This project was set up in collaboration with Network Rail to visualise their high quality CAD model of Blackfriars train station in real time. The core requirement was to enable them to user the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset to explore the environment in real time, to provide a more accurate idea of how new features that are added to the CAD model will appear to someone walking through the station. Specifically, they wanted to see how a new ramp that will make it easier for wheelchair users to access the trains will look.
The main challenge with this project was model complexity. The full station model was made up of several components, some of which were highly detailed. Having such highly detailed models is ideal for CAD visualisations, as it will increase the realism at the expense of increased rendering time. However, for real time visualisation of an environment, using such complex models is not always necessary or desirable.
To address this, we identified the areas of the model that were unnecessarily high detailed and then ran algorithms to reduce the complexity without affecting the fidelity of the model, or having a significant impact on the perceived visual quality. Once this was completed, the CAD model was converted into a virtual environment, and several advanced processing techniques were applied to ensure that the scene was useable in real-time. The reality of the environment was enhanced by adding people with basic movement and behaviour, and trains that arrive and depart from the platforms.
Different versions of the software were created to work using the Oculus Rift headset, a normal computer screen and on mobile devices. Users are able to interact with the simulation using different interaction devices such as a game pad, normal mouse and keyboard, and the mobile device touch screen and gyroscope.
Static CAD renderings and recording walk-through videos are commonly used to present new designs and ideas to stakeholders and clients. The problem with this is that if the client wants to see a view that has not been recorded, for example, how a room looks if you turn around, a new static image or animation has to be recorded. This can take hours or even days to complete, depending on the complexity and available computational power. By using a combination of these high quality, static visualisations and an interactive virtual environment to view new designs and layouts, clients and stakeholders can see both what the realistic finished product will look like, and how the scene will appear from any angle or position.