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Game Time, Woo!

What’s new in the ability to visualize projects before and during construction?


In 2016, the Oculus Rift and other virtual reality headsets were all the rage. But 2017 brings something real-world to wall contractors. Game technology has entered the build environment.


Game technology?

Game Engines

Sophisticated game engines and real-time rendering software are having a profound effect on our world. Many uses are familiar to you. Game engines power popular hits like Minecraft and Pokémon. The technology also functions in fields like medicine where, for example, game engines stream MRI scans to a visualizer so a neurosurgeon can perform brain surgery.


And now, game engines can import data from Building Information Models to create three-dimensional project “walk-throughs.”


DSi Digital has introduced a visualization tool called VIZZ 3D. Autodesk has, I hear through the grapevine, has a BIM visualization product in development based on its Stingray game engine.


Game engines supply power, ease of use and ubiquity. VIZZ 3D, for example, enables an unlimited number of viewers to see 3D visualizations of models imported directly from Revit, Autodesk’s popular BIM software. Yet, the viewers accessing the visualizations don’t need to purchase Revit. In fact, they don’t need any technical modeling know-how.


“Anybody who can turn on a computer can use VIZZ 3D,” says Mitch Hughes, CEO at DSi Digital. “It’s as simple as using your up, down, left and right arrow keys, or your mouse, to move around a building.”


And, these construction “worlds” are impressive. Wall and ceiling contractors can “walk” through buildings virtually and “experience” details such as surface textures, lighting effects, stud spacing and deck heights.


“You can see where the metal studs might interfere with mechanical and electrical equipment,” Hughes says.

No More 2D Printouts

Say your firm has an exterior sheathing contract. The stakeholders set up VIZZ 3D for the project and invite up to 20 collaborators to participate.


As a collaborator, you can review designs, post location-specific notes to the platform and receive notifications when authors update their models. Instead of flipping through 2D paper documents searching through exterior elevations and hundreds of section cuts, you can find specific assemblies faster in a virtual setting. If you need information about the windows on the third floor of a building, you dial into that location, see the openings three-dimensionally, and summon the framing details.


“You can make sure you’re building it correctly,” Hughes says. “Not only do you see the assemblies, but you see all the layers for each assembly.”

VR for the Field

What interests me about 3D visualization is its use in the field.


It’s now possible for wall framers to wear VR headsets and, through game-based visualizations, access authorized models on the job site. VIZZ 3D offers compatibility with Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR headsets and the new Oculus-ready PCs.


While 3D visualization systems are targeting general contractors, architects and key collaborators, they can function meaningfully for wall and ceiling foremen, carpenters and mechanics.


“It’s just starting to move into the field,” Hughes says. “We think that’s the direction of the future. It will change the way construction is done.”


Just as importantly—and perhaps more importantly—the wall and ceiling firm can see a structure from the perspective of its owner. Are the ceiling heights limiting in a particular area? Does something about the space look peculiar? If so, you can bring those design elements to the attention of the stakeholders.


“You become the hero,” Hughes says. “You become the guys who save the job.”


Of course, you’re being a hero depends on someone setting up the project BIM and licensing the visualization software—and inviting the wall and ceiling subcontractor to the design team early in the project.


Architects and GCs, can we make that happen?

Mark L. Johnson writes regularly about BIM and VR technologies. Reach him on Twitter, @markjohnsoncomm, and at

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