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Virtual Reality and Future of CAD Design

A common problem for parents who are raising teenage children is to pull them away from computer games so that they would do homework and other assignments. It may not be far-fetched to say that many teenagers are addicted to computer games. The APA (The American Psychiatric Association) has determined that enough evidence exists to propose the potential disorder of video game addiction as a “condition requiring further study”. Furthermore, the APA found out that excessive use of video games may have some or all of the symptoms of drug addiction or other proposed psychological addictions.

What could be the addictive element in computer gaming which controls teenage habits and behavior? It is probably due to the element of Virtual Reality (VR), which makes a teenager feel immersed in a real environment in which gaming events occur.

The use of VR in gaming technology could be responsible for computer game addiction, and there are other possible uses of VR which could have negative results for society. However, there are many other uses of VR which could be useful and beneficial.

How Is VR Being Implemented?

Research work is ongoing at Microsoft®, Google®, Facebook®, and other leading technical organizations to design electronic headsets that create high-definition holograms. The person who wears the headset will be immersed in a “real environment” in which a plethora of events could occur.

Because almost all human sensations such as smell, taste, pleasure, pain, will be simulated in addition to visual ability, the wearer of the headset will actually experience the “reality” of being in the simulated environment.

Positive types of events could include a trip to another planet, to a fancy restaurant to an amusement park, or to an imaginary paradise of fun and pleasure. Negative types of events could include escapism, isolation, and behavior modification, virtual sex, committing a crime, or doing evil to an enemy.

When the line of demarcation between what is real versus what is virtual reality disappears, it does not take much motivation for a VR-addicted person to carry out fantasies, even if they are evil, in the real world. Could the mass shootings which appear frequently in the news foreshadow a troublesome future for society?

This article looks primarily at the positive uses of VR on CAD design, although the negative implications are also acknowledged. Specifically, the article addresses these questions:

  • How is VR being used for CAD work?
  • How is VR being used to control manufacturing tasks?
  • How is VR being used in non-CAD applications?

How is VR being used for CAD work?

VR in CAD design provides the ability to “walk around” 3D renderings of mathematical models as if they actually exist in space. The wearer of the VR helmet can actually view all details of a 3D simulation of a design in a manner that is not possible even with powerful CAD workstations.

This capability provides virtual prototyping solutions which speed up the product development cycle.

As CAD-related VR technology matures to the point of accurately checking design quality and accuracies, the need for actual prototyping will be eliminated, and the time to market will be greatly accelerated.

The probability that CAD-related VR prototyping will become available is quite likely. The company Virtalis® is working with leading CAD providers like PTC, Siemens, Dassault Systems, and Autodesk to integrate VR into their software offerings.

According to Virtalis, two customers of CAD-based VR technology (BAE Systems® and Paccar Trucks®) report that VR has enabled them to do away with physical prototyping entirely.

How Is VR Being Used To Control Manufacturing Tasks?

  • Ford® has already used CAD-driven VR for automotive design and prototyping. The automotive design engineer who wears a VR headset is now able to spot design flaws that would otherwise be impossible to detect. Furthermore, the need to build physical prototypes has been reduced because of CAD-related VR technology.
  • BAE Systems uses VR in prototyping submarine subsystems.
  • Law enforcement is using VR to create virtual and realistic models of crime scenes without requiring the presence of detectives and investigators on the crime scene.

How Is VR Being Used In Non-CAD Applications?

  • Architects and the building construction industry can construct and evaluate virtual buildings and structures before committing time and money to the actual construction.
  • The petroleum industry is using virtual environments for training workers before assigning them to offshore sites such as platforms and offshore drilling rigs.
  • Medical schools are using VR to train doctors and dentists to perform “hands on” operations on virtual patients in a risk free environment, and to learn from their mistakes.
  • Paramedics are taught life-saving skills by placing them in simulated, high-pressure emergency environments.
  • Patients and soldiers are trained to deal with phobia by placing them in simulated pressure environments.
  • VR is used in flight simulation training of air force and civilian pilots.
  • VR is used to create simulated driving conditions when training truck drivers.

What Are Known Disadvantages Of VR?

These symptoms are possible side effects of computer-driven VR:

  • Behavior modification, addiction,
  • Escapism and isolation,
  • Blurring of the distinction between the real world and virtually created environments.

These symptoms have been reported by the wearing of VR-driven headsets:

  • Motion sickness,
  • Headaches, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea.

Conclusions

There are clear and indisputable advantages to be gained by using VR for CAD design. Elimination of design flaws and inaccuracies will benefit both the product manufacturer and the consumer. The manufacturer spends less time and money on developing a reliable product, and the consumer pays less for a well-designed, less expensive, and reliable product.

Granted, there will be misuse of VR technology, and it will be necessary for legislative bodies and law enforcement to protect society from criminal behavior.

Although harmful effects of VR on the human brain have been reported, they have not been studied sufficiently in order to deal with the effects. It is optimistic to assume that VR technology will mature without many adverse side effects.

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