Johan Germishuys isn’t a stranger to virtual reality (VR). He first encountered one of the earliest versions in the 1990s as a teenager. “We visited my uncle who had this bulky headset, and my brother and I just had to try playing games with it. We fell down a lot, and it was definitely a different experience than today,” he laughingly recounts.

Fast-forward to the present and his entirely different and modern use of VR. As Director of Digital Solutions for Engineering Services Canada at AtkinsRéalis, Germishuys and his team oversee building information management (BIM) and digital twins for projects ranging from infrastructure to healthcare. “Everything is driven around data, so having access to information becomes very important,” he says.

Over the past few years, they began introducing VR to address accessibility and design review issues. According to Germishuys, there’s only so much you can do with a monitor.

“We brought tools like Prospect by IrisVR into our design process and teams discovered issues that otherwise would have taken a much longer time to get to,” he says. “The level of coordination and collaboration is significantly accelerated with VR.”

“On a screen, you really have to struggle to look around, trying to move and pan,” he continues. “The keyboard and mouse are two of the biggest hindrances. And with every software update or change, I may have to teach someone to navigate again. With XR, all those problems disappear because you’re using your body and eyes to look and engage with the environment around you. No training is needed for that.”

Solving workflow challenges

VR became a central tool for Germishuys’ team during COVID. Since then, they use it for a variety of applications, from owner meetings to coordination with construction and engineers and weekly design reviews. At one point, they even used VR for a concert venue to see what the view of the stage would be like from hotels or other outside vantage points.

“I can’t overstate the value I personally see by going into a model on a 1:1 scale,” Germishuys says. “It’s amazing how easy it is to pick up issues so quickly by simply being in the environment.”

However, those benefits were still plagued by the amount of time it took to download and convert the model for VR, share it, update with changes, and then upload again. On larger projects with 150 or more people involved, it was a strenuous exercise to continually leave the environment and track issues. With the new release of Autodesk Workshop XR, Germishuys is excited for an entirely new, integrated experience.

“I don’t have to do the entire download and upload processes and then share it because the experience is now completely within Autodesk Construction Cloud,” Germishuys says. “I have full access to the latest information that everyone has published.” The new Console in Workshop XR also makes issue logging and tracking much easier. Now, it’s the same look-and-feel in ACC and the XR experience. “To me, it’s an absolutely great time for the industry to start moving toward a seamless information exchange.” Germishuys says.

“I am pleasantly surprised by how easy it is to use Workshop XR with the Meta Quest headset. You can just download the software, confirm the code on the screen, and it is done. Wow! It didn’t take more than a minute. Thanks to the untethered experience, I can immediately start walking through the design without the connection to a computer. This is how easy and seamless it is.”

— Johan Germishuys, Director of Digital Solutions for Engineering Services Canada, AtkinsRéalis

Germishuys and his team often work on very large models. These models can be large in the sense of the amount of polygons, file data, or actual geographical size. Now that Workshop XR solves the preparation with ACC integration, it also delivers a new solution to viewing these models in the actual VR experience. Previously, it could take hours to process a model.

“Workshop XR can immediately load some of the largest models we’ve personally seen and run on a standalone headset,” Germishuys says. “The fact that Autodesk has been able to develop Workshop XR to load very large, complicated models is a real testament to the amount of work that they’ve put into it.”

With the release of Workshop XR, Germishuys believes everyone can find a new benefit no matter their role.

“With products like Workshop XR, we are moving to a more connected world,” he says. “It’s where we can interact more naturally with our clients, designers, engineers, constructors, and more. Everyone can gain insights and appreciation of what is physically going to happen from the design through construction. I absolutely encourage everyone to try it at least once. You won’t regret it.”