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Development and use of immersive technologies for industries

Improvement of public perception of industrial activities

In the modern interconnected, over-populated, and over-polluted world, licence to operate is becoming a challenge for industrial companies regardless of where they work and what they do. As perception is considered a reality, companies need to employ new technologies to present a more transparent, engaging, and realistic narrative which can be understood not just by selected groups of experts but also by wider audiences.

Surprisingly, even the most progressive and technologically advanced companies limit their presentations to basic tools such as PowerPoint, PDF or Prezi. Despite their convenience and negligible costs, these tools have limited possibilities for visualisation. They are primarily designed for conveying information and offer zero interaction. The longer and more complex the presentation, the harder it is to understand. Conditioned by evolution, our brain is hotwired to study the surrounding world by looking at the three-dimensional objects placed in the three-dimensional environment. We better understand things when we can see, hear, and interact with them.

Our 20+ years of experience in organising online and offline events shows that with the information overload, the quality of its absorption and interpretation are changing. To capture the audience’s attention and imagination, it is no longer enough to show slides and a “talking heads”, like we are doing now. Viewers expect more action, more visualisation, more interactivity.
Creating a fact-based perception of a modern industrial enterprise is not an easy task. To form even the most superficial idea of what a plant or mine looks like and does, one needs to see them in person. Otherwise, they will remain an abstract vision, prone to misunderstanding and misinterpretation. In other words, we can trust what we can see with our own eyes.
Even before the spread of coronavirus infection, receiving visitors without disrupting operations and using extra resources, has been a challenging task. In the current environment with travel restrictions, health, and safety issues, organising physical meetings and visits to industrial enterprises is even more difficult.

So, is it possible to organise presentations and visits to companies remotely? The good news is thanks to VR and AI technologies, companies can now host an unlimited number of visits, presentations and training sessions using virtual twins created in a 3D immersive environment. The other good news is that the development of a virtual twin of a company is not that hard, and the process is very similar to building a website. This makes it affordable and accessible to almost any business. So, if your company has a corporate website, creating and maintaining its virtual 3D twin will be fairly straightforward.

What is the virtual twin?

We develop virtual immersive presentations and virtual twins to address communication, marketing, or educational objectives. We use 360 ° panoramic photos and videos of real sites and objects to create an immersive environment. If necessary, cloud-based 3D and BIM models can add to the presentations making them highly practical for day-to-day operations.

Virtual twins are modeled in a three-dimensional environment, enabling users to move around spaces and interact with presented objects. This is how 3D games are designed using computer graphics and animations. Although highly immersive and interactive, gaming technologies are less suitable for creating virtual twins, as our objective is to visualise the real objects and not fictional computer models. Moreover, a computer or BIM model often takes days and sometimes weeks to design while 360°panorama can be shot almost instantly and takes under one hour to process and edit. If required, Cloud-Based Building Information Models and 3D rendered objects can be integrated into virtual twins.

Virtual twins created with 360°panoramas have pre-configured players which can be easily integrated into websites and do not require additional downloads. This makes them very accessible. Some corporate networks and strict firewalls can block the virtual twin.  That is when we are using TURN (Transversal Using Relays around NAT) servers to relay the communication and establish the connection. TURN detects those viewers who have difficulties connecting through the free version and connects them through a relay server. It’s like insurance that only jumps in when there’s a problem.

If you think that the use of VR for the representation of real-life objects is a novel concept and needs more time to become widely accepted, think again.  While many believe that virtual and mixed reality is a modern invention, this is not the case. The first known examples of virtual reality representations date back to the first century BC. Panoramic murals of landscapes and buildings have been discovered during excavations of ancient Pompeii.  The first use of virtual panoramas for public presentations is associated with the English artist Robert Barker, who built an attraction in 1787 to demonstrate a spherical painting of London.  The history of using digital imaging for virtual reality commences in the early 1950s. The first immersive cinema was created by Morton Heilig in 1962. In 1980, the Defence Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) designed a simulator of a war game called “Simulation Networking” or SIMNET. The evolution of this game has allowed hundreds of soldiers to sit in simulators of tanks, helicopters, and bombers to test their fighting skills between them, much like in a very realistic video game. The mass scale use of VR began in 1991 with the advent of the SEGA VR helmet. But the real revolution in the development of 3D virtual presentations came after the 360° images appeared on Google maps in 2007, and when Facebook launched a virtual platform for the Oculus gaming helmet in 2016.

Virtual 3D twins are best viewed with VR headsets and computer screens and can be integrated into websites. They can also be presented without internet on TV panels at the exhibition stand, in the office reception, or used for conference on-screen presentations. Virtual 3D twins can be used for many different purposes. Here are just a few more examples.

How virtual 3D twin can be used?

There are three things VR does very well: visualisation, annotation, and storytelling. It allows you to bring an object or concept into a reality that is otherwise imagined, inaccessible or difficult to grasp, and can even help to make the invisible visible. Annotation with VR helps guide you through the completion of a task, navigate a new environment or even provide real-time descriptions of what’s happening around you. It also makes new modes of storytelling and creative expression possible with experiences unfolding. It changes the way we tell, share, and even remember stories.

