In November 2008, CLARTE launched the collaborative project VR4D (Virtual Reality for Design) in partnership with L’École des Mines de Nantes, L’École de design Nantes Atlantique, Bénéteau, Gruau, DCNS, STX Europe, SIA, BE Mauric, Atelier Saint Victor and 5 design agencies or bureaus of the Loire Region. Three years later, the project is now complete and ready to unveil its secrets.
The initial idea was to create a virtual aid to spatial arrangement of limited spaces. Indeed, living quarters in buildings or aircrafts are a major industrial issue. From road and air transport to shipbuilding, specifications for this type of spaces are very complex and demanding. They also require a certain number of players (in co-creation or subcontracting). The aim of VR4D was to devise a tool enabling to:
* conceive a platform of aids (equipment and software) to ease the creation process in spatial arrangement and to structure the technical communication between the various partners of a project;
* bring together great principals and SMEs (component manufacturers) on a process of identification, exploration and implementation of innovative tools.
Three years later, the time has come for the consortium to assess the project – and the conclusions are very positive. The project players now have free disposal of the device in the CLARTE offices in Laval. VR4D is also available for use at STX Europe for the development of specific projects.
Thanks to the tool’s numerous functionalities, designers can now launch a creation in spatial arrangement basing themselves on a scale 1virtual inner template of a boat, camper, coach or ship/trawler cabin.
See demonstration video:
Objective 1: saving time
The major benefit of this tool is to shorten preliminary studies, since VR4D offers the possibility both to create and to test even the smallest pencil stroke: the designer can get a full-scale idea of the ergonomic quality of his first sketches and quickly put aside inadequate solutions. In-house designer Cyril Chauvin (Gruau), for instance, was able to complete successfully in just one morning the placing of a coach dashboard during a test session. Setting a model in the traditional (physical) way would probably have been four times as long.
VR4D also offers quickness in adjustments. An observer can check out in a few minutes several colour versions of a same spatial arrangement project and make his/her choice from them.
Objective 2: being user-friendly
The second major benefit of VR4D is its easy-to-use adaptability, which makes it quite user-friendly. Partner designers (Part de Rêve, Manitou, Flahault Design, Deligne Études Design, Sarrazin Design) have had several occasions to test the system. Their autonomy with the device was reasonably quick thanks to its functionalities, which are close enough to the traditional tools used in drawing or sculpting. Familiar gestures allow a strong suitability and the re-discovering of sensations that are totally unknown to designers using only a computer. Indeed, standing and designing a curve in a 3-dimensional space also requires a good mastering of one’s body. The sensation, though not exactly similar to that of drawing on a real material, is very close to it.
An aid to co-creation
This device is an excellent option for project reviews or co-creation. The Bénéteau engineers have experienced this kind of virtual meeting and seen how helpful it is to communicate and find solutions. Indeed, when a project is complete, VR4D enables a great number of experts to visit and examine each detail of the virtual space. This visit spares the uncertainties that can emerge during a non-immersive 2- or 3-dimensional checking. Moreover, the virtual going round allows great freedom of inspection and objectivity, since the observer can position himself/herself from any point of view.
For how much?
The biggest drawbacks remain the cost and dimensions of the device required to install VR4D. The necessary technology (SasCube and glasses) is still quite expensive and involves the creation of a dedicated space. The infrastructure is interesting for companies whose activities comprise long hours of designing and collaborative projects. That is why CLARTE puts its device to the disposal of all companies and agencies wanting to use it.
In other words, VR4D is an essential, high-performance aid to the co-creation of limited spaces in aeronautics, shipbuilding, railroad construction and civil and military automobile industry. Designers need to create comfortable and hyper-functional spaces despite more and more restrictive standards in order to meet the market demands and the ever-growing technical performances.
Besides, the success of VR4D perfectly mirrors the assets of the Pays de la Loire Region. All the partners to this project are local, and all the contributions have revealed skills that would have been hard to bring together elsewhere. This specificity, which has to be acknowledged as a regional excellence, could lead to the development of an expertise center in cabin design likely to attract other manufacturers’ attention. Cabin design in the Grand Ouest area now has principals, experienced designers and a VR4D tool.
Director of Business Strategy Department