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Virtual Reality as a Tool For Architecture

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A human being's perception of the space around them is based on what they see, hear and feel. The understanding mainly comes from how well we experience and interact with the environment itself. So imagine this- instead of leafing through images and renders, you can have your client walk around in their soon-to-be living room before it is even constructed. You can even have them take a look outside at the proposed landscape from the verandah which is yet to even be built. 

Sounds unreal? But this is exactly what virtual reality is capable of. Mankind has progressed by leaps and bounds in the field of science and technology. And one such contrivance that has been picking up steam these past few years is virtual reality. 

What Is VR?

VR uses the basic rules of perception to create environments that feel just as veracious as the world around us. They are essentially machines designed to replace surroundings with something created in software.

VR In Architecture

Already a popular commodity in the video games and technical industry, VR also has tremendous potential in the architecture field too. 

  • Sense Of Space: The riveting environment allows for a more accurate representation of space, sense of scale, depth and spatial awareness that cannot be matched by conventional renders, models and illustrations. 
  • Easy Visualisation: For the architects themselves, VR sets help visualize the concept and spatial relationships while developing the design itself. 
  • Study Factors Affecting The Space: It also aids them in studying how light, shapes and several other important factors will practically affect their design in real time. This allows them to accurately envision their projects, and in turn, produce even better results. 
  • Reduces Misunderstandings:  Architects, engineers, contractors and all the other workers involved in the construction, have different ideas on how the project will proceed for the same design based on their understanding. This might lead to certain misunderstandings and errors. With VR, the design intent of the designers can be conveyed easily to the members involved in implementing it. 
VR as a tool for Architecture
VR as a tool for Architecture

VR Employed By Firms

VR is, in fact, already being used by architects to present their work to both themselves and their clients. A handful of firms in the US and Europe and one even in India are employing VR for their projects, coupled with the architectural softwares like Sketchup, Vray, Lumion and AutoCAD. 

Designhaaus, India

Designhaaus, the firm employing VR in India even stated that, "It [VR] helps us to visualize the space in a better way that, in turn, results in aesthetically pleasing and efficient spaces, and helps the client to better understand the design and make faster decisions. It also helps the construction team on the site during the execution phase."

Similar Technology

There are different tools similar to visual reality such as mixed reality and augmented reality. While virtual reality uses computers to create a simulated environment, it also completely isolates them by blocking the actual physical environment. 

Augmented Reality:

Augmented reality presents virtual information on top of a real physical environment. One popular example of AR is the game Pokemon GO. 

Augmented Reality as a tool for architecture
Augmented Reality as a tool for architecture

Mixed Reality:

Mixed reality falls somewhere between AR and VR, where one can experience the virtual objects merged with the physical ones through the lenses of a headset and interact with the virtual object using a natural interface.

Mixed Reality as a tool for architecture
Mixed Reality as a tool for architecture

Tools Set-up

For a VR workspace for your projects, some devices are necessary. 

  • Headset
  • Motion detector
  • Hardware platform
  • Software platform
  • Display

Additionally, in order for the PC to support VR tools, they must meet a certain minimum configuration. 

  • Video Card: NVIDIA GTX 1060 / AMD RX 470/570 or greater.
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-4590 / AMD Ryzen 5 1400 or greater.
  • Memory: 8GB or greater
  • Video Output: HDMI 2.0 or DisplayPort 1.2 (may vary based on specific headset)
  • USB Port: 1x USB 3.0

Market Usage

There are still some refinements that need to be made to virtual reality technology before it completely replaces the conventional architectural methods which are prevalent today. 

  • Factors like speed, graphics and quality will all greatly influence an architect's ability to use it effectively. 
  • Apart from this, money is also an important element. Although the cost of VR sets are at an all time low, buying and setting up the entire workspace, including both the hardware and software can get pretty expensive. 

Employing VR creates a connection between the space and its users, pre-construction, by evoking a positive understanding in the same way that substantial architecture does. Just like how the advancement of 3D modeling was encouraged at the turn of this century from traditional drawings and sketches, it is important to keep this progress going forward. 

Although still in the early generation of its prevalence, VR is sure to introduce a world which will soon affect everything including our ways of communication, information, entertainment etc. It is important for his change- or evolution- to happen in the field of architecture as well.

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