engineers to drag-and-drop 3D models into virtual renderings into any context, such as potential or existing installations. By flipping the traditional approach of using 3D models to support creation of 2D drawings, the platform makes review and revision of designs far easier and more cost-efficient (as more robust and complete renderings enable decisions earlier in the process). Using it requires no special software.
More intriguingly, customers can put on a VR headset and walk around as “avatars” within the virtual worlds of projects, thereby literally seeing how items fit into spaces, and exploring the implica-tions for processes, safety, and other design considerations. ABB has also built upon a core element of video gaming – playing together from remote locations – and set up virtual collaboration rooms in Turgi, Chennai, Beijing, Ludvika and Västerås. In these online rooms, collaborators and customers can explore a virtual power plant together, as avatars, even though they may be physically located at other sides of the planet.
The new platform enables a new level of development efficiency and customer collaboration, even if the experience might not be as viscerally immersive as the VR in movies like The Matrix. At least not yet.