The next generation of Virtual Reality will allow designing from scratch within the RV itselfality

The architecture and manufacturing industries are about to undergo a sea change in the way we do things. In the near future, designers and engineers will be able to create products, buildings and cities in real time, in virtual reality.

In a predictable dramatic evolution of virtual reality: as one legend explained, when the first movie camera appeared, actors were filmed on set, in front of fake trees. Then someone said, “Why don’t you put the camera in the forest?” Simple, but the game changed. Virtual reality technology is out now, and it’s only a matter of time before it’s fully used.

What’s Now: Visualization

In a center dedicated to virtual reality within the Los Angeles office of John A. Martin & Associates, the companions hold their glasses and navigate using portable controllers through 3D models created by BIM software. Viewing a design in this context allows users to spot structural irregularities that they might otherwise miss.

For example, in virtual reality, you can see if a beam is not properly connected to another beam. Sure, this is possible without a virtual reality, but being completely immersed in a 3D environment makes you feel like you are in that real physical place. It is easier to detect building components that are not in the correct location.

This revolution has made great strides as a visualization tool, its use is predominant in the architecture, engineering and construction industries, both within companies and for use with clients. Using handheld controllers, engineers and designers can move through 3D construction renderings as if they were in a first-person video game simulation. They can climb stairs, teleport through hallways, or look out of upper-floor windows. It is really surprising.

Design visualizations can also help companies sell ideas to stakeholders. By implementing 3D building models as playable “games” with virtual reality compatible software such as Revit Live, 3ds Max y Enscape, designers can invite clients and owners to showings of their prospective projects.

What’s to come: Creation

Still, these examples only scratch the surface of virtual reality’s potential. The next big opportunity for designers and engineers will go beyond visualization to create structures and products from scratch in virtual reality. Imagine virtual reality for Revit: What if you could put on virtual reality glasses and with the movement of your hands and feet you could scale a model, push it, turn it and change its shape? That scenario may not be far off. Programs like Google Tilt Brush, that allows you to paint in a 3D environment, could indicate what is to come to create design projects in virtual reality.

By simply turning your wrist with the paint tool, you can color an object in a virtual reality environment. That kind of physically responsive design functionality isn’t available on virtual reality platforms used by most 

architecture and manufacturing companies, but its existence outside of industries suggests it could migrate.

If designers could create directly in virtual reality, instead of using external software, they could look around the back walls and teleport into tight spots, such as gaskets and trim.

By working in a closer and more manageable range for objects, designers could create more organic shapes with a higher level of granular detail. Artists and craftsmen long ago learned to use their hands to sculpt with stone and clay, and while that skill doesn’t directly apply to the realities of building and car design, there is an opportunity to bring it back virtually.

What needs to change: Interactivity

Before this revolution gains widespread adoption as a creation tool in the architecture and manufacturing industry, software must make a significant leap. As it stands, most game engine technology allows users to only look around, not touch objects, or edit on the fly.

For example, if you are viewing your model in virtual reality and want to make a beam correction, you need to remove your glasses, configure them, find a beam in the authoring software, make the change with the mouse and keyboard, update the model in the game engine visor, put your glasses back on and make sure the change has occurred. That workflow is long and tedious.

The future needs to go beyond removing VR glasses and relying on mouse and keyboard clicks to make changes. Architectural and manufacturing design software should take full advantage of handheld controllers and the immersive environment, as well as provide tools within the experience to interact and make changes to 3D models.

Another obstacle is the lack of automated interactivity within virtual reality. Any action that a user can perform with virtual reality (move a beam, open a window or turn on a light) must be pre-programmed by an experienced game engine programmer to be interactive. A better solution might be to automate this process.

For example, the Revit 3D model could be automatically converted to a game engine environment that is compatible with virtual reality, with interactivity already programmed, so that whenever a user wants to move a wall, open a door or flex any type of component within the virtual environment, this is possible.

Information modeling is like something that lives and breathes: a building, a door, a window, a table or a medical device have flexibility in their parameters. In most game engine-based technologies in use today, these elements are static.

Virtual Reality is evolving. You are ready?

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