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Virtual reality can design the perfect new workshop

VR Traction
An example of a 3D floor plan, which becomes a virtual reality walk through. © EC Design

Virtual reality can design the perfect new workshop

Hunter Engineering is using virtual reality technology to help tire dealers design a new workshop — or refit an old one — and “walk through” it before it has even been built.

The technology, which the Traction News team witnessed in operation at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas last month, is being used by Hunter Engineering to help its sales representatives create the most practical and efficient designs possible for the company’s clients.

Richard Gronberg, chief executive and founder at EC Design — the Swedish firm behind the program Hunter is using — said the technology first involves creating a traditional 2D floor plan of the workshop on a computer. That process takes just a few minutes, using “drag-and-drop” elements representing each Hunter machine, placed onto a floor plan using the exact measurements of the workshop.

Step into your new workshop before it has been built

“Then by clicking a 3D button, that 2D floor plan turns into a real-time 3D scene that you can walk into,” Gronberg said. “So when you step into the shop you see a very realistic end result of what the shop will look like when it’s done.”

Donning a headset — as Traction News did for this article — is a completely immersive experience. You switch from being in the real 3D world into a virtual one. It’s like stepping into a computer game and, indeed, EC Design uses the same technology as the computer gaming industry. It’s called Oculus Rift.

Here’s a video showing you what the technology looks like (it’s also used to design gyms, which is what you’ll see in this video). Obviously, you won’t get the full effect because this is a 2D video of the 3D presentation, but it will give you a sense of the potential.

“Oculus Rift is the latest virtual reality headset so, once the layout is done, instead of watching the end result on a screen you can actually step into that shop and see what it will look like when you’re actually there,” Gronberg said.

“You get a sense of actually being there. It’s a wow factor, but it’s also good in terms of being very practical because you can see how much space you have around you. What you see there is what you will see once the shop is ready.”

VR walkthrough is 100% to scale

“We have access to all the manufacturers’ equipment, to scale, so that floor plan is 100 percent to scale,” Gronberg said. “So, if you can do it in EC Design, you can do it in real life.

“The salespeople can use the software to work out how best to lay out your new or refitted shop, what equipment you can fit in, how far apart it needs to be, and so on.”

VR 2

An example of the 3D floor plan.

About 250 Hunter field representatives are using this technology to help dealers. Gronberg said the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, because dealers can see — sometimes before so much as a brick has been laid — precisely how much equipment they can fit into their new workshop. But it also pays other dividends.

“Having this type of material, it’s easier to get bank loans, get investors on board, get building permits, and so on, because there’s a lot of information here,” Gronberg said. “A lot of people even use the fly-throughs and so on in their TV commercials.”

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