Is Virtual Reality for Real?

by Harry Goldstein, Assistant Editor; Civil Engineering, 345 E. 47 St., New York, NY 10017,

Serial Information: Civil Engineering—ASCE, 1995, Vol. 65, Issue 6, Pg. 45-48

Document Type: Feature article

Errata: (See full record)


Virtual reality, an advanced visualization technology, will change certain aspects of civil engineering. The method allows people to simulate conditions, render designs and test these before proceeding to the next stage of a project. Research is being done on software programs that link real-time construction schedules with 3-CAD designs and animate projects to create images. Stanford University and the Dillingham Construction Co. are working together on a project involving construction of a new hospital around an existing one. Researchers developed a model that helps hospital staff and suppliers see how they have to coordinate operations with the construction schedule. Using the system, engineers can see conflicts early in the planning process and avoid them and also visualize the iterative effect of a particular change on other aspects of the construction. Greiner Inc., is developing virtual reality capabilities in-house. According to the firm's senior animator, the equipment can cost as much as $500,000, and most clients aren't willing to pay for virtual reality yet. Greiner uses the system to visualize complicated buildings and other projects. They can tie a building construction procedure to a time line, for example. The method is also used for traffic flow simulations and toll booth operations. Virtual reality modeling language was standardized in early 1995 and this will enhance the development of this technology. Hypertext Markup Language is another vital tool relating to virtual reality, in that it allows users to create hyperlinks to other documents, graphics and Web sites, which in turn enables users to achieve. The San Diego Supercomputer Center is active in this effort and have a new repository on the World Wide Web for exchanging information, software and utilities related to the virtual reality markup language.

Subject Headings: Construction management | Imaging techniques | Computer software | Scheduling | Health care facilities | Traffic models | Traffic flow | Flow simulation | California | United States

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