Virtual meets Reality – Real-World Visualization of Building Information Models

Mixed reality and visualization


Mixed Reality denotes generally different visualisation means between Reality and Virtuality, enabled by 3D computer graphics. On one hand, Virtual Reality (VR) means completely 3D modelled representation of real world, while Augmented Reality (AR) stands for superimposing virtual objects in the user’s view of the real world.

The work by VTT’s Virtual Reality research dates back to the year 1995 when a virtual training simulator was developed for printing industries. After that various VR solutions have been developed for building and construction applications, space applications, and terrain visualisation. VTT’s special assets in VR include e.g. scalable Open Scene Graph (OSG) based viewer implementation, up to immersive CAVE type environments. We also develop application software and browser based solutions for the management and visualisation of various types of contents (text, graphics, images, video, 3D models, etc.). We are specialised in interactive management and visualisation of complex datasets.

VTT’s Augmented Reality team started developing virtual advertisements for live TV broadcast in year 2000 and, a little later, AR games and entertainment applications. Currently, our research focus is on architecture/construction and interior design, as well as industrial applications at production sites. Furthermore, we are proud of being able to adopt many complex video processing and AR ideas for low-level mobile platforms, e.g. camera phones, in which the processing power and transmission bandwidths are scarce resources. Today, Augmented Reality is applied more generally as part of Mixed Reality technology, bridging the digital and physical worlds with two-way interaction. Different kinds of Virtual Worlds, and Mirror Worlds as counterparts to real environments, provide natural means to implement such interactions.


  • Marker tracking – accuracy, distance, lighting, etc.
  • Markerless tracking – feature / template / model based
  • Sensors – accelerometer, compass, GPS, other positioning, sensor fusion
  • Content creation – easily and economically, from industrial systems and by users
  • 3D/VR model formats – in industry, construction, entertainment, art and digital media
  • Mobile processing – memory, speed, 3D graphics on UMPCs and camera phones
  • Visualisation – HMDs, PCs, projector screens, large displays, VEs
  • Processing power – memory, speed, 3D graphics


AR applications

  • ALVAR – A Library for Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • AROnSite – outdoors visualization based on GPS and Google Earth
  • ARMobile – multi-marker based augmented large scale visualization
  • ARScaleModel – interaction with virtual 3D model on conference table
  • ARInteriors – digital photo based augmented furniture and interior design
  • ARCatalogue – printed media in augmented 3D format
  • ARPhone – augmented reality on Symbian camera phones
  • CamBall – augmented table tennis game over the Internet
  • SymBall – camera driven table tennis game on mobile phones

VR visualisation solutions

  • Katve – advanced virtual room with 4 rear projection stereo walls
  • MobiTrix – mobile stereoscopic rear projection system
  • PC based active and passive stereo visualisation systems
  • Interaction devices, including tracking devices and data gloves
  • Semi automatic 3D terrain visualisation
  • IFC visualisation and collaboration technologies
  • 4D visualisation of IFC models in building projects

See further information in Publications, Projects and Videos on VTT’s website at

References and merits

Part of VTT’s global G+ competence Virtual Products and Production Processes

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About the Author

Travis Reinke is the Chief Editor and Founder of BIMable and has over 18 years of experience in 3D modeling and rendering, planning, design, and Building Information Modeling (BIM). Mr. Reinke has implemented and managed numerous BIM projects on an international level. He has and continues to work closely with the industry to provide implementation, training and support on more complete and effective use of BIM.