Why 'V' Doesn't Stand for 'Vomit'

Virtual reality (VR) is a frequent topic of discussion in the architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) industry. A recent article from Engineering.com asks whether the "V" in VR stands for "vomit," due to the tendency of some VR programs to induce nausea. Based on our experiences, the nauseating effects of VR are overstated, at least in relation to its applications in AEC.

BuildingSP has a VR headset in our office that we use for development work, which we often show to visitors. When a visitor comes, we put them in a chair, put the headset on, and load a roller coaster experience, which is very nauseating. We then put them in a game environment where they can run around, climb up and jump off of castle walls, and be chased by various monsters. Finally, we show them an interactive MEP coordination environment that allows the user to view pipes, conduits, and ducts and move them around interactively.

The first two demos aren't in any way related to AEC. They are experiences meant to make the viewer feel as though they're moving fast, running around, or being chased. In particular, the roller coaster is intentionally nauseating, just as the feeling of falling is very disorienting. The expectation of falling generated by our vision doesn't match what our bodies are doing. However, this isn't an aspect with practical AEC applications.

To directly compare AEC uses of 3D environments, first consider how we move through views in Revit or Navisworks and then take a look at Twitch.tv, which shows streams from video game players. AEC uses 3D as a tool for comparison, analysis, and diagnostic environments, not for highly dynamic games involving a great deal of movement.

The uses of VR in AEC will be staid in comparison to the gaming world. The hardware currently available may not be quite good enough for the most dynamic games on the market, but it works great for our purposes: viewing what we intend to build.