Reality becomes necessity

Written by: Tim Fryer | Published:

Virtual reality is now creating a real life stir. Is this down to those with vested interests creating that stir - in the same way that social media has been foisted on a largely unenthusiastic engineering sector - or is it really the next big step up in engineering design?

In my interview with Gian Paulo Bassi this month he sees that while there is a blurred distinction between what is augmented reality and what is virtual reality, it is something that is starting to excite his CAD-using customers. For example, Bombardier, while sadly losing hundreds of real engineers at its Belfast plant, is using the technology in the development of trains, vehicles and aeroplanes. By having virtual hands probing wiring, using welding guns to assess access during manufacture, or just testing the ergonomics of a passenger moving into and about a vehicle, the company claims it could save 70% of prototyping costs by using digital techniques.

AMD is likely to be a leading company when it comes to providing the hardware foundations for virtual reality. It has just announced it is to partner with Associated Press on a Virtual Press room, where people can cheer in processions, shout at politicians or even enter war zones. Would this bring the sharper edges of reality into our cosseted lives, or will it trivialise the reality of other people’s lives – turning a devastating and real shooting incident into a meaty episode of Eastenders? I don’t know. But it does seem that genuinely useful applications exist within the engineering sector. Big engineering enterprises are willing to use it and suppliers have the technology ready to start integrating it into the design flow. It could be that 2016 is the year virtual reality becomes a reality.

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