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The University of Dayton debuted the Greg and Annie Stevens Intelligent Infrastructure Engineering Lab

Three walls with the projected desktop of the powerful PC needed to run the VR technology.
Garrett Reese
/
WYSO
Three walls with the projected desktop of the powerful PC needed to run the VR technology.

The Intelligent Infrastructure Engineering Lab is up and running at the University of Dayton.

The Greg and Annie Stevens Intelligent Infrastructure Engineering Lab has debuted at the University of Dayton.

The lab has a powerful computer necessary to run the virtual reality, or VR, technology. The computer is connected to four projectors that cast whatever is on the computer’s screen across three walls.

Researchers can take blueprints of a construction site or building and recreate them in VR using the technology in the lab. Once the building has been rendered, its image can be cast on the three walls.

It can also be loaded onto a VR headset to fully immerse a person in the virtual reality immersive environment.

This lets engineering students get virtual tours of buildings that aren’t even built yet.

“The virtual reality lab is a facility to create a 3D virtual immersive environment for a lot of different research projects,” Jack Hui Wang, an assistant professor with the Department of Civil Engineering and director of the VR lab, said. “For example, in civil engineering it can be a really good tool for project review, progress reports, and infrastructure inspection.”

One of the programs on the lab’s computer is a VR environment of the Roger Glass Center for the Arts that is currently under construction on the corner of Main and Stewart streets. In the program, you can walk around the building to see what it should look like once it is finished.

It also allows for students and professionals to see how electric, HVAC, and water systems should work in the building. That way, not only can students get hands-on experience with these systems but experts can check for any issues without ever needing to step foot in the building.

The lab also allows for shareholders and donors a chance to see what the finished product will look like.

Researchers at the lab are also utilizing the technology for a different purpose: safety training.

Another program they have at their disposal is a construction site awareness training program. Around 15 people die on construction sites every day, and the researchers hope that this training program can help lower those numbers.

The program puts you in a virtual environment on the side of a highway. Your job is to sweep debris off the road while two pieces of heavy machinery operate around you. The goal is to sweep all of the debris while paying constant attention to the machinery operating around you. If you don’t, the program shows you getting “run over” by one of the machines.

The idea is that when workers experience “an accident” in the VR environment, they’ll become more aware when they’re in the real thing.

“During the safety training, the trainees’ physical behavior and physiological responses are continuously recorded,” Namgyun Kim, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, said. “And then based on that data, we can analyze how many hazards they perceived, or how quickly they react to the exposed hazard.”

While a worker is wearing the VR headset and going through the training program, they’re constantly being monitored: their eye movement, eye dilation, and how they move their body are all recorded.

Wang and Kim believe that with the virtual reality immersive environment, construction sites will become safer and more effective than ever before.

Garrett is a WYSO intern and graduate of University of Dayton. He spent time covering the Dayton area with WDTN Channel 2 News after the 2019 Memorial Day Tornado outbreak. It was around this time that he began listening to NPR and fell in love with radio-based journalism. Garrett graduated from UD in May of 2021 with his Bachelor’s in Communications with a focus in journalism and graduated in May of 2022 with his Master’s. While not working at WYSO, Garrett is an avid reader, loves to play video games, and hanging out with his friends.