New Era Technology Uses Virtual Reality to Bring Projects to Life During Design Phase

By Eric Bixler, National Director of AV Solutions - 4 Feb, 2019
Collaboration & UC Services
6 Minutes Read
Your company is ready for a corporate boardroom upgrade with multiple 4K UHD display screens, sophisticated telepresence systems, control system, and a speaker’s podium with a touchscreen that gives the presenter access to the room’s technology systems. But you’re not sure. You’re afraid some of the seats won’t have a clear view of the screens. You don’t know if you need another touchscreen on the conference table….You doubt everything from the size of the table to the color of the walls. If only you could see it all – before it was done. Fortunately, today’s virtual reality technology makes that a possibility. By providing our clients with 360-degree, 3D renderings, viewable in their web browser on any screen, the New Era Technology, PA team has discovered the cost-saving and time-saving benefits of virtual reality first-hand. “A lot of times a client will hear what we say, but because they can’t see it in front of them, they don’t understand what they’re getting,” says Susan Lucci, New Era-PA’s Director of Design. “We’re using virtual reality as a tool to solve problems and communicate our designs in a different way than we’ve done before.” And the results have been game-changing for the New Era-PA AV Design and Sales teams and their clients. “Clients are eating this up,” says Design Engineer Darren Brown, who designs the VR renderings using a SketchUp software plug-in. “They are impressed with the technology and appreciative of how we are using all the tools we have to design a system that caters to their needs.” Brown was instrumental in introducing the technology to the Sales Engineering team as a way to present projects more dynamically and engagingly, providing visual clarity of the proposed deliverable and minimize scope creep. “A lot of this came about because Darren has a passion for the technology and recognized a business need for it, enabling us to offer something that sets us apart in the industry,” Lucci says.

How New Era’s 3D, Virtual Reality Renderings Work

In spite of the advanced virtual reality algorithms at use, the renders couldn’t be easier to view. After the New Era design team creates the renderings in SketchUp 3D modeling software, the team uploads the 3D designs to a website. The client can view them on any internet-connected device, from a laptop or desktop monitor,  a conference room display screen, or even a smartphone, by clicking a hyperlink or scanning a QR code.
View New Era render used to showcase lighting, glass, and other textures along with the technology to present a photorealistic experience. “We wanted to make the experience quick, simple, and effective so people would be more likely to use it. We felt this was the best way the client could have the VR experience without having to download an app or software,” Brown says. The room comes to life, allowing viewers to gauge line-of-sight limitations, aesthetics, and the overall atmosphere of the room before the project even begins. Viewers can “pan” around the room using arrows on the screen or, when using a mobile device, by turning around to see the room from different vantage points, creating a true virtual reality experience. New Era also has branded VR viewers they can provide to clients at their request although, for many clients, experiencing a VR model of the room on their smartphone is enough to bring the project to life.

Global Pharmaceutical Company Signs Off in Seconds

New Era has already used the VR experience to help several clients make decisions on large-scale projects. The New Era-PA team, including Account Manager Tory Holmwood, was recently working with a repeat client to create a three-way divisible room with three conference areas and a main stage. The room presented sightline challenges and had specific furniture. “We naturally play a consultative role when it comes to how the technology lends itself to the other trades in the room – including the furniture manufacturer,” explains Holmwood. “Our main goal is giving a great experience to every end user.” New Era designed a virtual reality rendering, and within 24 hours of receiving it, the client signed off on the purchase order. “This client is highly consultative, to begin with, and our ability to provide a VR walk-through of the room is additional consultative capital for us,” Holmwood says. “We were the only ones able to bring to life what we were talking about.”

Virtual Reality Helps Create More Realistic Designs and Happier Customers

New Era Technology has been using SketchUp for designs for the past six years and has introduced the VR experience in the past two years. In early 2018, the AV Design Team began using the VR plug-in as an active design tool. “When we use the SketchUp rendering to share a 3D, virtual reality layout of a podium, and give a client a view all the way around so that they can see all the components, we’re able to have an active conversation about the layout,” Lucci says. “There have been a couple of situations where we used the 3D renderings during the production phase to communicate a change we wanted to make to the original design,” Brown adds. “When things are not clearly defined, you open yourself to scope creep, and scope creep costs everyone money,” Holmwood says. Even if changes do arise during the installation phase, the impact on timelines and budget can be minimized. “If something needs to be changed, we can look at how well it fits the overall project because we have defined, in clear and concise terms, what the ultimate deliverable is going to be,” Holmwood said. “That leads to less scope creep, which saves everyone time and money. It makes us happy, it makes all the other trades happy, and, most importantly, it makes the client happy. It’s less work for everyone when things are defined upfront.” The VR services provided by the AV Design Team allows for all stakeholders involved in a project—clients, trades, architects, and UC integrators—to successfully work together towards the agreed upon deliverable.

Virtual Reality: Just the Beginning

Although New Era is already using cutting-edge virtual reality applications as an AV design and sales tool to create VR-based renders, resulting in more compelling proposals, this is just the beginning, according to Brown. “The application we are currently using is an example of virtual reality, where the environment is completely graphical. But we are experimenting with SketchUp’s augmented reality (AR) viewer that allows us to place models in a room via a smartphone.” New Era Technology doesn’t just integrate the latest technologies for clients. By applying innovative use of virtual reality applications, the company is helping to create better workplace experiences across the board.

Author: Eric Bixler, National Director of AV Solutions

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