7 VR Trends for Architects and Engineers to Look Out For
7 VR Trends for Architects and Engineers to Look Out For
Virtual reality (VR) has made waves in the architectural and engineering sectors. Like with all new technologies, different trends affect how we use it. Here are seven VR trends to look out for.
The introduction of new technologies often signals change in various sectors. Architecture and engineering are no different. The rise of cloud computing made Building Information Modelling (BIM) a viable concept. Moreover, new digital design software packages crop up all of the time.
And now we have virtual reality (VR).
VR takes the models you design and turns them into a computerised reality. It allows you to strap on a headset and actually explore your models.
Yes, it’s essentially an illusion. The computer-generated model isn’t real. But it feels real and engages the senses, which is why virtual architecture software is in such high demand right now.
VR has several benefits beyond putting you inside the models you design. It’s also an excellent way to overcome the communication barrier between designer and client. Instead of talking people through your models, you can show them first-hand.
The use of virtual reality in architectural walkthroughs also helps you to spot issues. It’s easy to overlook small design flaws when looking at a 3D model on a screen. With VR, that flaw is in your face and obvious.
The uses of VR will evolve over time, as happens with most new technologies. People will have new ideas about how to use virtual architecture software, leading to new trends in the sector.
This article will look at seven VR trends that may soon influence how you use the technology. But first, let’s look at where VR stands today.
How Do We Use VR Now?
VR is not a new technology. Some argue that it finds its roots in the Sensorama. Morton Heilig’s device used 3D technology alongside several gimmicks to make people feel like they were part of a film.
Other manufacturers tried their hand at VR in the years that followed. Nintendo’s Virtual Boy console more closely resembled the VR sets that we have today. However, it flopped due to the technology not having caught up with the concept.
It wasn’t until 2016 and the release of the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift that VR became viable. Now capable of photo-realism, VR technology finally gels with the concept. Most importantly, the technology is now affordable too.
The point here is that, despite being an old concept, VR is still in its early stages. That’s why most in the sector currently use virtual architecture software to demonstrate their models. Today, VR is essentially a sales tool. It’s a way for you to impress your clients with something they haven’t seen before.
You use VR to showcase your designs. But you may not use it to create them.
That’s all going to change as new trends change VR.
Adopting the latest VR trends helps you to stay ahead of the game. Here are seven that may affect how you use VR in the future.
Trend #1 – Going Wireless
This is a trend that really came to the fore in 2017. With current VR headsets, you have to wire the user up to a computer. This restricts movement and prevents the user from getting the full VR experience.
Manufacturers recognised the limitations that this presents early on. How can somebody immerse themselves into a virtual world when they’re reminded of their connection to the real one?
Wireless headsets are the answer.
Oculus has already capitalised on this VR trend with the Oculus Go. A wireless headset, it’s capable of playing simple mobile games. HTC and Google have partnered up to bring a more advanced wireless headset to the market, but that hasn’t materialised yet.
That’s not to say it won’t. As VR technology becomes more accessible and costs come down, the headsets will advance. Wireless technology will no longer be an experiment for these major VR companies.
It will become the norm.
With wireless VR, you’d remove the restrictions your clients face when they explore your models. You’ll also have more freedom to use your virtual architecture software to create completely freeform models.
Trend #2 – Big Data Finds its Way to VR
The data that you collect influences your designs. Anybody who’s adopted Building Information Modelling can tell you that.
But then there’s Big Data.
Today’s organisations collect tons of data about customers. Everything from personal details to usage and buying habits finds its way into their systems.
This is something that architects and engineers will find useful going forward. And it’s likely to affect how you use VR too.
Currently, VR is little more than a tool you use to showcase your designs. But some experts believe that Big Data will soon change how you design your models.
Phil Bernstein, an AutoDesk Fellow, is one of them. He says that Big Data allows architects to make even more data-based decisions. These extend beyond the bricks and mortar decisions of BIM too. Bernstein believes that behavioural data will show us even more. You can use it to figure out how people actually interact with buildings.
Ported into your virtual architecture software, such data would provide more accurate insight. You'll be able to see how your design ideas would affect the building's users.
The end result is more efficient structures that better serve their users’ needs.
Trend #3 – Internet of Things (IoT)
At its core, the IoT is a simple concept. It essentially refers to a world where every device interconnects. Your car connects to your phone, which connects to your smartwatch, and so on.
It’s a concept that’s already becoming a reality. And it’s likely to be one of the major VR trends of the next decade.
As the IoT moves further from concept into reality, VR devices will have to evolve with it. This also links in with the current move towards wireless headsets. Your VR headset may be able to communicate wirelessly with other devices. A simple change to a model on that device instantly reflects in the VR model, and vice versa.
