15 Great VR Software Packages and Apps for Architects
Virtual Reality Design Software Allows You to Wow Your Clients
The world of virtual architecture software can feel intimidating at first. For those of you who have just started getting to grips with digital design software, virtual reality (VR) can feel like a step that you aren’t ready to take. It involves getting used to new hardware and virtual reality design software.
However, the benefits are enormous. With good use of virtual reality, you can showcase your models in ways you may never have thought possible. Instead of talking clients through your ideas, you can show them a virtual model that showcases everything you want them to see. It is for this reason that many architects have adopted virtual reality. Their presentations stand out from the crowd. This leaves their clients with the feeling that the architect means business.
Many firms are adopting VR into their presentations as soon as possible. However, you also need to have the right virtual reality design software for the job. Here are 15 pieces of software that will make your journey into VR so much easier.
Software #1 – ARki
Having a virtual reality model is one thing, but having an interactive model is another. That’s where ARki can help you. Using augmented reality, the software allows you to tinker with your 3D models, so you can add several types of interactivity.
Through an app compatible with both Android and iOS devices, ARki allows you to build quick models on top of your 2D floor plans. You can create a virtual model in a matter of moments, but it doesn’t end there.
This virtual reality design software has a range of other features. You can choose the materials the model uses, thus making it more realistic. Best of all, you can record your explorations of your models and share them via social media.
Software #2 – SmartReality
SmartReality integrates into several digital design software packages. For example, it works alongside Revit, which is one of the most popular design software available today.
Much like ARki, SmartReality allows you to take a 2D floor plan and turn it into a 3D model. The effects are immediate, and the resulting models take all of your Building Information Modelling (BIM) into account.
You can view these models using a mobile device, such as a tablet computer. However, the people behind the software have also incorporated virtual reality into the mix. Your clients will be able to explore your models using a virtual reality head-mounted display (HMD), such as the Oculus Rift.
Software #3 – Unreal Engine
Originally developed as a video game designing tool, the Unreal Engine has expanded over the years. It is now one of the best virtual reality design software packages around, as has been shown through its use in the creation of the new wave of VR video games.
Architects can use the Unreal Engine to create stunningly realistic models. It has a powerful editing toolset, so you can use it to create models that are as detailed as you want. It also boasts several features designed for use in virtual reality world-building. Architects use the Unreal Engine to create some of the most immersive models available.
Best of all, Unreal Engine is a free virtual architecture software package.
Software #4 – Storyboard VR
Another free virtual architecture software package, Storyboard VR, allows you to build prototype models and visualise them. You can use it to play around with basic 2D shapes. The app lets you animate and arrange the shapes into basic models, which you can use as the basic blueprint for more complex models later on.
The software started life as an internal VR tool. Developed by Artefact, the tool soon took on a life of its own, which led to its commercial release.
Beyond creating your own shapes, you can upload environment maps and other drawings into Storyboard VR. These may come from a range of sketching tools. All you have to do then is create your storyboard using the elements you pull into the software. Think of it like a virtual reality slideshow creator.
Software #5 – Visidraft
One of the most versatile virtual architecture software packages available today, Visidraft lets you pull models in from all types of design software. It’s compatible with the likes of Revit and AutoCAD. You can even use it with SketchUp and 3DS Max.
The app allows you to visualise your building spaces and the elements you intend to place within them. For example, you can import a 3D model and then use Visidraft to add virtual elements, such as furniture.
Its purpose is to provide the user with a more detailed idea of the space available to them. Many project teams have adopted the software to help them move their projects from the early stages into finalisation.
Software #6 – Unity
Another video game engine, Unity feels like it is more in-tune with the needs of architects than the Unreal Engine. For one, this virtual reality design software package helps you to bring BIM and 3D models into the virtual space easily.
Granted, you will need some programming skills. However, with a little work, you’ll be able to manipulate your models and create stunning virtual experiences.
The tool is ideal for using virtual reality in architectural walkthroughs. You can build very realistic models that help you to create a living environment. Clients get to enjoy one of the most realistic virtual experiences available. You’ll find this helps you stand out from your competitors who are still using traditional 3D models.
Software #7 – Pair
Another augmented reality software package, Pair, works best for architects who work with a lot of small objects. You can use it to drag objects, such as furniture, into your models. You just drop them where you want them, then use Pair to make any other minor adjustments.
Unlike similar software packages, Pair allows the user to walk around its models. This means your clients can get a true feel for the office and retail spaces that you design.
It’s also one of the fastest-growing virtual architecture software packages. Its online catalogue features hundreds of name-brand products. Many of them come from Fortune 500 companies. The library is still growing, so you should never be stuck for choice of things to fill your 3D models with.