Company presentations 

3D virtual twins are commonly used for organising immersive presentations and remote site tours to factories, buildings, mines, ports, and any physical places. Rather than limiting your presentation to a slideshow, you can teleport viewers to your enterprise’s digital twin offering them a more immersive and engaging experience.

Virtual tours

Virtual tours can be created in the form of a pre-planned scenario in a format used by tour guides. Depending on what tour the viewers take, they can access different scenes and content. A vow effect can be created by using animations such as pre-recorded human guides offering explanations and prompting to interact with elements the viewers might otherwise miss. Using 360° photos or video footage shot from a drone we can present a bird’s eye view three-dimensional perspective of your site. In a real-life, you would need to use a plane or helicopter to achieve a similar effect. Adding slides, graphs, maps, images, videos, and 3D models makes the tour highly educational and interactive. The company’s history and projects can be visualised by creating an interactive media panel featuring descriptions, photos, and videos. The time-lapse panoramas can be included to demonstrate 24-hour production. While you are giving your presentation, the day in the panorama will change to a night.
If you are busy and cannot give a presentation personally, a pre-recorded tour guide can take your viewers through the tour, giving explanations, showing slides, presenting videos, inviting them to send questions that you or your team can respond to later.

Live broadcasting

If your company has live cameras streaming videos around the clock, their live footage can be built into the virtual twin. Live interactive events can be organised using the Live Guided Tour function. We will talk about it a bit later.

Presentation of production chains and groups of companies

If a company wants to demonstrate interconnected business located around the country or anywhere in the world, a matryoshka or “Russian doll” presentation may be an ideal solution. Initially, you can create a virtual twin for each business asset, and then combine them into a single presentation, which can be controlled with the navigation menu. All assets can be linked to Google maps and connected to cloud-based PBX, CRM, Live chats and Automated bots, and other tools. These solutions can help companies to build a user base, automate communications and make them more interactive.

Financial reporting and Investor roadshows

Virtual Twins can be a powerful complementary tool for visualising a company’s financial statements. By integrating data from the financial reports in real objects, you can help your shareholders to visualise and appreciate your company’s achievements.

If you are planning an investor roadshow, the virtual twin can be effectively used for remote and in-person presentations. When meeting remotely, your audience will just need an internet connection and browser to be teleported to your site and to see what it looks like. During or after the presentation, they will be able to ask questions using the built-in video call function. After the presentation, you can share the link to your virtual twin allowing your investors to browse through it at a convenient time. Using virtual twin for in-person presentation will help you to create a visual narrative that will be more powerful than just slides. If you work with multilingual investors, the content and navigation can be created in several languages saving the costs of interpretation while highlighting issues that are important to your language sub-group.

Instructions and training

If your company employs contractors and temporary workers, you can save time and resources by organising a virtual presentation of the site where they will be working. You can also introduce them to health and safety rules by adding training videos and interactive materials. Your employees and guests could take virtual tests using an integrated online learning management system. These tests can be simple or complex and divided into stages and modules.

There are many other examples where virtual twins can be used. Let’s name a few more:

• HR tour of the virtual twin can be used to organise induction to company’s offices, departments, and key personnel.
• If you work with students or organise training programs for employees, training courses and knowledge management systems can be built on an immersive platform making it more engaging.
• Virtual twins are often used for audits and inventory management.
• Virtual showrooms and shops can be created to demonstrate and sell products using integrated e-commerce systems.
• Virtual tours can be easily converted into video files.

Virtual Twin creation process

Each organisation has individual requirements and objectives. Please contact us to arrange a private consultation and discuss the possibilities of developing a virtual twin on our platform.

We create bespoke projects of any complexity ranging from a single office to a multi-national business operating around the world.

Typically, a monolingual virtual twin of one site or venue can be completed within two weeks. This guideline is applicable when the navigation, script, audio narrative, and interactive elements such as slides, graphs, 2D videos, and guide recording are ready. Usually, production does not involve travel as on-site filming is conducted by locally based filmographers.

Stage 1: Project Description and Planning

After initial consultations, the client should define the parameters of the project and appoint a representative (usually a PR or HR manager) who will be involved in planning, content development, and overseeing the production.

The duration of the planning phase depends on the complexity of the project, availability of content, geographic location of the sites, crew availability, filming permissions, and other factors.

Stage 2: Design and development 

All projects are created using panoramic images and videos filmed on the ground level, occasionally underground and from the air using 360º cameras and drones. As mentioned before, to save on travel, filmographers and drone operators can be hired locally. We can also rent a video kit for terrestrial filming and ship it to any destination by international couriers. We will control the filming process and instruct the crew remotely.
After receiving and processing the footage, we move on to the design and development stage.

Presentations can be completely tailored to match brand colours.

The finished virtual twin can be hosted on our secure servers or converted to the format which can be hosted on the customer’s website. In addition, we can generate a virtual twin for offline standalone demonstration which could be displayed on TV screens and presented at physical events. If a customer plans to use the virtual twin for organising Guided Live Tours, we can add TURN service subscription to ensure unrestricted access.

