xSpace is a new type of tool for large engineering projects. xSpace allows everyone involved in the project to step inside structures that are still on the drawing board or during various stages of construction. Management, design, engineering, clients and construction teams can all walk around inside a design that feels like it has already been built. This allows people to use their full body cognition and intuition to recognise opportunities, mistakes or shortcomings which is just not possible viewing the same design on a screen or a plan. ‘It lets you live the design prior to it being built’
Multiple people can be in the same space at the same time, allowing meetings where participants can easily discuss design or construction concepts and ideas in context. Construction supervisors can schedule the order and tasks of each trade in a confined space, engineers can discuss change requests with each other, management or trades. All of this is possible regardless of geographic location. Experts can join these conversations too, from wherever they are.
xSpace is essentially a knowledge transfer tool; it is the ideal way for engineers, designers or supervisors to communicate knowledge, ideas and concepts. Perhaps you have had the experience of talking to someone where you don’t entirely share a language. On the phone it can be impossible, email the same but slower. Gestures and mime can help to convey ideas but taking the person to show them the problem helps much more.
xSpace is custom technology designed specifically to improve design, collaboration and productivity on large and complex engineering projects. There are several unique systems that work together to provide a seamless experience of the future.
How can we move around the project? Essentially through natural movement and for bigger distances, teleportation. Using room-scale sensors to detect movement of both the individual and the hand controllers, movement is as natural as being in a room - bend down and your point of view changes, step forward and things get closer. For larger jumps beyond the ‘room’, teleportation allows movement between decks, from bow to stern or between ships. This is aided by a magic carpet so there is something beneath your feet at all times and an indication of your ‘future self’ showing where you will be after teleportation.
Movement is up to the individual, independent of others or the space. This means personal perspective, observation and movement occur inside the space or rooms. This helps with stability and clarity but also helps to establish a personal sense of scale, proportion and continuity. All of this adds up to a stable and ‘life-like’ experience.
Being able to move around and interact independently offers the opportunity to explore the entire project as if it were already built, at all scales from a birds-eye view to detailed close-up. In addition, there are tools to help understand the model even better.
- Laser pointer - share a point of focus, select items and interrogate metadata.
- Layers - turn different layers on or off to see the complex nature of modern ships and the interrelationships of different systems, furniture and equipment.
- X-Ray - what’s behind or inside this wall?
- Magic Measure - accurate immediate measurement of any aspect of the project.
- Mannequin - Add a human figure to the scene to see how real people will fit.
Having more than one person experiencing a virtual space at once allows for conversations, debates, demonstrations and other ‘real world’ interactions between people. Using advanced network technology to sync the space and audio from all locations, these interactions are possible from anywhere - from the same building, across town or across the world. All participants are represented with a head and hand controllers in distinguishing colours, which allows head gestures and hand gestures to be communicated in a natural and human manner, adding an extra dimension of richness. You quickly forget that the other participants are not there in the room with you.
To capture decisions, experiences and what has been learned, a series of tools allows for the recording of these things as agreed by the participants inside the virtual space itself without changing the original model. These changes can then be passed to the design team where the design model is revised and re-imported for further discussion, often within a day. Tools to support this capture of ideas include:
- Paint - adding lines, arrows, circles and other signs in 3D within the model together with the ability to undo, remove or play back.
- Measurements - while useful for exploration, the use of measurements to enhance communication is also possible because these can be left in the model or captured in other ways
- Photos - a camera is provided to capture photos of the space, suggested changes such as painted forms, measurements or even for further discussion. These pictures are saved and time and place stamped for future reference.
- Interviews - an interview tool is provided to enable the capture of a concise summary of decisions, expert opinion or just perceptions of those in the space to be quickly summarised and saved for future reference.