Andrew Lucas London has been invited to participate at Oculus Connect 4, where we’ll be on stage along with representatives from Cisco, Audi and Proctor&Gamble as part of a panel on commercial applications for VR. As part of this, our business development lead Hamza will discuss how to create useful VR experiences for architects and property developers.
Ahead of Oculus Connect, we wanted to share a sneak preview of Hamza’s thoughts on how we’re working with virtual reality to help architects share their concepts with others.
Architects are becoming more aware of what VR can do, and how it can benefit their businesses. Although it’s no longer a brand new concept, VR is still an exhilarating experience that lets a client engage deeply with a project in a way that 2D plans and renders simply cannot. While VR has by no means been universally adopted just yet, it is now seen as far more than just a gimmick to impress clients – it has become a genuinely useful tool for architectural practices of all shapes and sizes.
Architects tend to approach VR design the same way they might a CGI or a video flythrough. Most practices that use our services will approach us with the 2D plans or 3D models they’ve already created. We then recreate this design inside a gaming engine and apply the textures, details and environmental effects to create a photorealistic virtual space that can be fully explored by users. One area where VR can really have an advantage over commissioning CGI renders is the level of control this brings to the user; they can pause at any point during the experience and take a snapshot, meaning that one VR experience can yield an almost unlimited number of high quality 2D renders.
As well as making it easier to explain a concept, VR can help to significantly reduce costs in the design process. One example is the redevelopment of the iconic Boulevard Theatre in Walker’s Court, Soho, where SODA and Soho Estates (the architect and the client) were able to use virtual reality to preview how the proposed lighting, textures and configuration of the space would look. This allowed them to see their choices in context, resulting in a number of changes that would have been costly fixes had they needed to amend them at a later date.
VR allows for new ways to collaborate during the design process. Most of our clients use our VR experiences with a big screen showing what the person in VR is seeing, allowing a room of people to view the project and discuss elements simultaneously. We’re starting to take this one step further by using Oculus’ Avatar SDK to allow multiple people to access the same VR experience at the same time and engage with each other whilst both are in the application.
More and more VR plug-in tools are available for architects but right now these don’t come close to what can be achieved by a dedicated VR design team. They lack level of detail, the realistic textures and the environmental effects that are needed to make a build truly immersive and lifelike. We’re currently working on a software platform that aims to give the power to create this in architects’ hands but, for now, a VR experience created by a specialist VR design team simply cannot be matched.