Instead of asking people to imagine what their environment might look like, we wanted to let them experience the design and potential build in-situ.
Community and stakeholder engagement was a critical part of this project. Instead of asking people to imagine what their environment might look like, we wanted to let them experience the design and potential build in-situ.
Our aim was to make our design concepts safer, more enjoyable and more convenient for people to use.
That’s where Snobal came in. I asked Ann Nolan, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Snobal to talk through some key questions around VR and its applications for the architecture, engineering and construction industry.
Q: How does Snobal’s technology differ to traditional methodologies used in stakeholder engagement?
As a frontier technology company we believe VR provides massive potential to really transform how we plan, design and build the cities of the future.
We built our Artificial Intelligence assisted (AI) Virtual Reality (VR) software specifically for those working in architecture, engineering or construction.
Our Analytics Suite was created to enable engineering design companies, urban designers, planners, developers and government to facilitate engaged citizens and stakeholders to be fully immersed in a design – before it’s physically built.
…our software enabled SMEC and VicRoads to provide the public with an immersive experience of what the intersection will look like when physically built from the perspective of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
So, with the Hoddle Street Streamlining for example our software enabled SMEC and VicRoads to provide the public with an immersive experience of what the intersection will look like when physically built from the perspective of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.
Instead of trying to get stakeholders or the public on the same page regarding design with focus groups, fly throughs, videos, artistic representations or even architectural drawing instead you can now put people in the virtual space all before it’s physically built.
And how does your technology enhance design?
Our Collaborative Design Suite was created to enable designers to move away from designing solely using flat 2D screens to designing in an interactive, immersive and collaborative virtual environment.
Designers and cross functional teams in different locations can now undertake rapid prototyping, testing and improvement, thereby avoiding costly rework and achieving significant ROI. You can measure, change, save, place objects, markup, specify site location, time of day lighting (day or night), weather variations, share pictures and video all from within the virtual environment.
Q: What type of data can be captured?
Our Analytics Suite captures user data from the virtual environment and processes it through a machine learning to rapidly report user (engagement or design effectiveness) to a web dashboard. It captures not only where users or stakeholders move, spend time, and what they look at, but also how they feel about specifics in a virtual environment via AI analysis of voice recordings and a user ‘rating’ tool.
We start to understand in an honest fashion what people like and don’t like about a built environment – before it’s physically built and to make changes based on those learnings.
Q: What was it like working with us at SMEC?
The SMEC team brought a lot to the project in terms of not only contextual knowledge but a willingness and openness to explore how to do what they were currently doing – but better. As a company SMEC have been incredibly innovative and open to how they can best utilise a frontier technology to add value to their offering and to their clients.
An Australian first
While VICRoads had requested demonstrable innovation in their engineering partner for Hoddle Street Streamlining, the proposal to incorporate VR was initially met with some reluctance. Was the technology ready? Would it really add business value and ROI?
Using VR for traffic design and a traffic safety audit had never been done in Australia – indeed globally as far as we know.
One first we are particularly proud of is that we’re the first engineering design company in Australia to conduct a comprehensive road safety audit using virtual reality. We invited a safety auditor to test our design by stepping into the environment to see how it worked.
In some ways, it was surprising what we had to change after the audit. We thought ‘we’ve done our due diligence and all that we could’ but the officer found four to five items that we wouldn’t have identified until build-stage. If we didn’t identify these changes, there would have been an additional cost of at least $80k to iron out the kinks. VR saved us time, saved us money, and it’s made the concept safer. It’s assisted with stakeholder engagement and expanded the knowledge of our people.
I predict that VR will become the standard for design and engagement during the planning, design and build of major projects. People will come to expect it. They will ask ‘where’s the VR environment’
Luckily, we’ve taken the leap and are now far ahead of the pack. Are you ready to adapt to the change?
This week is National Water Week in Australia, an opportune time to take stock and consider the existing trends and emerging smart technologies within the water, dams and hydropower space.
A s consultants, we are always trying to help our clients achieve a great outcome on their project. In a competitive market we aim to deliver great outcomes at a competitive cost. To achieve this, we constantly need to increase productivity and find innovative technical solutions.
SMEC is made up of problem solvers. We have always helped to find solutions for people - it’s part of our DNA. That’s why the Smart Cities agenda simply represents a contemporary part of our innovation journey and fits neatly into SMEC’s strategic approach to grow and diversify our business.