Virtual and augmented reality researcher works at Mortenson Construction in Seattle, helping others better visualize projects before they are built.

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Will Adams

What do you do? I conduct virtual and augmented reality research and development at Mortenson Construction, finding new ways with 3-D concepts and models to help people conceptualize projects before they are built. About 15 years ago, there was a paradigm shift in the building industry when we started using 3-D digital models, and this technology has the potential to foment an even greater change.

How did you get started in that field? I became very interested in VR while pursuing my master of architecture at the University of Minnesota. I’ve always had a blend of interest in technical things such as electronics and programming, and things which require more associative thinking, like design. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an inventor, and that’s never left me.

What’s a typical day like? This is a pretty fast-moving field, so it’s always something different. I’ll usually have several customer-oriented projects going at once, and I need to balance those immediate demands with the R&D work that’s more open ended. I spend time designing, modeling and texturing environments; programming, researching and testing new hardware and software; and probably most importantly, developing our strategy for implementing and deploying this tech in the future.

What’s the best part of the job? I absolutely love how I need to keep learning new things all the time. VR and AR are so exciting, so impressive, and are at a convergence of so many dynamic technologies. Keeping up can be exhausting, but I love the constant challenge of creating something that’s better than the last thing I made, and the potential of this tech to positively impact our industry.

What surprises people about what you do? When I tell people what I do, they’re usually most surprised that a construction company would employ a VR developer. But then I explain how we’re using it, and it starts to make more sense to them. I’m really glad that there are companies like Mortenson in the building industry that are willing to put long-term investment into technology like this.

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