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  1. Technology
September 18, 1995


By CBR Staff Writer

Having a sewage pumping station on the doorstep is not everyone’s idea of fun, so to show residents of London’s Docklands, where work on a ú11m pumping station has already begun, the London Docklands Development Corporation used Hook, Hampshire-based Superscape VR Plc’s technology to give locals a virtual reality tour of the station. The corporation employed consulting civil engineers M W Barber Group Ltd to build a virtual reality model of the station. The engineers built two models, one showing the exterior of the site, the other the interior, pipes, pumps and all, using Superscape’s VRT, virtual reality world building software. The exterior of the actual building has been designed to resemble the upturned hull of a boat and to blend in with the nearby Thames flood barrier. So that the locals would understand exactly where the station is being situated, Barber added local landmarks to the exterior world, including the Woolwich Ferry, which crosses the River Thames just in front of the new pumping statio, and which many Londoners would recognise as a landmark. The virtual ferry even rises up and down with the river, which is tidal at this point. The virtual world shows not only features visible in the real world, but also what goes on underground, the rising mains and sewerage pipes, and the pumps that will service the area. Barber created the virtual model from a traditional paper plan, but the company admitted that if it had known more about virtual reality technology, it would have used it at a much earlier stage in the design process. In fact Superscape UK sales manager Richard Peers suggested that virtual reality could be used in the very early conceptual phase of a project. He said the basic plans and designs can be built using virtual reality, enabling everyone involved actually to visualise their early plans, and see what will and won’t work. Files can then be downloaded from Superscape’s VRT system into a computer-aided design package, where the technical details can be ad ded. Barber began work on the model in 1994 and said it has spent about ú25,000 to date on the development. However, it said a lot of time was taken creating basic objects such as pipes and pumps, which will now be stored in the object library for re-use on any similar project. Existing objects from a computer-aided package can also be downloaded into the VRT library. Superscape’s philosophy is to make virtual reality available to everyone with a personal computer and it admits that the ever-increasing speed of Intel Corp processors enables its software to run quicker and more efficiently. While it believes that there will be increasing take-up of virtual reality in the construction engineering business, it said it had been amazed by the wealth and quality of applications demonstrated at its recent worldwide reseller conference, proving that virtual reality as a serious business tool is very much a reality.

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