OpenVR: supporting collaborative maritime design processes with VR

Virtual Reality (VR) technology is reaching new levels of fidelity and immersion at affordable prices. What does that mean for maritime designers?

The OpenVR project explores the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in collaborative maritime design processes. The objective is to understand what VR-enhanced design activities may better support the collaborative work of the different discipline experts and expert users working together in maritime design processes.

Vard ship design concept. Design and render Jon Fauske

The technological backdrop

The rate of release and improvement of new solutions in hardware and software has accelerated recently, with important implications on the practical implementation of VR in design processes.

Both software and hardware are rapidly changing. What does that mean for maritime designers?

On the software front, the new generation of game engines such as Unreal 5 will significantly lower the cost of converting 3D assets to VR scenes, thanks to new technology enabling the use of models with hundreds of millions of polygons. The ambition is to reach a point where real models can be scanned into point clouds models and directly used in VR scenes. Software for recognition and reconstruction of human presence based upon photos, videos and volumetric capture will enable to include realistic representations of humans in VR scenes, thus improving the feeling of immersion.

On the hardware front, a new generation of Head-Mounted-Displays (HMD) headsets now enable plug-and-play VR experiences without the need to use a powerful PC and to install dedicated software. Although still on the low-fidelity side of the market, such solutions offer increasingly better resolution and frame rates. On the high-fidelity side of the market, the combination of new graphic cards and 8K HMDs offer an unparalleled degree of photorealism and fluidity, at a reasonable cost.

With OpenVR we will explore meaningful uses for these exciting technology developments.

The OpenVR ambitions

The vision for OpenVR is that VR will become fully integrated in real industrial design processes and workplaces. Our ambition is that VR-enhanced design process will:

  1. be compatible with, and complementary to design activities currently in use in maritime design processes; meaning that they do not require drastic modifications of current design processes
  2. be cost-effective, meaning that each added cost may be offset or compensated by a potential saving in the short and/or long term in the design process
  3. be focused upon the needs of their users, for instance discipline experts and expert users participating to collaborative maritime design processes

OpenVR is run by the Ocean industries concept lab (OICL) at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway. The academic partners include the University of South-Eastern Norway, and University College London. The industrial partners include a ship design and building company, a ship bridge systems designer and manufacturer, a navigation and communication systems integration and distribution company, a CAD software company, and a volumetric video capture company.

OpenVR is co-funded by its industry partners and The Research Council of Norway.

Project partners