Virtual reality: the final frontier?


If we’re really being honest with ourselves, the future is here. We’re on the brink of amazing technological innovation, and it’s slowly beginning to shape the way that the AEC industry does business.

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly infatuated with the concept of virtual reality (or VR for short) and the potential implications of full-fledged immersion into a virtual environment. While this concept was originally fostered by the gaming industry, it has begun to permeate other industries that lend themselves to some form of visual exchange.

In fact, it becomes incredibly powerful if we begin to think of traditional exchanges in architectural practice and the methods in which architects have historically portrayed design intent to clients. In many cases, clients tend to be less “drawing-oriented” because they may lack the formal training or experience to grasp concepts via drafted media. Ultimately, they respond better to three-dimensional visualization because it is easier to understand and digest. Enter: the realm of virtual reality.


An architecturally focused VR workflow, while still in what many might consider its formative years, is beginning to pick up steam. With the increasing availability and viability of VR, pioneers like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive have paved a path and opened the gates to a somewhat non-traditional way of approaching architectural exchange. Even Google Cardboard offers an inexpensive (but effective) way of visualizing an environment in a way flat drawings and images never could. And, as middle-man software continues to develop on a parallel track to these VR applications and tools, interoperability with architectural software like Autodesk Revit is becoming increasingly seamless.

This new-age workflow is not only exciting, but incredibly relevant to the AEC industry for a number of reasons:

01 Virtual reality can evoke an emotional response and connection to a project

Virtual immersion into a project allows both the client and designer an ability to connect with the design in a way that traditional methods do not allow for. If clients develop a bond to and become emotionally vested in a project very early on, they will more than likely take larger ownership over the project – resulting in a better end-product.

02 Virtual reality can provide a holistic understanding of design intent

Virtual immersion into a project provides a unique opportunity of experiencing a design as if it were fully built, prior to any start of construction. Rather than experiencing siloed pieces of the puzzle that must be stitched together through a document set, we can experience the true design intent holistically through an interactive, digital environment.

03 Virtual reality has the potential to save time and money during design iteration

Virtual immersion into a project provides us with a unique lens for pinpointing the potential issues and shortcomings of a design. Therefore, changes in a design can be fluid and almost instantaneous, allowing for clients and the design team to problem solve, readjust, and immediately understand the ramifications of design decisions.

We’re really just getting started in the next exciting chapter of design technology innovation, so hold onto your VR headset.

Happy designing.

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