Virtual Reality for Architecture

Displaying designs and ideas to clients has been a challenge for Architects for many years. Even if the client is shown 3D renderings for visualization, it can still be very difficult to communicate the scale and feel of a space. Enter the emerging technology of Virtual Reality (VR). VR has been defined as "a realistic and immersive simulation of a three-dimensional 360-degree environment, created using interactive software and hardware, and experienced or controlled by movement of the body" [Wikipedia]. Or more simply, Virtual Reality is a means of displaying a graphically rendered 3D model within a fully-immersive, head mounted display. This way of displaying creates a stereoscopic 360-degree 3D view with depth, scale, and the feeling of being in the space – sensations that cannot be fully conveyed with 2D renderings on paper or even 3D renderings on a flat screen.

With the help of a newly-hired Virtual Reality enthusiast, we have invested in portable VR headsets that can be given to clients for remote viewing of the panoramic renders we provide. These are great for clients that cannot make it to meetings, or live far away and want continuous design updates. The user scans a QR code with their smartphone that links to the render. The smartphone is then inserted into the headset and viewed.

Another form of Virtual Reality we have invested in is Room-Scale VR. Room-Scale VR allows our staff and clients to walk around inside their space before it's constructed or even before the design is finished - allowing for up-close observation and on-the-fly communication. Through our newly acquired HTC Vive head-mounted display, we have created a high-end virtual reality space in our office where these interactive design presentations can be held. Our system displays a high quality, real-time rendering that gives the user a much more realistic experience (even than the smartphone VR). Our system can also be mobile, allowing us to bring Virtual Reality to conferences and clients’ offices – and ideally, to the actual existing space that is being designed (in renovation projects) and letting the client see the design in its actual environment. Headset off – see the existing conditions in real reality . . . headset on – see the newly designed space in virtual reality.