Virtual Reality has become a reality at Centerbrook Architects & Planners.
Today, during our “Friday Dessert” presentation in The Cube, staff demoed our newest tool of the trade.
We’ve been keeping tabs on VR and its applications to the architecture industry for a while now; considering all of the hardware and software options, and just how it could be integrated into our practice.
With digital design coordinator Mike Hart and architectural intern Ben Mayne on the case, we decided the time was right to take the leap. Mike and Ben procured an Oculus Rift headset and controllers, which is fed by graphics from software programs Revit and Unreal Engine 4.
Mike and Ben liked that the Oculus Rift is light, so the virtual experience isn’t hampered by headset weight. Ben recommended pairing our modeling program Revit with Unreal 4 based on his experience using it as a student in Cornell University’s School of Architecture & Planning program.
A staple in video gaming and movie animation, Unreal is finding its way into our industry due to its efficient, photorealistic renderings and lifelike animations. Other users of Unreal Engine include Adidas, Chevrolet, McDonald’s, Mountain Dew and even NASA, who implemented it to prepare astronauts for missions to the International Space Station.
So with this setup we’re ready to involve our clients in the design process in a whole new way.
Associate Principal Justin Hedde recalled that while our recently-completed residence in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, was carefully detailed and rendered, our client only grasped what they were getting when they stood on-site and saw it with their own eyes. He believes VR can facilitate greater client involvement in the design process.
“We are in a world where we’re designing duplicate environments – the virtual environment before the real environment,” said Hedde, who helped steer our VR effort. “The more we understand and experience in the virtual, the smoother things are going to be during construction.”
As to Friday’s test run in The Cube with one of our latest residence designs as the subject, the reaction was nearly universal from architects and staff alike: “This is so cool.”
A “wicked cool” may have also been uttered. That was me.