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Virtual reality (VR) is a technology that digitally simulates environments or objects. It’s akin to augmented reality. Industry players such as Meta Quest, HTC, Samsung… now generate billions of dollars. Modeling coupled with VR enables animation and interaction with 3D models in a virtual environment. Today, VR is a real tool adopted in more and more sectors of activity. By means of a VR headset, users are able to evolve in a fictional location or one inspired by an actual setting. In this article, discover the application of modeling to virtual reality in industry.

Modeling applied to virtual reality: operating principle

3D modeling allows you to simulate an environment (or object) as close as possible to reality, using dedicated software. It allows you to personalize your virtual reality experience. Models are visualized using a virtual reality headset. The VR headset associated with a computer works via an application. Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles and HTC Vive Focus VR goggles are must-haves for professional use of virtual models. Where a VR headset like Meta/Oculus Quest or Samsung Gear VR, usable with a Playstation VR, are primarily designed for video games. Modeling has several advantages over actual photography (photo or video):
  • total customization of the immersive environment ;
  • the virtual environment is animated and the user can interact with it;
  • the immersive experience can be based on an existing or imaginary environment (visualizing an industrial process or building before it is installed).
Coupled with virtual reality, it offers three major advantages for companies.

– Easier project presentation

More accurate than 2D sketches or physical models, VR facilitates the design and communication stages of a project. Thanks to total immersion, 3D modeling in VR makes it possible to anticipate a wide range of results.

– Possible innovative experiments

The combination of modeling and virtual reality opens up new possibilities for model exploration. It’s also easier to modify virtual simulations, which are immediately saved in the design software. VR also makes it possible to share a workspace. Each project collaborator can access the virtual model to make any desired changes. To take this a step further, collaboration can take place simultaneously with participants from different locations, as if they were working side by side. A supplier can easily show the design to the customer, who provides feedback in real time while immersed in virtual imagery.

– Pattern repetition

Each unit (environment, object) can be modeled with its own unique parameters in the virtual universe. Design is an important step in production. The first rendering is rarely preserved, as many changes are made throughout the process before the finished product is validated: physical modeling or 2D drawings mean that everything has to be redone at the slightest change. Thanks to VR modeling, models can be duplicated ad infinitum and changes made quickly, without incurring too many extra costs.

Virtual reality and 3D modeling: some applications

The virtual experience has won over manufacturers, who see it as a means of improving their performance and ultimately the customer experience. VR also brings a new experience to employees equipped with headsets. Virtual models in the medical sector Using virtual reality in healthcare is the innovation of recent years. The creation of a three-dimensional model enables immersive visualization of the patient’s body before an operation, for example. Modeling coupled with VR can facilitate accurate, personalized representation of a patient’s tumor, reconstructed from scans. The virtual representation of the body helps medical staff to determine a care strategy by visualizing different surgical scenarios. Total immersion in a virtual factory When creating, enlarging or adding machines to an industrial park, modeling enables you to envisage different system scenarios:
  • what are the human and material flows ;
  • putting processes into practice ;
  • what the maintenance procedure will be in the new configuration…
In this way, the final operation is analyzed before costly work is undertaken. Scientific visualization in the energy sector For players in the energy sector, an animated overlay of scientific visualization can be added to the virtual model. These simulation results can provide a variety of information:
  • simulation of fluid movement in a duct ;
  • structural analysis: deformations and stresses on an entity ;
  • vibrations of an operating assembly or subassembly ;
  • acoustic data ;
  • structural analysis…
Virtual simulation data provides an upstream view of a system’s use, to avoid damaging it with potential design errors.

Case study : VR and nuclear power: the ITER project

ITER is an international thermonuclear experimental reactor currently under construction on the Saint-Paul-lez-Durance site. For this project, augmented reality (AR) technology is coupled with modeling. The augmented reality experience involves superimposing computer-generated images on the real world. Unlike virtual reality, the real world is part of the user’s vision. Elements are added to the real environment to enhance the user experience and fill his field of vision. While augmented reality is associated with virtual reality, it is defined as mixed reality. In the case of ITER, augmented reality is used to explore, analyze and evaluate the future work environment. Thanks to the hologram projected onto the eye’s retinas, operators can walk through the crowded environment and experience the challenges they may encounter. AR is used for two applications:
  • Virtually place models of actual components received from suppliers to check correspondence before installation.
  • Simulate maintenance activity in context: personnel flow, accessibility…
  How does it work?
  1. 3D models of the various system components are modeled.
  2. Thanks to Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality goggles, the user can move around in the virtual place, and the visualization follows his or her gaze movements in the virtual situation.
  3. Using a fictitious tablet, like a joystick, he can interact with the virtual environment, opening and positioning doors and installing equipment.
Augmented reality was also used to share the physical configuration and working conditions of each person in the future environment with the company’s managers. Augmented reality has already been implemented for ITER, but the idea is to extend its use to the whole project, to optimize interventions on the reactor. AR technology makes it possible to present reality before it exists. Virtual reality modeling isn’t just for entertainment and video games, it’s also used in a wide range of industrial sectors. Its use will require training employees in the use of VR headsets. This immersive technology makes it easier to understand complex systems and analyze problems by simulating virtual elements. It immerses employees in an immersive tour of a site, or the observation of virtual objects thanks to glasses with special lenses. The user sees reality differently. Virtual modeling improves communication between collaborators during projects, making decision-making more efficient. Thanks to real-life visualization, project adjustments and corrections can be made quickly. This saves costs, so the price of virtual reality equipment quickly pays for itself. With the development of the Metaverse, virtual reality is set to play an increasingly important role in business!