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AR/VR

Published on July 30th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise

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XR5 Quick Case Study: Jill Spaeh, BASF Construction Chemicals Division

The XR5 are five specific questions about the development and delivery of an enterprise XR solution

Today’s Guest: Jill Spaeh, Global VDC / BIM Integration Manager at BASF Construction Chemicals Division

Jill Spaeh is a Global Virtual Design & Construction (VDC) Specialist for BASF’s construction product manufacturer Master Builders Solutions.  She is an architect with over 25 years in the industry, holds a Master’s in Architecture with a focus on building physics and is passive house certified. She is part of a network spearheading the global implementation of Virtual Design Construction solutions and Building Information Modeling workflows for the Chemical Construction Industry.

The XR5

XR1: What was the trigger that initiated your XR project and what metrics did you set in place to confirm that it was successful? (“triggers” might be a specific business problem, a stakeholder request, a desire to pilot a POC, etc.)

At Master Builders Solutions, we have an extensive building information modeling (BIM) object and digital content library for our customers. We wanted to also use the content to further their understanding of our products as well as to the type of projects in which to use them. We used our BIM content in the process of creating the digital twin for the VR immersive experience.

XR2: Can you walk us through your process from concept to completion and talk about how you chose the hardware/software, the team members utilized and any other important requirements?

Beginning in 2015, we began engaging customers with an extended reality (XR) experience at trade shows and customer engagements.  Being a global company, we wanted XR experiences that could be easily transported and modified to various languages. We began this effort using Google Cardboard VR goggles. In the beginning, participants would download a mobile app and then later scan a QR-code that would take them to the experience. They would then place their mobile phone into the goggles to view the experience. The Cardboard goggles could then be taken back to their offices and shared with colleagues. When in 2018, with the development of the Global Virtual Design & Construction Network, we quickly saw the connection of BIM content with the use of our tools and how it could fit together with a VR experience.

The XR project involved from contributions many team members including:

  • Colleagues from the sales team directly connected to the products
  • A software specialist
  • VR consultants
  • Global Virtual Design & Construction (GVDC) team members
  • GVDC BIM Content Manager

XR3: What steps did you take in order to assure an engaging user experience?

As our tools became more sophisticated, we quickly moved on to developing a more immersive experience using an Oculus Quest VR headset . The main motivation was to show customers and take people on a journey to places that cannot be easily visited due to safety or current facility operational constraints. An equally important goal was to create interest and excitement about our customer tools and a connection to our digital content for BIM workflows. We used the virtual experience to improve the interface between the reality of a site and our legacy of product innovation and technology. This experience was developed through a BIM model in the form of a digital twin.  This experience enables a conversation between an architect, owner, and an engineer to see our various technologies and digital content in a setting in which they can compare products, viewing them side-by-side. The immersive experience also provided a cross-generational link and allowed them to gain insights into the functions and problems that arise over the extended use of a facility.

BIM modelling software was used in order to create the digital twin of the plant. Typical repair and maintenance problems, which are often encountered in a wastewater treatment plant, were depicted in the model. In our live immersive booth set-up, physical panels were provided in which participants were able to locate and touch the damage found. The experience continued as they then selected tools and products and were able to make the necessary repairs. Once the repair was made, another panel was provided which allowed participant to touch the repair and feel first-hand what the materials felt like. When the Oculus headset was removed, the users could see the material as well.

XR4: What were your initial findings after launching the solution including confirmed expectations, surprises, problems, user feedback or any other revelations?

Benefits of these initial pilots included that the experiences were more memorable, interactive, intuitive, had lower costs and a shorter learning curve. One of the drawbacks was that the quality of the experience was very elementary. The cardboard VR glasses were used to show mostly products but the connection to user tools was not completely clear to the user.  The complete immersive experience changed this created last year made an instant connection and solved this.

We learned about many aspects of the Customer Experience (CX):

  • a customer’s adoption was very quick to VR/AR technology and the experience was very effective in helping them retain more knowledge about our products
  • it was a fun and memorable experience
  • customers enjoy and are curious about emerging technology, such as VR
  • customers were interested to see how, a materials manufacturer, was using VR 
  • key clients requested private demonstrations in their offices/regions

We also had many findings about the experiences of our employees:

  • pilot validation was obtained directly from VR experiences with customers and approved to continue/expand
  • VR experiences provided tech awareness to both customers and our internal staff
  • our salespeople could better explain our products through the immersive experience.
  • our social media feeds, website and VDC landing page received considerable upswing in hits and visits
  • visits to our YouTube videos almost quadrupled

XR5: Now that the XR solution is in the field what are your next steps with the technology? (“Next steps” might be scaling it in other parts of your company, releasing a 2.0, or rethinking the tech)

We learned many valuable lessons during the project and we will now do things differently as we continue to develop more experiences. Lessons learned include:

  • Our salespeople, who are the product experts, must also be trained in how VR works and how the experience is linked to BIM, our product’s digital content, and how the construction industry is advancing with emerging technologies
  • We will get more business-initiated input to help enhance the sense of shared-ownership on the part of the businesses
  • We would like to improve our interfaces to make them more intuitive
  • We will improve VR content to actually give more tangible information about our products
  • We would like to enhance the learning experience to make it seamless between virtual and reality to enhance blended learning
  • We will continue to work to become part of our customer’s and employee’s everyday work, lighten the load and support them digitally getting them the information they need when they need it with tools like XR

Emergent Enterprise receives no compensation from the companies or individuals spotlighted in the XR5 Quick Case Study series. The XR5 Quick Case Study series is for informational purposes only. Please contact Scott McCormick at scottm@emergent-enterprise.com if you would like your organization’s enterprise XR case study to be featured as an XR5. Top photo source: Photo by Lux Interaction on Unsplash

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