Simulation Modeling Meets Virtual Reality

By Markus Cueva
Updated on Apr 3, 2020, originally posted on Feb 12, 2016
Virtual reality in a simulation model


Do you remember the commercial for Samsung’s Gear VR? At the time, it wasn’t what I’d expect from a virtual reality device—because we barely even saw Samsung’s new virtual reality headset. Instead, the commercial was careful to stay away from the geeky, unwieldy look the technology had in a recent Time Magazine cover. Viewers see NBA superstar LeBron James and a bunch of average people. They all go about their daily routines while lip syncing to a popular 90’s rap hit.

The message is clear: virtual reality isn’t just a toy for video gamers.

Industry has already caught on to virtual reality, and so has FlexSim. If you didn't known, our software supports the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and OpenVR. It's really easy to do, too—just check a box for “VR Mode” and enjoy virtual tours of simulation runs in FlexSim.

Why would you care about virtual reality in a simulation model? Well, this technology is already used and accepted by companies like Ford, BAE Systems, and Audi to benefit different aspects of their operations. For simulation modeling, there are a few key positives that you just might want to take advantage of.

Avoid costly design mistakes

The early returns here are promising. Are you interested in catching design flaws that would have otherwise been missed, resulting in big cost savings? Ford is already doing this with their vehicles, and it’s helping them be more agile and responsive to problems. Their VR specialist, Elizabeth Baron, said, “In the past we would have had to build a physical model to see how change would impact our design.”

It doesn’t take a big leap to see how system design could have a similar impact. One FlexSim user has a 3D Cave that engineers use to validate processes and layouts. This allows them to avoid costly design mistakes. They explained their virtual reality needs to us: “Unfortunately due to cost and availability, we are not able to use [the 3D Cave] as often as we would like. VR headsets could serve as a powerful alternative to the significantly more expensive 3D Cave environment.” That wait is over—FlexSim users can enjoy visualizing with this cheaper device.

Share a new level of understanding

Virtual reality also offers engineers the gift of perspective and immersion. A FlexSim user told us, “The ability to work with immersive 3D factories opens up very interesting possibilities in terms of new facility/process development.”

FlexSim Virtual Reality
Experience your FlexSim models in a whole new way by using the Oculus Rift.

Last year, we saw several companies use FlexSim as a visual tool to sell projects to potential clients. Even in early stages of a project, they were able to paint a compelling picture of future value. The short videos they made of their simulation models brought projects to life before they even got off the ground.

What they also did was get people talking. Talking about the system, about something they never noticed before, and about a new idea they just had. Virtual reality adds a deeper dimension to this experience. It was amazing to watch seasoned professionals put on a headset and walk through a FlexSim model. Most of these educators and engineers have seen thousands of models in their careers. They were all giddy and excited as they ventured into an unfamiliar virtual world.

The Experience. That’s what Samsung’s commercial was really about, and it’s the best chance virtual reality has to stick around in the mainstream. As for industry, it looks like many companies are already invested enough to keep the technology, and its benefits, around for years to come. Whenever you’re ready for a fresh, educational perspective on your simulation models, grab a VR headset and experience virtual reality through FlexSim.

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Value Stream Mapping + Simulation

Where does simulation fit in with (and how does it benefit) a Lean process improvement analysis? Our free eBook examines how simulation compares and contrasts with value stream mapping (VSM)—and shows why simulation products like FlexSim are a great way to take your project to the next level.