Inspire Session: Using Virtual Reality (VR) in Construction (Video Interview)

We were really lucky to have had the opportunity to hear from three great speakers last week at the Online Learning Research Center’s Inspire session on  Virtual Reality (VR) in Construction. This is a short video interview with two of our guest speakers where Kate Lindsay, Senior Online Education Technologist at UCEM, sits down with Stephen Taylor, Head of the Computational Biology Research Group at Radcliffe Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, and Phillip Hunt, CEO of P360M (360 degree photography based project reporting tool) and Mobikats (mobile application development house), to discuss virtual reality and its relevance to education.


[In this video Kate Lindsay is interviewing Stephen Taylor and Phillip Hunt]

Kate: I’d like to welcome Stephen Taylor from University of Oxford and Phillip Hunt from Mobikats. They’ve just been with us giving a really engaging session VR and its use in teaching and research and in the built environment industry. I have a few questions for you. So, Stephen if I can start with you, tell us a bit about how you use VR in your research?

Stephen: So, we’ve been using it to visualise complicated 3D data right the way from the human genome which is really really small right up to full size body objects from MRI scans, CT scans and ultrasound scans. And the main driver was that we were really interested because we manipulate like 3D objects in everyday in real life we tend to work on a 2D screen most of the time. So my research is really interesting can we get better productivity better insights to research by actually using 3D displays such as virtual reality.

Kate: And I see that Oxford University started using VR in teaching now.

Stephen: Yeah

Kate: Testing the water and you are interested in using that in your area as well.

Stephen: Yeah, I mean there is a lot of work is being done in surgical teaching for example so it is lot better to practice on a virtual kind of a body rather than real bodies because it is obviously is dangerous and is expensive so there is a lot of work going on there. We’ve been approached to look at this from a sort of like anatomy and trying to understand that and may be be able to label items of the anatomy to help teach undergraduates in their studies.

Kate: It’s brilliant. Of course, VR really does have wow factor about it. People can put a headset and they are really taken. But what do we need to be mindful of in education.

Stephen: Well I think absolutely that. Because it is easy to buy headset and then do some nice display and everybody goes that’s really great but what do they really get from it when they left that – have they learnt more have they got more insight and I think there needs to be more work done on studying that. I know there is some research on that going on at Oxford University itself.

Kate: I know Phillip that you have been doing a lot of work on building VR and AR apps for the construction industry and built environment. What were the drivers behind that?

Phillip: Well I think we’re in mobile app business we saw VR as a different gateway into accessing technology and providing information to people. And therefore we see that as a really important tool. VR is a great tool for doing that in the construction industry either from training or project management and actually in architectural phase. So it is just a slam dunk really you know being able to play within the virtual world of construction it works really well.

Kate: That’s great and VR is not a technology fantasy anymore in industry. And our students who are graduating in couple of years’ time what do you think they might be expect to experience?

Phillip: Well I think VR will become a key tool in every part of construction from design to actual building and so forth. And I think they should expect to be able to use those tools so being able to use them in the design process and being able to use them in things like training – on sight training and so forth. I think really the big piece in the future is going to be AR mixed reality so the HoloLens type of products magically where you can actually see VR in real world. To add another heading use Insert, AutoText and locate Heading Lvl 1

Kate: And for institutions like ours, University Colleges who are developing our students to be the best they can be in the built environment what should we be providing them to get them ready?

Phillip: Well I think you need to give people a taste of VR. VR is really accessible now through things like Google Cardboard. So essentially headsets costs less than £10 so you can plug your phone into and you can experience VR and you should be providing VR education through those platforms. And potentially providing users with those goggles that are less than £10 because then they can start getting engaged with that now and get a feeling for it. Because it is interesting when you present VR to people what is really interesting is you learn loads about how it can be applied. We all have feelings because we are working in industry how it all should apply but it is people like yourselves working at the coalface will really see the value of it. So, we learn a lot. So, I think that is it. They got to start using it to start to really understand how it is applied.

Kate: It is quite a step from textbooks isn’t it, cheaper. It is so amazing.

Phillip: Yeah [laughing]

Kate: Okay, so if you what in the world of VR would you recommend that has really inspired you recently?

Stephen: One of the first experiences I have had was using Tilt Brush, which is by Google. I think it has been bought by ITC now and it is just really great because you don’t need a lot of ability. If you are an artist it is really fantastic you can actually draw in 3-dimensional space, change the palette, walk through the drawings and it really gives you a flavour of what is possible in VR I think. And it is about quick on boarding procedure people just get it.

Kate: Lovely

Phillip: For me it’s using VR in project management. So being able to take 360-degree photos that saves a lot of time rather than taking lots and lots of individual photos you just take one photo and then share it with your project team. And it is about enabling people to collaborate together with tools like P360M, HoloBuilder and other tools out there that allow that. I think it is going to really help people they are really inspiring.

Kate: Great and if you were just starting out, we haven’t done much VR so far. What would be the top tips again to get people engaged?

Stephen: Well I think just getting them to try any app that is really easy to get a feel from because you don’t really understand VR. Most people don’t understand how good VR until they have actually used it. And you don’t want to give them a bad experience, so I think just like I said something like Tilt Brush or some other high-quality app that they will really think wow the sky is the limit here. Because I think the things we are seeing now are like the infancy of computing in a way where you got a lot of sort of very basic kind of things even though they are quite advanced. But in the future it is going to be so promising society I think you really need to kind of get them to understand that it is going to be all encompassing.

Phillip: And for me again it is going back to Google Cardboard. Get a Google Cardboard headset and shove your phone into it and start downloading some VR apps so that you can experience it. And if you want to spend a little bit more money buy yourself a 360 camera they are only about £130 and just watch how people get delighted when they see themselves in the 360 video. It is really quite incredible. And it is not just the young and the people who are competent about the technology it is also the old as well. Because they immediately get it as soon as they move their head. And it is just brings a smile on their faces. And from a resource perspective YouTube has loads of videos on VR that are worth engaging with. Go to our site you can find loads of stuff there. I am trying to point you in different directions and of course I am going to push my stuff. There is plenty of stuff on the web. Just have a search. But get yourself some goggles and go for it.

Kate: Thank you both. Thank you for giving us so much to think about and such an inspiring session.