How Virtual Reality Will Change the Architecture Design Space

One of the challenges that all architects face is envisioning the space they are creating before it is actually created. How can you appreciate scale or experience the environment when it isn’t yet realized? And if you can’t get a proper sense of what the environment looks and feels like, how can you be certain that it offers the proper solution to the problem you are attempting to solve? Blueprints may provide precise information on detailed specifications, such as the width or height of a building, and 3D models can give you a sense of what the finished product will look like from the outside, but none of these are at human scale. Virtual reality is set to change that, and it could forever change the architecture design space.

An Immersive Experience

Though many people associate virtual reality with entertainment (the recent popularity of VR headsets lends credence to this idea), the technology that makes VR environments possible is actually an incredibly powerful tool – at least when used properly. It has already proven useful in health care, engineering, and ship building, so it’s only natural that it should find a place in the world of architecture as well. After all, architecture is about creating spaces and experiences. And virtual reality allows individuals to interact with virtual spaces and have virtual experiences. It’s plain to see that the pairing of the two is a marriage that just makes sense.

Imagine being able to walk through a building before a single slab of concrete is poured or structural beam is raised. That is the promise of virtual reality. It can provide an immersive, compelling, and insightful experience that allows architects and clients alike to experience a building in “real” space before the structure is ever actually built. This makes it possible to get a better sense of what the final structure will look and feel like. Will it function as intended? Will it solve the problems the architect is trying to address? Is there ample space for the amount of people it is intended to house? These questions can be difficult to answer when a structure exists solely on paper. With virtual reality, however, architects can design and interact in three dimensions.

A New Tool in the Architect’s Tool Bag

Architects have many tools with which to design spaces and present them to clients: blueprints, models, conceptual drawings, 3D renderings, and even mood boards. The question is: what if there were another tool at an architect’s disposal, one that enabled him or her to design with greater precision than ever before? Virtual reality is the answer to that very question. Once realized, it is a tool that will allow architects to design environments in all-new ways, with a greater sense of what the resulting space will look, feel, and function like. And it is all thanks to leaps in digital technology.

Virtual reality requires tremendous computing power, both for rendering and the ability to freely move through a digital environment. And this means that most of the more capable VR products currently offered are dependent on a computer tether of some sort. Processors aren’t the problem; it’s getting the information to the headset that is difficult. One thing that many people may not appreciate or understand is that for virtual reality to work wirelessly, an incredibly fast connection is required – one that today’s 4G network is ill-suited to provide. Thankfully, there is a solution coming down the pipeline. With 5G technology, currently being developed by companies like Qualcomm, the promise of the wireless virtual reality experience can finally be realized. And with it, architects will be able to present their creations to clients in new, exciting ways – regardless of where the client meeting is taking place.

The Promise of Virtual Reality: Designing in 3D at Human Scale

Architects have long been able to design in three dimensions. After all, architectural models are a staple of the industry, and they exist in three dimensions. But one thing that architectural models don’t do is allow architects and clients to experience a space at human scale. After all, a 1:1 architectural model is simply called a “building.” And so, we have long had to look down on these models and use some degree of creative interpretation to extrapolate what they may look, feel, and function like full-size. Virtual reality finally provides a solution to this problem; now, architects and clients can walk through and interact with a space before it’s ever built. And this has the potential to change the art and science of architecture forever.

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