Looking at the Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) industry’s developments over the years, it’s venture with video game technology seems to represent one of the best examples of a match made in heaven.
Both industries have been experiencing growth in the past years – the video game industry witnessed an 18% increase from 2016 – 2017 in the US alone, while the global AEC market felt a compounded annual growth rate of 10.63% during the 2014 – 2019 period.
However, for some time, neither had managed to find that spark that would make it look special in the eyes of the uninitiated. Everything changed when BIM and game engine companies joined forces.
Ever since the release of SimCity, in 1989, by Maxis – now a sub-division of Electronic Arts (EA), people became charmed with the notion of building your own living quarters, from scratch. While it seems mundane now, given how games have grown in complexity, having the option to play God by making your own city was a surreal experience.
Later on, when The Sims game was launched, in 2000, everything was taken to a whole new level, as it represented one of the first modern agent-based artificial life programs, allowing you to simulate your character’s life in its entirety.
The reason this is especially noteworthy is due to the fact that your Sim’s happiness depended, among other factors, on how well you built your living quarters. This meant you could decorate your house however you wanted, from furnishing it with chairs, tables, sofas, stands and more, to renovating entire rooms or even buildings altogether, in order to increase or maintain happiness levels.
Introducing 3D models & BIM
Naturally, such developments caught the eye of interested parties, like various players from the AEC industry. They saw the potential that video game technology brought to the world and wanted to make it their own. At the end of the day, showing would-be clients a 3D presentation is much more impressive and provides greater ease of use for both sides than 2D designs, which would have to be drawn up as often as any changes happened.
The initial foray of construction companies into the world of 3D designs resulted in the creation of Building Information Modeling (BIM) models, which were already a massive upgrade over the olden ways of conducting presentations. Having the ability to see your edifice in the full glory of three-dimensional planes, alongside all of the part information – from costs, to size, durability, producer and so on, showed the industry that a revolution is underway.
As matters evolved, video game engines came into the mix and offered BIM companies the ability to render buildings, rooms and entire environments in high-realistic quality, whilst introducing users to a host of newly available options and offered a life-like experience.
The video game engine revolution
One of the first to pick up on this new trend was Autodesk, which resulted in the creation of the Autodesk Stingray game engine that was later integrated in its Autodesk 3ds Max modeling engine. Both of these two technologies are now part of the overall Autodesk LIVE suite.
Another similar piece of technology is our very own EveReal software, which makes use of powerful creation engines to generate high-quality, photo-realistic renditions and immersive 3D architectural representation projects of buildings. This provides clients with the surreal experience of witnessing their projects coming to life first-hand, in real-time.
As companies were looking for more ways to integrate video game tech with the AEC’s BIM, the answer came in the form of the Cloud. In the past, you’d have to compromise – you either hosted your program or your BIM information.
Nowadays, through software like EveReal, companies are able to import their business information modeling details into their game engine model, whilst both are simultaneously in the Cloud, as the two can now be hosted and edited live.
By making use of this high-tech option, project owners are able to show clients so much more than ever before. You will be able to survey each room, see how each object fits within the structure and even inspect how lighting changes based on angles or even seasons, if your editing software can control time through geolocation capabilities.
In addition to this, if your project is let’s say a high-rise apartment block, a game engine will allow you to enter the world and look at the entire city from either a bird’s eye view or from the ground. All of this is done whilst offering you the option to also see or hear miscellaneous information, such as traffic noise, crowd ambiance or something more subtle such as a gust of wind blowing.
When one thinks about how far we’ve come, from mere paper drawings, you cannot help but feel a sense of bliss. For most people this would suffice, however AEC specialists get to experience true ecstasy when you take into account the fact that such an amazing visual presentation comes fully equipped with all the necessary BIM details, as we mentioned briefly earlier on.
Even though we have not mentioned it up until now, there’s one more important detail. When editing your project in a 3D game engine, you can tap onto any objects within the world to see all of the information you’d expect from a regular BIM project. Moreover, users will be able to freely edit various world features during their editing session, whether this means changing an entire storey or simply some materials here and there.
The advent of VR/AR
Now that we’ve covered all this information about how video games managed to change one of the core parts of the construction industry – design & presentation, there’s one detail left and that is VR/AR coverage.
On the one hand, Virtual Reality (VR) presentations are the new hotness for project presentations, because it lets clients explore their future structure and at the same time, it grants architects & designers the possibility of spotting faults which may have gone unnoticed otherwise.
Many companies, like ours, already export to VR sets. Through our EveReal service, we use state-of-the-art modeling engines to generate immersive walkthroughs for our customers, which capture all of the aforementioned lighting details, in addition to providing life-like depth and FOV (field of view) perception.
On the other, Augmented Reality (AR) represents the future. This would allow computer-generated imagery to be layered on top of existing construction sites. Through either a special headset or a camera, the on-site engineer would be able to see a preview of the design.
This would enable them to provide much more authoritative feedback, as they would now be able to spot issues like environmental misalignment or simply take note of how the finished edifice would look, given that the AR interface is supplying them with all the missing items.
Seeing the evolution of the construction and video game industries, it only felt natural that at some point, the two would join forces. To some, it feels like a most holy union, embodying the best of both worlds. To others, it feels like one of the best marriages in the history of industries, as both complement each other.
The construction industry, whilst still experiencing growth, had become stale in terms of its visual proficiency. Video games had, for the longest time, been deemed a childish recreational activity.
With the advent of game engines being used for construction project presentations, the former now has a series of updated tools at its disposal, from 3D walkthroughs, to VR simulations and soon, AR tech, while the latter made massive gains in reputation.
Video games are no longer just an inane pastime – they now have the capacity to help improve human livelihood and well-being.