Immerse yourself into a VR engineering career

Andrew Biller, a Solutions Architect at Holovis shares an insight into the ever changing world of a VR engineer and looks at how you can get involved.

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Virtual reality appears to be coming of age at the moment with ever more news stories and hype about the next manufacturer to enter the market and the next Head Mounted Display (HMD) being released, bringing VR into the consumer space.

However, the real reality is that VR has been around for a lot longer. We have been working in this space for the last 15 years, hailing from an automotive background with one of our longest standing, and still biggest, clients Jaguar Land Rover (JLR). Traditionally a VR environment consisted of a CAVE; a four or five sided structure where all walls feature volumetric projection and the user wears a head-tracked device to immerse them into the world with it moving to their true perspective.

We designed and installed a three phase VR suite for JLR which they use for the design and development of all new models, long before physical prototypes are constructed. The CAVE allows groups of multidiscipline engineering and design teams to all share the same virtual space and examine specific details.

Whilst the CAVE is still invaluable for applications like this, we are also working with consumer HMD manufacturers as development partners, putting the devices through their paces to see how they can best be used to solve engineering challenges. The key criteria is accuracy and we’re finding that not all the latest devices are accurate enough yet for professional use.

Devices like Google Tango and Hololens are interesting as they continue to develop the autonomous nature of the devices and are starting to allow people to track where they are in a given space. This will be a major consumer breakthrough. In the meantime we have engineered our own accurate positional tracking methods for industrial and entertainment use.

Thinking outside the box is quite literally what we do, with one project at the moment focused on mapping VR environments across untethered large floor areas. This gives people the freedom to move around and truly explore the virtual world, whereas with CAVE style spaces and sit-down or tethered HMD the virtual world has to come to you. The development volume we’re currently working with is 14m x 8m x 4.5m.

We apply this VR methodology across several diverse sectors, one being the Attractions space where our team design and install next generation theme park experiences. We engineered the world’s first 3D dome where we used virtual reality to map a complete virtual world across this complex surface, something never before achieved.

We are developing immersive experiences of this nature so attractions can remain a collective group experience, as this is what a day out with family and friends is all about. By creating and rendering these worlds using real-time media, we create different experiences for each user depending on the decisions made during the game play, with new paths or character powers opening up for true personalisation of the experience.

Through our Enterprise division we are looking at how VR can be used to save lives through training in our Near Miss Simulators. These have been specifically developed to recreate realistic, high-risk working environments that immerse the operator in a virtual tailored working scenario. This takes place in a fully multi-sensory environment, with the operator’s peripheral vision completely immersed, with spatial 3D sound, motion control and SFX systems, all of which are perfectly synchronised in real-time to create believable work-related scenarios.

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Once immersed in the scene the operator performs a series of tasks under instruction from the Immersive Coach. They are apparently in control, but this can be overridden or affected by the Coach at the appropriate moment to deliver jeopardy, peril or unsafe conditions into the experience. This dramatically brings the consequences of unsafe working methods to life, without the attendant risks.

Working in VR can require a broad range of skills and understanding, from artistic creation of 3D visual assets and special effects, through ‘engineering style’ 3D CAD to an understanding of complex audio-visual systems, control, electronics, IT and networking. Life and work experience combined with good communication skills help in relating to what each client is trying to achieve; not just sharing the vision but developing it and bringing it to life. Coming straight from education all this may sound a bit daunting, but we thrive on teamwork at Holovis, with each team member bringing their own unique and valuable skill set. So, if you are a good team player and have a passion to keep learning, you will love every minute, facing new and exciting challenges every day.

If you think you’ve got what it takes or would like to find out more, contact Claudine McClean

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