3D/VR in Simulation – ‘Essential’ or ‘A Waste of Time’

Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, seeing blocks moving around a computer screen and things changing colour was considered new and exciting. Nowadays, when using computers, we are spoilt for choice with fantastic 3D graphics, Virtual Reality displays, headsets, ‘virtual worlds’ and so on. Simulation product vendors have also tried to tap into this to varying degrees of success.

But how important is 3D or VR to simulation? What value will a 3D headset and being able to ‘walk’ around your simulation model achieve?

I have heard many points of view over the years ranging from at one extreme:-

“A complete waste of time – it takes too long for no extra benefit – once I have the answer, why would I spend often as much time or more creating a 3D view?

To at the other extreme:-

“Can’t do without it! – Managers and staff expect a realistic representation of their process and facilities – otherwise, they will have no interest!

Indeed, one of the benefits of simulation often cited has been the visual nature of models produced and vendors have invested significant development time to adding 3D capability to their products. Why is it then that, in my experience, only a very small proportion of simulation modellers actually use these features? Looking into the future, what will youngsters of today, growing up with games with fantastic graphics and 3D worlds, think of the 2D presentation of most models?

If the presentation of simulation models is important to getting the message over, how do we modellers completely embrace the use of 3D and VR? How do we get to the opposite position we are in now so that rather than only a small percentage of models using 3D, only a small percentage do not?

My answer – make it easier! My own view is that to make 3D more widely used, simulation software needs to completely integrate the use of 2D and 3D. When you make a change or move something in 2D, the same happens instantly in 3D and vice versa – no need to rebuild your 3D world. If I want to operate solely in 3D, I can do so – accessing all of the characteristics of the model direct from the screen. I want to be able to move, resize, change icons, etc. as easily in 3D as most products can in 2D. 3D needs to be part of building the model as I go along – not an afterthought – and it needs to be as easy as building models as it is now in 2D. Maybe a tall order but some vendors have already recognised this and have implemented their 3D accordingly.

How does your simulation software compare?

How important is 3D or VR to you?

Kevin Sheehy

The views expressed in this blog are purely the thoughts and opinions of the author based on experience in applying simulation over the years in many different industries. Thoughts, feedback and comments (whether agreeing or disagreeing) are most welcome.



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