Suffolk Construction Replaces Ceremonial Shovel with VR Experience from Theia Interactive

The studio utilised Unreal Engine in the development of the VR experience.

The construction industry has been utilising virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to showcase upcoming projects to clients and investors, enabling them to walk around a proposed building, examining its facets and features. Recently Suffolk Construction has taken this a step further by exchanging the traditional act of digging a shovel into the ground and doing the ceremony in VR.

The firm is expanding its corporate HQ in Boston, and called in the talents of Theia Interactive to create a VR experience for an event in which delegates donned a HTC Vive head-mounted display (HMD), then used its motion controllers to use a virtual shovel instead. Once this had taken place the audience at the ceremony then saw the building rise up from the ground to then take a virtual tour inside.

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Theia Interactive are architectural visualisation specialists and to bring the project to life used Epic Games’ Unreal Engine development software. “We started using all sorts of different software, but when we switched to Unreal Engine all the doors were blown wide open. We were amazed at the difference,” said Mark Pullyblank, Theia’s CEO on the Unreal Engine blog.

“We began with the actual architectural files that Suffolk created for their own visualizations which contained between seven and ten million polygons,” explained Stephen Phillips, the Chief Technology Officer at Theia. “There was a lot of data and a lot of hi-res textures that we were trying to use. But Unreal Engine handled it like a champ and we were able to get it running on VR smoothly. It would have been a real hassle to do that any other way.”

The behind-the-scenes video below highlights the event and features interviews with the development studio. As further construction projects use the immersive features of VR, VRFocus will bring you the latest details.

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