Virtual reality continues from where imagination ends

In the construction industry, technology benefits both designers and homebuyers. YIT customers in Slovakia can now use virtual reality (VR) to take a closer look at their future homes.

Virtual reality (VR) is suddenly a hot topic everywhere. VR refers to technology that allows the user to be transported to a virtual environment, usually by wearing wrap-around goggles. VR devices from several manufacturers were launched in the Finnish market last year.
It is no exaggeration to say that VR is no longer a thing of the future. It is today’s technology. In the coming years, VR is predicted to have a transformative effect on gaming, learning and human interaction, while rendering smartphones obsolete.

Virtual reality also benefits businesses and working life. For example, an architect’s work is made easier by the ability to inspect the structure being designed at its actual scale. VR goggles are also likely to become a common piece of equipment worn by maintenance personnel. The installation and maintenance of equipment will be easier when smart goggles highlight parts and provide work instructions projected in the user’s field of vision. Information and the maintenance history can then be recorded in a virtual maintenance log that constantly receives data from various sensors; for example, on the flow of people and temperature readings within the premises.

“Finland already has a high level of expertise and people here are working very hard to be among the first to utilise VR in business and achieve a competitive advantage through this type of technology,” says Santtu Parikka , executive creative director at Fake, a company that operates in the field of VR and AR (augmented reality).

YIT’s Digital Development Manager Toni Ruuska is also confident in the rapid proliferation of VR technology in the coming years as well as its potential in the construction industry.

“In addition to architects, designers and builders, virtual reality will offer significant benefits to homebuyers. The apartments under construction today are mostly visualised with the help of floor plans and conceptual drawings, but they leave a lot to the imagination,” Ruuska explains.

VR goggles will allow customers to walk through their future homes and see with their own eyes what the apartment’s rooms, surfaces and views will actually look like.

YIT is already using VR in Slovakia  

YIT is using VR technology in the manner described by Ruuska in Slovakia, where the company introduced a virtual reality world application alongside with the 3D modelling on a computer screen in early December 2016.

“We designed and tested a number of different solutions and service providers before we began to offer this service to our customers. The development of this technology has now reached the point where we can be proud of the service and it is economically feasible,” says Renata Zatkova , Brand Manager, Head of Marketing in CEE Division at YIT.

Other construction companies in Slovakia are also providing people with opportunities to test virtual reality at special events. However, Zatkova believes that YIT is currently the only one that offers the service at its sales offices.

According to Ruuska and Parikka, the use of VR among Finnish companies has thus far been curbed by traditions, costs and the unwieldiness of the devices. These obstacles are now disappearing. Headsets that used to cost hundreds of thousands of euros are now available for a few hundred, the wearable equipment is lightweight and the virtual world looks real.

Parikka and Ruuska believe that nearly all operators, in the construction industry as well as other sectors, are now trying to decide when to adopt VR technology rather than whether to adopt it at all. This requires a change in thinking, but also the digitalisation of processes, which naturally takes time and involves costs.

“In Finland, the use of VR is currently the most advanced in the area of user-oriented hospital design. VR is used to obtain user feedback on premises before they are built. The technology helps prevent design flaws, which saves a lot of money,” Parikka explains.

This year, YIT will determine the extent to which VR can help consumers understand what an under-construction apartment could eventually look like, and whether VR helps housing sales by complementing the existing sales materials in a manner that helps customers make the purchase decision.

“We have already had a few trial runs and, if the results of our tests continue to be positive, I expect we will implement VR quite quickly,” Ruuska says.

Tools do not isolate people

When discussing virtual reality, it is necessary to also address the negative visions of the future that are linked to this technology. This topic has been debated in various forums, including the Slush event organised in Helsinki in late November.

The subject—and particularly whether VR technology will ultimately isolate people from one another or connect people with each other—was discussed extensively by pundits including Monika Bielskyte , a VR expert and Creative Strategist at All Future Everything.

Will VR make people withdraw even further into their own world, or will they communicate more, and more easily, with each other, freed from geographical restrictions?

“You already have people who tend to isolate themselves in their own world, with or without the help of technology. I don’t believe that tools isolate people from one another. Exclusion is the sum of many factors and a topic for broader social dialogue,” Parikka says.

Watch the video about YIT´s VR-solutions in Slovakia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5zeGE_-tAI&feature=youtu.be