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VIRTUAL REALITY WAS COMING TO CHANGE US ANYWAY; the global COVID pandemic just gave it a big push.
Now one company, The Wild, is setting its compass on the future of work and collaboration post-Covid. Focused on the AEC and related design industries, The Wild has compelling, immersive presentation and collaboration technologies that pick up where Zoom meetings often fail us.
The Covid Impact—Remote Meetings
“When we came out of beta, we were very focused on ‘immersive collaboration’—this idea of meeting not just in the context of your 3D model but with all your BIM information with you, in context and with a group of people,” says Gabe Paez, founder, and CEO of The Wild. “Then, once Covid hit, the value of that proposition suddenly was there; immersive collaboration from anywhere world was the next best thing to actually being in meetings with people.”
When we came out of beta, we were very focused on ‘immersive collaboration’—this idea of meeting not just in the context of your 3D model but with all your BIM information with you, in context, and with a group of people.
Paez says part of that value prop isn’t just dealing with the remote workforce, but how to work with your clients when they are also isolated and operating remotely.
“So that was a big shift, and it was interesting for us around that time in early 2020 to see some of these prospects that had been looking at The Wild, often for six or more months, suddenly pull the trigger. It was right in Q2 that things sort of just blew up.”
At that point, explains Paez, The Wild, as a small company, was going through its own new adjustments due to the pandemic and had to meet a new pandemic-driven demand suddenly.
Covid and the Long-View of the Workplace
Paez saw during the pandemic year how different architects were being affected. He said from their view, a lot of the smaller firms got more crushed by the canceled and delayed projects and that it was hard to watch.
“These are companies we have a lot of fondness for because they were our first beta testers and gave us a lot of great feedback,” he noted. “To see them struggle through this period was just heartbreaking.”
Halfway through the year, the residential architectural sector suddenly sped up. And, as millions fled cities and large corporations spoke of letting workers stay remote well into 2021, the future of commercial construction suddenly became the question. “This is the question that The Wild is focused on now,” he adds.
“What is the future of commercial space, retail space, not just in the 2021 period but in the next five to ten years?”
“How has the world changed?” he continues. “And so, how has our process of design changed relative to the future of work? That is the real story we are leaning into right now.”
The Wild’s Present Value Proposition
With some forms of remote work and less business travel already dialed into the near future, AEC professionals and their clients will require digital tools that are very agile. The Wild has comprehensive device and platform (OS) support. In fact, it leads the industry in this aspect. During the pandemic phase, many folks are stuck with the devices they already have wherever they are. The Wild works from virtual reality headsets and both Windows and Mac computers and the iPad and iPhone. You don’t need a VR headset to participate in a group meeting in The Wild.
“If you are accessing The Wild from an iPad in augmented reality (AR), you can be talking to someone who is inside a VR headset, who can also be talking to someone who is on a regular MacBook Pro,” says Paez.
When it debuted in late 2018, The Wild focused on integrating with the US market leaders in AEC software like most VR software tools. They first supported SketchUp, then Revit, and then Autodesk BIM 360. You can also import standard 3D data formats like OBJ and FBX, among others.
How has the world changed? And so, how has our process of design changed relative to the future of work?
Because immersive collaboration with up to eight people is supported, converting speech to text was an essential tool introduced early. Midway in 2019, Revit Add-On support took shape, as did the ability to embed videos on surfaces in models in The Wild. That last feature is clutch for retail design collaboration, which is popular on the platform. Then the company went quiet for nearly six months until ‘Tours’ was announced.
Tours may be the most critical piece of technology from now on. “We laid the foundation [with Tours] for something that I think is a very big idea,” says Paez. “Tours is a series of frames that you orchestrate in space, and each frame is a window where people will be aggregated,” he continues. “They all live inside that frame, and each of them will have the best seat in the house.”
Paez says the way to think about Tours is similar to how we go on “a tour” at a museum of art or a palace tour in Europe. You are led through a series of rooms or spaces and told to observe certain things. Such real-life tours are controlled narratives, and Tours inside The Wild functions similarly but in a virtualized series of not yet completed spaces. “You are not looking at ideas so much as experiencing them,” says Paez.
The Tours now guides the immersive collaborators together, but they can talk to each other separately. There is support for not just viewing the virtual building itself but support for viewing images and video. It means you can actually look at architectural drawings or plans inside of your virtual building. There are native sketching and annotation tools, and you can leave ‘live markups’ and comments for others to review.
For Revit users, you can control layer visibilities. SketchUp’s Components become “assets” in The Wild to use and move around for SketchUp users. Think furniture, lighting, and other items. And with BIM 360 support, users can access The Wild from models stored in that platform. Of course, once inside the wild with VR headsets, users can freely sketch and model in 3D, which is particularly valuable for design collaboration and iteration.
next page: The State of VR Headsets and More…