Software #8 – Augment
As the name suggests, Augment is another augmented reality software package. Augment offers you the opportunity to create interactive walkthroughs of your projects. These are currently only usable on tablets and smartphones.
All you need to do is scan your floor plans into the software, and it will help you to do the rest. Available for free, it comes with a subscription option. This unlocks an ever-expanding library of premium models.
You can also link the software up to several popular digital design software packages. It already has plugins for 3DS Max, Revit, and SketchUp. With a little work, you can use it to create augmented reality models that you can import into the virtual space.
Software #9 – Autodesk LIVE
If you’re wary about having to learn the ins and outs of a brand new virtual reality design software, Autodesk LIVE may be the right choice for you. This software allows you to take standard Revit models and transform them into designs you can step into.
It’s all so simple, too. You just upload your BIM model into the software. It then creates an interactive experience with a couple of clicks.
The biggest advantage of this is that it allows your clients to explore your models in the earliest stages. This means, you can pick up on issues at the beginning of the project.
Software #10 – Fuzor
Another versatile app, Fuzor integrates with many of today’s leading digital design software packages. These include Rhino 3D, Revit, and SketchUp. Revit is its main software of choice. You can use Fuzor to create stunning renders of virtual models.
Much like the Unreal Engine and Unity, Fuzor came to prominence as video game software. However, its live link to Revit allows you to create accurate BIM-based designs as well.
As such, any changes you make to your Revit BIM files display instantly in the renders that Fuzor creates. It’s ideal for collaborating with others in construction sites. It also helps you to create virtual renders of your models. You can then use these with virtual reality hardware.
Software #11 – Matterport
Many virtual reality design software packages use the cloud, but few do so like Matterport. An app that you can download to your iPad, Matterport allows you to use your tablet’s camera to scan up to 1,000 square feet of space. All it takes is half an hour to create some striking 3D models.
You won’t need to install any software. You can also use the software’s cloud functionality to share models among team members.
However, this ability to share really comes to the fore when it comes to showing your progress to your clients. Users can download your models from the cloud. They can then explore them using their mobile or desktop devices. Of course, you can also integrate the models into the virtual reality space when needed.
Software #12 – Enscape
More of a Revit plug-in, rather than a fully-fledged software package, Enscape defines itself through its ease of use. It allows you to use virtual reality in architectural walkthroughs at the click of a button.
Enscape takes your existing BIM software and crafts the virtual model for you. You won’t need to use any other software or download new models. The geometry that it uses comes directly from your Revit model. You can also make changes in the virtual reality simulation as needed.
This speed makes it ideal for presentations. You can talk your client through your Revit model. Then, use Enscape to create a virtual simulation for the client to explore as well.
Software #13 – Shapespark
Simulating accurate lighting is often important when presenting your work to clients. That’s where Shapespark can help. You can use it to add and tweak physical lighting in your models. You'll then share links that take clients directly to the visualisation.
The software supports the Oculus Rift HMD. This allows your clients to enjoy your model’s lighting effects in all their glory.
Best of all, Shapespark uses WebGL. A technology that all major web browsers support, WebGL means you don't have to download any other plug-ins. Your clients can use Shapespark to explore every inch of the 3D spaces you create for them.
Software #14 – Autodesk Stingray
Enscape has some serious competition from Autodesk’s own Stingray. Another tool that you can use to create virtual spaces in a single click, Stingray comes with an added endorsement from Autodesk.
You can use Stingray to render your Revit models in a click, plus you can alter the models using the BIM information you’ve already entered into Revit.
This focus on real-time is important, as it makes it one of the most flexible virtual reality design software packages. You can make quick changes to your model in Revit, and Stingray will reflect these changes after one more click. This makes it ideal for the early stages of a project, when clients may start picking out minor issues.
Software #15 – UNIGINE
Let’s round out the list with another video game engine. UNIGINE works across several gaming platforms. However, it has recently gathered a following among virtual reality designers.
It offers some of the most advanced lighting effects around, plus it provides access to a range of special effects. This makes it one of the most realistic virtual reality design software packages around.
Better yet, it’s compatible with DirectX 11 and OpenGL 4.0. This means you should be able to use it on most Windows-based systems.
So there you have it, 15 of the best examples of virtual reality design software available today. Each of these packages offers something a little different, so it’s a good idea to try them all to figure out which ones work best for your organisation.
ArchiStar Academy can help you get to grips with many of the digital design software packages that integrate with this virtual reality design software. Contact ArchiStar Academy today to take your first steps toward creating accurate virtual reality architectural visualisations.
ArchiStar Academy offers several courses across the spectrum of digital design software. You’ll develop your skills, allowing you to create more accurate and functional models.
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Posted on 20 Jan 2020