Multimodal interaction with BIM data in immersive virtual reality


Leandro Alves, Sara Eloy, Miguel Sales Dias, Tiago Pedro, Nuno Almeida, Filipe Gaspar


The use of new computing technologies in architecture design has evolved the working methods and the way designers relate with the space they are designing. To express their ideas, designers use tools such as physical scale models of buildings in urban settings, sketches and rigorous drawings that are often difficult to understand by non-designers. Therefore, it is common that architect designers have some difficulties when discussing with different stakeholders about their projects. Improving the communication between architects and other experts in the full-life cycle of building design, including architecture, engineering, construction and maintenance stakeholders, is therefore mandatory and require the introduction of new tools. The adoption of BIM (Building Information Model) standards, models, processes and support tools in AEC – Architecture, Engineering and Construction, is bringing considerable benefits to the industry, by providing physical and functional information about the different elements of the design, in a structured, standard and interoperable way, during its different stages (conceptual design, detailed design, construction and maintenance), facilitating the collaboration among professionals of architecture and of different engineering specialties. The usage of BIM enables not only efficient design and documentation of all the building design parts, but also automatic identification of design errors or clashes amongst the design proposals of different specialties, that often arise during the design process. The use of BIM allows designers to have a quick access to more detailed and structured information about all components of the building model in 3D (Carvalho, 2012). In this paper, we combine the potential brought by BIM standards to AEC processes, with the recent trends and results taken from human-computer interaction (HCI). As a result, our system supports the visualization and interaction with 3D BIM models of buildings, at full scale in an immersive virtual reality (VR) environment, using natural and multimodal HCI, namely, combining gesture with speech. We ́ve carried usability and user satisfaction evaluation with a panel of architects, engineers and architect students and our research shows that such an environment allows a deeper understanding of the work throughout the design process and improve the communication between AEC specialties, during design briefs. We have concluded also, that our technology offers great benefits during all the stages of design, from the initial phase of conceptual design until the detailed stages up to the construction work. The practical experimentation of our in-house developed system, was possible by taking advantage of the virtual reality facilities of ISCTE-IUL, namely, its PocketCAVE lab.


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