That’s just one possible example. Now imagine wireless charging. A wireless VR headset needs to get its power from somewhere. Failure to recharge means you can’t use VR in your pitches.
The IoT is already on its way to making wireless charging a reality. Take Apple’s partnership with Energous as an example. Together, the companies want to introduce wireless charging technology. It will allow you to charge an iPhone from a distance with no wires or fuss.
Now imagine that technology stretching further as the IoT concept develops. Eventually, you may never have to worry about charging wireless VR headsets because the IoT does it for you.
These are all very early ideas of how IoT could affect the features of virtual reality. The key is that it’s a trend that will affect the technology in years to come.
Trend #4 – The New Construction Process
As good as virtual architecture software is, it’s not going to help you to see through walls in real life.
But the technology can help you to do it in a virtual world. In fact, it already is.
The DAQRI Smart Helmet is one of the latest innovations for the building design and construction industry. A simple device, it straps onto the users head and lets them see a virtual model of the structure they’re building.
So far, so VR.
But here’s the kicker. The headset also uses augmented reality (AR), to let the user see beyond the model. Workers can use this to figure out the spatial relationships between building elements. As a result, it cuts down on errors and clashes that may affect the building once construction begins.
Like Big Data, this is a VR trend that’s going to lead to better buildings. You can arrive at a site, pop it on your head, and see how your building will look in real time. With further advancement, you may even be able to tweak the building while standing in its virtual model.
Trend #5 – AR Takes Over Smartphones
Speaking of AR, it’s going to become an even more important companion to VR very soon.
Several smartphone manufacturers chose 2017 as the year to release AR software development kits (SDKs). Apple is a great example with its ARKit. This gives any developer the opportunity to create their own custom AR software using Apple’s tools.
How may this affect architects and engineers going forward?
Currently, most use AR as part of a pre-existing software package. They have no control over what the software can do, which limits how they use it.
With this new wave of SDKs, you’ll be able to build your own AR software packages. Better yet, you’ll be able to integrate them into your virtual architecture software.
AR has already made huge waves in the gaming sector. Many also use it to provide tours of existing buildings. With AR SDKs, you’ll be able to use it to create software that serves your specific needs as a designer.
Trend #6 – Goodbye Physical Prototypes
Despite today's modern technology, physical prototypes still play an important role in presentations. They’re your way to show your clients that you can execute your digital ideas in reality.
They’re also becoming a thing of the past.
As VR technology advances, the need for physical prototypes will disappear. Autodesk’s director of emerging software, Brian Pene, agrees. He believes that the move towards smaller and more powerful VR devices will do away with physical drawings and prototypes.
Moreover, clients will have an influence on the change. As more become aware of VR, they’ll expect to see it instead of physical models. Your virtual tour helps them to understand your design better than a prototype could. It’s also your way of showing your client that your design actually works.
This is less of a trend affecting VR, and more one that VR has introduced. Still, it’s one that will also affect the way you work. Stalling on VR adoption means you have to keep using methods that will soon fall behind the times.
Trend #7 – Better Shopping
Have you ever thought about how VR may affect the way you buy things?
VR offers many opportunities to retail outlets. Using VR, they can show consumers everything about their products. It may even lead to the next revolution in online shopping. Consumers could use VR and 3D product models, rather than reading specs and looking at 2D images.
Retail giant Alibaba has already released its Buy+ VR store to capitalise on this. Several other major retailers have plans to do the same.
But how would this affect architects and engineers?
Imagine having a few ideas for the materials that you want to use for your structure. This usually means visiting each manufacturer to examine the materials in person.
VR shopping may make that a thing of the past. Instead of wasting time travelling, you could just pull up the manufacturer’s software. Sat in your office chair, you’ll inspect every material via a VR headset before choosing the right one. Maybe you’ll even be able to import the material into your model to see how it looks.
The trend towards VR shopping suggests that this idea isn’t too far from being a reality. Not only would it improve convenience, but it would also save time that you can dedicate to the project.
There’s no guarantee that all of these VR trends will actually affect the sector. However, you can’t deny that the possibilities are interesting. These are just seven new ideas that could change how you work. From building better structures to more efficient purchasing, each offers the potential to save money. More importantly, each may also be your way to impress clients.
Of course, these trends may not affect how you use VR for several years. But what if you need to learn about virtual architecture software right now?
That’s where ArchiStar Academy can help. We offer courses in a range of digital design software packages that you can use with your VR hardware.
Contact ArchiStar today if you’re interested in using VR to your firm’s advantage.
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.
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with Archistar Academy today if you have any questions.
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Posted on 20 Jan 2020