October 19, 2022
KairosXR was hired by Pathstream and Unity to create a virtual reality application for construction site training
KairosXR (KXR) was contracted by Pathstream, an online educational startup, and Unity Technologies, developers of the Unity game development engine, to create a VR (virtual reality) application for construction site safety training. The application was intended to serve as a design, training, and project site-based management tool, as well as a proof of concept for the Pathstream online educational courses. The program used BIM (building information management) data to create an accurate virtual representation of a real-world construction site.
Built for the Oculus Go, the application was used to update key project stakeholders on project progress, as well as being a virtual representation of a physical construction site. The users would virtually experience what a real-world site would look like, and discovered best practices to navigate the environment before even stepping foot in a physical location.
The application was widely commended, with the only reservation being issues with the accessibility of VR headsets. This generated interest in a desktop companion application and mobile AR (augmented reality) companion application, which we plan to implement in future iterations.
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The application we created was unique in the respect that it was designed for two separate clients, Pathstream and Unity Technologies. Pathstream is a startup based in San Francisco and founded in 2018, which specializes in creating educational content for training in fields relevant to the tech industry. Unity Technologies is the creator of the Unity Engine, which is a software development engine that is considered a standard in the game development industry.
Pathstream and Unity intended to use the application KXR designed for their clients in the fields of architecture, engineering, and construction. KXR built a VR application to provide construction site safety training, provide site tours to construction stakeholders, and to provide site construction progress and status updates. The construction site needed to be created using existing BIM data.
KXR was contracted by Pathstream since Eleanor Cooper, the CEO of Pathstream, was a student in one of KXR’s Unity development courses. She hired KXR to develop several VR and AR applications (with this being one of them), and author several non-gaming interactive 3D courses covering a range of XR-related topics. We had previously worked on several projects for Unity Technologies as well.
Pathstream and Unity chose KXR because we specialize in training and education applications for industrial sectors. We have experience bringing BIM data into our solutions, which was a requirement for this project. Given this application’s proof of concept use case for the VR for Construction educational course, KXR’s experience teaching Unity development was another benefit. Considering our instructional relationship with Pathstream and history with Unity, we had demonstrated to both parties a strong understanding of building stable VR applications, optimized both for performance and the user experience.
A NPS (net promoter score) system was used to evaluate the quality of the application. A net promoter score is a metric used to evaluate the relationship between a firm and their customers. Participants were asked whether they would recommend this virtual reality application as a design, training, and PM tool to their teams.
We defined success by both construction workers and project managers providing high NPS scores after using the application. As a proof of concept for the Pathstream construction course and a client project for Unity Technologies, this application needed to be both conceptually and architecturally sound. The timeline for development was four months in total.
KXR utilized a number of specific R&D strategies to prepare effectively for designing this application. These included researching safety training techniques for construction, analyzing industry data, interviewing SMEs (subject matter experts), and determining pain points in the construction process. Unity provided plenty of primary industry research and data, as they’ve partnered with several leading construction companies who have used their 3D platform. KXR interviewed industry experts at major construction companies, such as Fluor, Aecom, and Katerra. We discovered pain points specifically involving stakeholder management and providing status updates to key stakeholders. These conversations helped solidify the final feature list for the application, after validating patterns around pain points.
Our priorities were to provide construction site safety training, demonstrate the use of BIM data to build accurate virtual environments, and provide real-time construction site status updates with a progress report and milestone timeline.
As for KXR’s objectives and key results, our goal was to make sure the application was useful for our intended audience. The aim was for both technical and non-technical construction workers to be able to use the application without any coaching. In addition, project managers would be able to use the application for progress updates. Finally, site visitors and stakeholders would be able to highlight potential hazard areas around the construction site after using the application, and plan accordingly in the real world.
The application was used to indicate hazards and best practices for on-site navigation. We included training content such as instructional narrations, precise animations (illustrating proper activity and motion on-site), and hazard indicators (illuminating dangerous areas as the user navigates to various parts of the virtual site).
Visual cues and animated objects were utilized heavily to indicate site hazards. Specific lessons and topics were introduced as the user explored specific areas of the site. Several variables could also be modified through various parameters to reveal architectural quirks, such as unplanned shadows or potentially cumbersome layouts. Given the limitations of a 3DOF Oculus Go headset, instructional interaction revolved around “point and click” rather than “picking up” objects. Despite the design restrictions imposed by the hardware, the portability of the Oculus Go made it the best choice of VR hardware to design the application for.
“This VR solution was exactly what we needed. The direct data pipeline between Revit and Unity perfectly represented the BIM workflow, and the solution successfully trained site managers and workers on construction hazards. Very well received, and excited to work on the next iteration!”
The project was delivered on time, and demonstrated consistently strong NPS scores from the testing group (small groups of construction workers, construction site planners and site managers, and AR/VR specialists).
For many of the users, this application was their first virtual reality experience. They had read about VR, but hadn’t yet tried it themselves. This application was intentionally designed to maximize simplicity, making the interaction and locomotion systems as accessible as possible (regardless of technical proficiency). Almost every who tried the application experienced no problems learning how to use the application, which indicated a strong onboarding experience and application design.
As mentioned, future iterations will include companion applications, so stakeholders can use the application on both their computer (desktop 3D) or their mobile devices (mobile AR). These companion applications will accomplish the same safety training and design insights, while increasing the accessibility of the application even more!
It was a pleasure working with Unity Technologies and Pathstream on this project. Thank you for the opportunity to work on this project with you, and choosing us to be your development team! We can’t wait for the next project, as we continue to dive deeper into the construction industry and plan for future iterations.