Taking Virtual Reality From Initiative to Adoption
June 24, 2021
In my many conversations with architects, BIM managers, directors of design tech, and other teams working in AEC firms, I often get questions about how to get reluctant teams on board with VR technology. Here are some actionable tips on how you can move your organization from just considering virtual reality technology into successful adoption.
Accessibility and Affordability
One thing to share with your team is that VR is not just for gamers. There are significant business applications and use cases for VR/AR. Companies like Facebook and Apple are making major investments into this technology because they recognize that it will transform the way businesses work and collaborate.
VR hardware is more accessible than ever. Gone are the days of needing to have a massive room with lighthouses in your space and powerful PCs. Untethered headsets like the Oculus Quest have a retail value of only $299 — literally one fourth of the cost of the average business flight — so it’s more accessible than ever to get your team started on this path.
Getting Executive Approval
VR shows well and is exciting, but you can’t just rely on the sizzle and spice to sell it internally. There must be a quantifiable, tangible business return to not just gain traction, but to really evolve and be adopted further within your organization.
Investigate how your team and company have made other technology purchases in the past. History is a good indicator of the future. There likely are some very tangible approaches or steps that were taken that you can take as well.
How to Define Internal ROI
Figure out how specific your company is about what defines success. Some organizations accept a generalized ROI like, “it helped our team collaborate better,” or “it was a way for our clients to feel more engaged.” In most cases though, we have to get very specific on where it can create efficiencies in the design process. Define those goals up front.
Take the time to be open-minded that VR can be used in multiple areas within your business. VR’s biggest asset is how nimble and flexible it can be in finding its way into any and all avenues of your design efforts. There are use cases to match every stage of your workflow, from early stage idea sharing to master planning and design review, to final renderings and walk-through with your clients.
Don’t make the mistake of hyper-focusing on just one use case. Doing so can minimize what your organization’s potential returns might be. If you want to drive adoption within your firm, VR must be appropriate and applicable to as many different segments of your team as possible.
Think about how many redesigns there are and how many extra design meetings you may have and associate a time and dollar value. VR collaboration can minimize that.
Getting Your Team Excited to Use VR
Use the “crawl, walk, run” approach. Start small, with a social hour or virtual happy hour, or get someone into a game like Beat Saber. Many times experiencing the platform is all a person needs to get hooked.
Wearing a VR headset can be off-putting to some, so think about having your colleagues start by viewing on desktop or through an augmented reality experience like an iOS device.
Once they experience VR using tools that have a familiarity factor for them, interacting with someone who is wearing a headset will often get the wheels spinning for them. Maybe next time they’ll go into a headset for a minute, and then it becomes five minutes, and before you know it, that crawl, walk, run approach gets them open-minded to embracing and using the headset as well.
Setting Up VR in a Physical Office
If you’re setting up a VR cave or dedicated space, consider the physical comfort of your colleagues. Have accessibility to natural light and make sure outdoor access is very close to the space. As you’re getting new people into VR, they’ll need to recenter their eyes and body and get some fresh air quickly. Having fresh water available can also be helpful after a VR session.
Encourage colleagues to start out seated; starting this way can feel safer for those new to VR.
Risks of Not Catching Up With VR Technology
Some projects and municipalities are starting to require VR as part of their proposal process. By not exploring the technology, you may be missing out on opportunities, or even going after new projects with certain clients.
VR technology is also a tool for attracting and retaining a diverse employee pool. If you don’t have VR as part of your offering, you could miss out on attracting new talent and even retaining top performers.
Making a design change is incredibly costly. The ability for organizations to effectively manage change orders through VR will minimize the associated cost to your organization.
Successful Companies Championing VR
Leo A. Daly:Uses The Wild for design charrettes, team collaboration, and idea sharing boards.
Anglian Water: Leveraged IrisVR for design review, design coordination, and pre-construction. Helped them identify clashes and issues before construction started. Saved them about £25,000 on certain projects.
BSA LifeStructures: VR collaboration has been an exciting and new way to minimize or completely cut RFIs in many cases, saving $10,000 per project.
M2 Studio:Relies on VR for visualization, rendering quality, and even fundraising efforts.
AJ Lightheart has been an emerging technology leader in the AEC industry for the past 11 years. He’s been a trusted advisor for SMB and ENR top 500 companies. He’s found a passion for connecting technology to a practical ROI outside of his consulting. AJ loves new craft beers and trying to keep up with his boys. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.