Infrastructure is a very broad word. The dictionary defines infrastructure as “the fundamental facilities and systems serving a country, city, or area, as transportation and communication systems, power plants, and schools.”
But whilst infrastructure in business aviation has traditionally meant physical infrastructure, there has been a shift towards virtual infrastructure, which has accelerated in recent years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This shift has not only taken place in business aviation but is also happening in other industries as well.
Before the pandemic, the use of VR in business aviation had been picking up pace, although its use had been limited to a few select roles. These included maintenance training, where a trainee mechanic can don a VR headset, and explore the inner workings of a business jet, all from the comfort of his or her desk. It is also used by larger charter operators to show potential clients around the inside of aircraft that they could charter, again by potential clients using heavy and uncomfortable VR headsets.
One company that has been at the forefront of using Virtual Reality in business aviation is Dassault. As well as training mechanics using the aforementioned VR headsets, the French manufacturer was the cornerstone OEM at the recent Asian Sky Group Virtual Exhibition and Conference (ASGVEC).
ASGVEC was the first business aviation event to be held in the Metaverse – where users have their own avatar and can wander freely around a world without the need to use a cumbersome VR headset. Dassault, as one of the exhibitors, saw the potential of the Metaverse early and designed its own section of ASGVEC where it could display 3D virtual models of its business jets. These were faithfully recreated from the manufacturer’s own CAD files, and were photo-realistic, even down to the double stitching in the seats.
Whilst the models looked fantastic from the outside, they looked even better on the inside, as attendees could go onboard the aircraft and have a good look around. Attendees could even sit in any of the seats and start up a conversation with anybody inside using their own webcams which appeared on the face of their avatar – all from within the Metaverse, without the need for any eternal programs.
Dassault’s experience during ASGVEC led it to sign a lease on its part of ASGVEC for a full year. Rather than leave Dassault World gathering virtual dust until the next ASGVEC event, Dassault will use its world as a permanent online showroom. Dassault can now take potential clients on board an aircraft within five minutes of meeting them, rather than having to wait for an air show or demonstrator aircraft to visit them. By doing this Dassault can not only speed up the sales process but save thousands and thousands of dollars each year, as it will be able to host meetings in its own world, without having to send its sales team out to all but the most serious of prospects.
Dassault’s early adoption of the Metaverse shows just one of its potential uses and what can be achieved. As well as a digital showroom, the Metaverse can be used for many different purposes, some temporary, and some more permanent.
One of those temporary uses was realized recently, with a company hosting an internal meeting in the ASGVEC auditorium. Another company will host an upcoming press conference using the ASGVEC platform and will have a 3D virtual version of its new product on display so that attendees can see and walk around it, rather than just seeing pictures and videos of it.
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