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VR paves way for passenger-savvy railway stations

Evidentia, a revolutionary VR tool, has been launched by CCD Design and Ergonomics. The product, still at its early stages, enables designers and architects to evaluate human behaviour.

The UK Office of Rail and Road has revealed that 428 million passenger journeys occurred during Q1 of the 2018-19. The busiest station is London Waterloo, which witnessed 99 million arrivals and departures during 2016-17. The efficiency of customer movement is essential.

Rail journeys can go smoother with better wayfinding solutions for the average passenger. Wayfinding involves utilising localised information to assist individuals in finding the best possible route. The idea is to get past hurdles like other passengers, stores and ad placements.

Optimal wayfinding principles are being used currently across newly-constructed railway stations. Passenger flow is the key focus of such mechanisms. Yet, architects and designers have concerns regarding the real-life implementation of plans. Space utilisation can be worrisome.

The advent of VR is addressing such issues, by enabling visualisation of probable designs. UK-based design firm CCD Design and Ergonomics has partnered with Swedish eye-tracking tech connoisseurs Tobii, to launch a VR eye-tracking device called Evidentia. It will help architects receive design feedback during early stages, to enable enhanced station designs for passenger convenience.

Amalgamation of eye-tracking and VR

David Watts, CCD managing director, reveals that a device combining VR and eye-tracking is being developed. It inserts designers and passenger reps into VR scenarios and made to perform specific tasks. The participants are asked to move about and find their trains. Data regarding the visual inclination of participants i.e. what they see and what they don’t, is also being collected.

The feedback can lead to saved costs and faster development times, considering alterations for such public infrastructure. Watts stresses that the technology will help in avoiding expensive alterations, and provide better navigation to the masses.

The technology will help in avoiding expensive alterations, and provide better navigation to the masses.

Implementing wayfinding solutions is hard as decisions are based on data derived from interviews regarding how people interpret signage and surroundings. The same can be said for 3D VR models. Eye-tracking addresses this, through post-VR journey interviewing. Data regarding what a participant looked towards, observed and acknowledged can be used by designers.

Transport designs for humans

Station design using immersive technology enables designers to incorporate human-friendly design. Conventionally, designs are inclined towards service ease, rather than human convenience. The same goes for rail stations, where space is utilised for trains, foregoing passenger navigation needs.

Watts states that ticket gates exist fundamentally to prevent individuals from cheating the system, which would put a dent in revenues. While that is perfectly reasonable, a tech-powered approach might provide a better alternative.

Being able to exhibit architectural developments to clients is an added advantage. Redrafting and re-modelling expenses are also minimised.

The Evidentia technology does more than facilitating intelligent rail station designs. CCD is already willing to explore different applications like airport design, museums, galleries, hotels, and hospitals. These spaces can also benefit from wayfinding solutions. Watts believes that VR and other immersive technology will bring better improvements in the near future.

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