Virtual reality: immersion in remote collaborative work

After revolutionizing the world of video games, this technology is shaking things up in industry, with an increasing number of manufacturers taking a closer look with a view to applying it in their sectors. The benefit of virtual reality? Immersion in a 3D model. Here’s a guided tour...
Published in the dossier of December 2020

While they have not yet reached maturity, immersive technologies are undergoing experiments offering a glimpse of their full potential. For its première, Veolia Research & Innovation’s virtual reality platform (cf. boxed text) accelerated the development of the SaphiraTM prototype for treating industrial water. The added extra?
Being able to move around virtually in 3D at the heart of a chemical reactor. More recently, R&I offered a ‘multi-participant’ feature. The aim is to facilitate simultaneous group work in the same virtual scene, which is ideal for remote collaboration. Given the current health situation, this argument is more compelling than ever:

“In practice, when reviewing the design of a pilot, this multi-participant mode has already allowed the participants to move around 360° in a virtual space. They can now interact with others at the same time, using the specific tools integrated into the module,” states Jérôme Jossent, a research engineer in the R&I department.

High potential

Extremely expensive just a few years ago — just like augmented reality, which adds virtual elements to a real environment, virtual reality has become much more widespread, even among the general public. The technology is beginning to win people over, with an increasing number of business-friendly uses, such as trade show visits, site reviews, simulations during training, and product presentations. In the long term, might we see Veolia staff swapping their Chromebooks for a virtual reality headset?

“Why not,” replies Jérôme Jossent. “But we will need to be able to solve some of its specific issues, from ergonomics through the weight of the equipment to the wires, which still restrict movement.”

Immersive and interactive in one, virtual reality above all proves extremely effective in accompanying changes in certain areas of activity. We certainly haven’t heard the last of it!

Dive into Veolia's virtual reality platform

Accessible to all the Group’s entities, the platform designed by R&I forms a common base making it possible to pool efforts and share knowledge and experience in virtual reality. It offers features for creating a 3D scene from a CAD (computer-assisted design) drawing and extended use of digital plans. There is also a toolbox — which is virtual, too — including a tape measure, flashlight, viewfinder and cutter. The result: equipped with a headset (HTC Vive), staff can move around in 3D in a preconfigured virtual space!