Wednesday 29 October 2014

Virtual Reality and its impact on Design

Recently here at CEI we received our developer’s kit from IrisVR including an Oculus Rift headset. IrisVR is a new company developing software that will offer full native support for many common 3D file types including SketchUp, Revit, Blender, 3ds Max, Archicad, and IFC.

I first met Shane Scranton from IrisVR at a conference in Chicago earlier this year where he was promoting Virtual Reality for the AEC industry. After trying out his sample file in VR I instantly saw the potential for Virtual Reality at CEI as a design validation tool, so we signed up.

It’s still early days but from what we have seen so far this type of technology is already having an impact on our industry. Being able to tour a design virtually immersed in the building has great benefit for both the client and the designer. By allowing our clients to be able to tour the design virtually they are able to better understand the space and design far easier than they could from ready plan and elevation drawings. Virtually touring both the exterior and interior of a building people are able to fully understand the design from their virtual point of view.

Speculating on the future of Virtual Reality and the design industry, I can easily see us purchasing a number of the simpler headsets where you can that fit your smart phone (available now), and offering to our clients the ability to download an app and have available their model to tour. I imagine that eventually we will have a number of users be able to experience the space simultaneously. For example have a medical team including the surgeons, nurses and the anaesthesiologist all together as avatars interacting together as they would during a procedure in a surgical suite.

Here at CEI we are already using this technology to show clients for design validation, this is a great opportunity for us to get instant feedback from our clients on the design and workability. By allowing our clients to tour the space virtually it allows us to validate the design concepts and use this tool to explain the aspects of one design over another.

Taking VR beyond Architectural design; by integrating the consultants building information models we are able to use VR to search for visual clashes between disciplines, tour a mechanical room for manuverability or tour an area such as a lobby to get a better feel and understanding to the space giving us the opportunity to make minor design changes improving the space in ways we would not be able to see without VR.

Virtual reality is yet another technology that can take advantage of the building information modeling process that CEI has fully embraced allowing us to yet again take the business of architectural design to the next level.


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