Published on 2020-10-12

VR as a tool

Virtual Reality isn’t just for video games, movies and entertainment. At MODYN we’re leveraging this technology as a tool to design products that our clients can walk around and interact with.

“In an early stage, it gives you a good impression of what the actual size will be, especially with a bus, which is big and long,” Bram Veendrick, the Design Manager of VDL Bus & Coach explained.

VDL is just one of the clients we use VR technology with, however, because of the sheer scale of the product, has proven to be one of the most successful use cases.

As Bram explains, our VR tools actually helped their team make more informed decisions earlier on in the design process. “Before, without modelmaking, you just weren’t able to judge this. This meant you made decisions earlier on, or you made a lot more models. So that’s why VR in an early stage can help you judge if you’re actually on the right track.”

A big misconception about VR is that it’s a finishing tool — a way to show off your final design to the client. And admittedly at first, that’s how we were using it. “It’s not what we thought when we first started using VR in our office. Bas Kleingeld, MODYN’s 3D Surfacing & visualization specialist, explained. “But, the more the team played around with the tech, the more they realized how valuable VR could be to the entire process — especially for those projects where space plays a major role in the design.”

VR has also proven incredibly important in translating designs into tangible concepts for clients, which is often hard for many to conceptualize on a computer screen. “From a really early stage we can view what we’ve designed — we can walk around it, see reflections, see what all the surfaces do in almost real-time,” Kleingeld went on to say. You can zoom out above in helicopter view but also zoom in to point out very small details of the design, and this is quite powerful.”

When we started leveraging VR as a tool earlier on in our design process, it became immediately clear that this tool was going to save our team a lot of time modelmaking and our clients a lot of budget. This was especially true when working with VDL Bus & Coach, whose models are not only large-scale but incredibly labor-intensive.

“With a bus, VR is very important, because otherwise, it would be very ineffective and costly to build all kinds of interiors and test them,” VDL’s Design Manager, Bram Veendrick, admitted. “The VR tool saves us on model making, and so now we combine the two — model making for ergonomics and things we think we can’t judge in VR. And then we do the other half of the design judgment in VR, seeing if shapes work well with each other.”

Check out our work for VDL

VR fundamentally changed our design and product development process at MODYN, and it did it quickly. So, it got us wondering how others were using it, too. Kleingeld explained that when him and our Director of Industrial Design, Rik de Reuver, went to Autodesk’s Automotive Innovation Forum 2019, they were excited to see MODYN’s techniques at the forefront of the industry.

“There were speakers from big brands like BMW and Jaguar — and the thing we found was that the way we are using VR in our design process is basically at the same level as the big automotive industry leaders. Of course, ours is a smaller scale, but our fundamental way of implementing VR into our process is on the same page. And to find that out made us quite proud to see that we were on the same level and doing the right thing. It was a confirmation for us.”

“If it’s up to us, this is one of the big tools design firms will use,” Kleingeld said. “Even the small products we work on, like a drone or something, it’s helpful to view the design in a virtual environment.” And the more our team has used VR as a tool, the more we’ve realized its ability to help us become better designers, too. “It has also helped me personally, in my design job, a lot to see in an early stage what could be wrong or could be done better. And this was not possible without using VR.”

Curious how VR has impacted the design of our products? Check out our work with VDL Bus & Coach to see the products we’ve designed for them using this technology.


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