Airports are busy places, with announcements, people everywhere and flights to catch. Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) wanted its customers to easily find their way through and around Brisbane Airport. So, in flew Aurecon with a virtual reality experience for BAC to test their wayfinding layout for Brisbane Airport.
"We were confident that we could build our client a solution they’d never seen before. One that would make their design decisions easier," said Damian Murphy, Aurecon Project Leader.
Wearing virtual reality goggles and being immersed in the simulated airport terminal, BAC representatives made design decisions on wayfinding signs and objects in real time, for instant feedback.
BAC put Aurecon on a challenging path, to help them compare wayfinding design options to ultimately achieve the best possible layout for their customers and staff. Aurecon rose to the challenge and worked in collaboration with BAC and their Wayfinding consultant Büro North.
As part of both the Brisbane International Terminal Entry Control Point Upgrade and the Wayfinding Upgrades – Skywalk (Domestic Terminal) Project, Aurecon developed virtual reality models of the proposed design areas. The models enabled BAC to understand the design at a human scale, in a way that has never been possible before.
BAC not only evaluated the position of pre-populated wayfinding elements provided by Büro North, they could manipulate and move signs and other objects, and test multiple scenarios at once. This was truly designing in real time for instant feedback.
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Users moved through the space in the same manner as an arriving passenger and evaluated the effectiveness of the wayfinding solutions.
“Virtual reality is creating entirely new ways of experiencing our projects; it is human-centred design at its best, and the closest we can come to realising a project prior to construction. After all, what better way to truly understand the impact of a design than to experience it from the perspective of the end user,” said Murphy.
Further functionality was added to the Domestic Skywalk model after continued engagement with BAC, including the ability to quickly sketch walls into an environment, add pedestrian models to increase the feeling of realism, and to create ‘hotspots’ where multiple design options could be toggled on or off for instant visual feedback.
Virtual reality has the benefit of presenting tangible outputs from a thought, a 2D drawing, an idea. The overwhelming ‘aha moment’ of the client is one of realisation that they can test, modify and understand their designs as just a human inside a space.
“The unique ability to immerse a user ‘inside’ the project makes virtual reality the perfect tool not just to visualise, but to design virtually for real-world construction,” said Aurecon's Murphy.
“Airports are complex environments. Think about all the disparate factors coexisting in an airport on any given day. Ease of passenger flow and the ability for a passenger to get from Point A to Point B effectively is paramount," continues Murphy.
“Virtual reality gave Aurecon and BAC a risk-free and fully immersive environment to make wayfinding design decisions. We were able to turn a virtual reality experience into a positive real-world passenger experience."
Three essential components were travelling companions on this project to take a virtual reality experience and turn it into a positive real-world passenger experience; Collaboration, Possibility and Going Mobile.
Brisbane Airport Corporate (BAC) was on board from the start. With a client ready to do something they’ve never done before meant expectations were high but so was ambition.
Collaboration with BAC was a key component of the project, especially important considering Aurecon was building bespoke functionality designed to meet their needs. Together, the platform was refined, expanded on and updated with real-time design changes taking place on site.
Collaboration with BAC was a key component of designing the ultimate wayfinding layout for Brisbane Airport.
A prime example was when the key security stakeholders viewed the virtual reality model. They noticed the height of glass panels would work better if adjusted. An urgent call to the fabricators changed the height of the balustrade before construction commenced. This provided greater certainty and reassurance for the onsite construction works.
The customisable nature of game engines allowed Aurecon to create a truly bespoke solution to solve specific problems. Used in conjunction with Virtual Reality, the compelling experiences allowed BAC to experience and interrogate their designs in ways that were never previously possible.
The nature of virtual reality creates more meaning for clients through an enjoyable experience that provides valued outcomes (not to mention using the latest in digital disruption tools).
It’s a very ‘honest’ experience, and the clarity and promotion of shared understanding that comes from being inside a design is a real, demonstrable value.
After completion of the model, Aurecon travelled to the Brisbane International Terminal and set up a temporary virtual reality space onsite, allowing more than 15 Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) employees including CEO Julieanne Alroe to experience the model.
These employees came from a variety of backgrounds and roles, and allowed BAC to capture a broad cross section of feedback and understanding about the proposed wayfinding changes.
“We took the mobile kit to Brisbane Airport so as many BAC staff and project stakeholders could experience the virtual reality model and have a hand in designing the wayfinding layouts,” said Murphy.
In addition to the general positive feedback regarding the effectiveness of the virtual reality experience, real design issues were identified and resolved.
Aurecon firmly believes we are at the beginning of a paradigm shift that will continue to challenge our ideas of how we interact with models, data and reality.
This powerful form of collaboration, using virtual reality, now has Aurecon applying digital engineering solutions to other aviation projects across the globe.