Stage 3: Marketing and Demonstration

Companies active in the mining sector can use MINEX Forum events in Russia, Central Asia, and Europe to demonstrate their virtual twins. Using our extensive client base, we can assist with promoting the presentations and inviting participants.

We also offer turn-key solutions for organising multilingual online, offline, and hybrid events and creating unforgettable experiences. To expand the global reach, we can promote virtual twins at the 3D virtual exhibitions created by MINEX Forum. Each company will have its own virtual booth, where besides the virtual twin it can display additional materials and use the integrated virtual room to meet and greet visitors. Each booth can be linked to additional services such as chatbot, live chat, visitor analytics, lead generation, multichannel messaging, CRM integration, and much more.

With time, some of the features of your virtual twin might need to be updated or replaced. We will be happy to help you with this. Terms can be provided upon request.

Development costs

Virtual twins can vary in size and complexity. The costs usually comprise project planning and management, on-site filming using specialist equipment, footage processing and editing, design, programming, digital conversion, web hosting, marketing, and promotion. We can provide estimates after the initial consultation.

Organisation of a demonstration of a virtual twin

Presentations of virtual twins created on our platform can be conducted both online and offline using built-in interactive functions.

Offline presentations can be used, for example, for presenting at a conference or organising a demonstration at an exhibition booth. The presentation file recorded on a stationary computer can be displayed on the TV screen using the built-in browser. The presentation can be controlled with a navigation menu and built-in interactive elements.

An online virtual twin can be integrated into the company’s website and secured by a password. Virtual twin presentations can be viewed either using an Internet browser or through a VR headset.

Virtual tour

Virtual twins can be used to organise Live Guided Tours. Before the start of the tour, the organiser must activate the session by entering a password and selecting one of the modes. Once activated, guests can join the Tour using provided link.

• In Silent Mode, guests can only watch the tour and cannot use their camera and microphone.
• In Presentation Mode, guests can request the organiser to activate their microphone and video camera.
• In Party Mode, microphones and cameras are activated for all participants. Guests can also request full control of the tour.

The number of participants in each tour is limited by the organiser’s computer and Internet connection. To organise online tours for large groups or to show interactive elements, we recommend running a presentation in a 3rd party webinar program using screen sharing. After the demonstration, the organiser can share with participants the link to the virtual tour inviting them to explore it on their own.

Training and testing

As mentioned earlier, virtual twins can be used for organising distance learning and tests using interactive elements. Let us look at two scenarios.

Quiz 

After the presentation, the organiser can invite participants to take part in the quiz integrated into the virtual twin.

A Quiz can hold an unlimited number of question cards containing texts, images, videos and 360° panoramas. One question can have one or several correct answers. Correct or incorrect answers are highlighted. After answering all the questions, the participant can check the results on the screen, as well as download them as an Excel file. If the answers are incorrect, the test can be taken again.

After successfully passing the test, the participant can be invited to the next level. Test results can be integrated with a cloud-based examination and certification system.

Quest

Another option- to test their knowledge, participants are invited to go through a quest. Before the start, they are presented with the built-in task list. If required, a stopwatch and score count can be built into the quest. If the answer is correct, points are awarded. If the answer is incorrect, points are subtracted. After completing the quest, participants can either repeat it or go to the next level. As in the first case, after answering all the questions, each participant can check the results on the screen, as well as download them as an Excel file.

Conclusion

This presentation covers only a few examples of the use of immersive technologies in real business. Virtual Reality is no longer just about technology; it is about defining experiences that are meaningful and solve challenges we face. The ability to see, hear, and interact are essential elements of learning. By creating a realistic version of what they are and what they do, companies can greatly improve their perception, build trust, and activate positive change in the world. As it is hard to find a company that does not have a website, with the advancement of VR, soon it will be difficult to find a business that does not have its virtual twin. The technology is available and accessible now. So, why wait?

Please use this link to book a private consultation at a convenient time. Thank you and hopefully, see you soon.

References

  • Pompeii augmented reality park by 3ds Marw- (29) Pompeii augmented reality park – YouTube
  • British library Section of the Rotunda, Leicester Square | British Library – Picturing Places – The British Library (bl.uk)
  • Street Scenes from Robert Barker’s London Panorama, November 1790 by Andrew Taylor Street Scenes from Robert Barker’s London Panorama, November 1790 on Vimeo
    Historical Development of Virtual Reality https://thevrheadset.com/historical-development-of-virtual-reality-vr/
  • SIMNET http://www.jimmillar.net/BBN.html
  • The Untold Story of Virtual Reality On The Sega Genesis – The Unreleased The Sega VR Headset by Wrestling With Gaming (29) The Untold Story Of Virtual Reality On The Sega Genesis – The Unreleased The Sega VR Headset – YouTube
  • Radugadesign – презентация завода ЧТПЗ – “Этерно” – https://vimeo.com/174353411
  • Live panorama “New York” by 3D Vista https://www.3dvista.com/samples/live_pano_ny.html
  • XEOKIT-BIM-VIEWER https://xeokit.github.io/xeokit-bim-viewer/app/index.html?projectId=OTCConferenceCenter&tab=storeys