The emerging technology behind virtual reality (VR) presents exciting opportunities for the future, while the role it may play in our lives going forward is the subject of strong debate. But VR is also being heralded as a tool to drive business revenue. So what’s it like to actually work with VR within a design project? Recently, Veryday explored using VR in medtech and we have some learnings to share from that experience.
Designing with VR
When a user puts on a pair of VR goggles they’re immediately immersed in a simulated digital environment. Head movement is tracked, so what the user sees matches that movement. It’s in this virtual space that designers can import their CAD models, and the user is then able to visually interact with full-scale, 3D simulations of these models. At Veryday we’ve found VR to be a valuable tool for helping disseminate research insights and for communicating designs to clients and customers. An immersive VR experience allows for fast and efficient capture of stakeholder feedback early in the development process, greatly improving the quality of design research data while minimizing costs and time invested.
A valuable communication tool
During the early stages of the development process in a recent Veryday engagement on medtech equipment, it was critical to gain input from healthcare professionals in multiple markets to determine design direction. This was an important crossroads since the options at hand would dramatically influence the development roadmap. However, because of the equipment’s complexity and scale it was difficult to communicate design options to stakeholders. Since testing was to take place in various countries and because of constraints on time and resources, it was not possible to create full-scale physical models. Portability was also a consideration. In addition to the traditional approach of sharing images during a presentation, the team ultimately decided to use VR to present its designs to healthcare professionals.
Option A looked so large in the pictures you showed before, but here in VR, it really isn’t any bigger than my current machine. I get the whole thing now, this is great! Makes it much easier to give you an informed answer.
– Head of Clinic
Based on their experience with and knowledge of current technology, many healthcare professionals had initially misinterpreted the size of a design they’d been shown in a presentation. Once they had the opportunity to interact with full-scale design representations in VR, their point of view changed dramatically and positive feedback was reported. Our designers learned that VR can be an extremely valuable tool for conveying the size and form of design concepts – especially in the early stages of development and when working with complex, large-scale equipment where images alone may not communicate the true experience.
Truly immersive experience prototypes
Our design team discovered another exciting application of VR during another medtech project that involved large medical equipment. In this case, designers experimented with combining VR and physical props to create an immersive experience prototype. They wanted to communicate their ideas on the future patient experience by having key stakeholders go through the experience themselves –this time in VR. The team built a hospital environment and the envisioned medical equipment in VR, then paired it with a mock-up of a treatment bed for the participant to lie on while wearing VR goggles. By aligning physical movements of the user with digital simulation, the designers had built a truly immersive and dynamic experience using minimal resources.
A powerful, resource-saving approach
In our experience, VR is becoming a powerful tool in medtech development and beyond – especially when working with large-scale equipment and environments. It facilitates the easy sharing of experiences with teams, clients and customers, and opens up new possibilities for how to prototype experiences and communicate design vision. Working with VR is quick, inexpensive and requires less physical resources. But to fully embrace its possibilities, you’ll need to bring new competencies into your design development process.
Using VR as a communication tool early in the design process has saved weeks of development time, led to more accurate insights from stakeholders, and enabled us to quickly focus efforts on a single concept – which significantly decreased expenses. We look forward to more adventures in VR!