Guiding the Audience (Plus Five More Tips for Creating Immersive VR Experiences)
Immersion is key when using virtual reality in architecture. Walkthroughs may be your pathway to creating immersive virtual reality experiences.
We’ve all heard how virtual architecture software offers a more immersive experience for clients. This is true as clients need only strap on a headset to see your model in detail. They can interact with objects and offer suggestions. Furthermore, they develop a greater understanding of the structure through virtual reality (VR).
The hardware helps you out. You can create more realistic models than ever before. Virtual architecture software allows you to create real-world scenarios, and simplify complex models.
However, you need to do more to stand out from the other firms that offer VR. It’s not enough to just use the features of virtual reality. You need to create stories around your designs, with the aim of immersing your clients.
Think of it like this. VR may help you to stand out from all of the firms that offer dry, drawing-based presentations. But what about the other firms that use virtual architecture software? As the technology gains popularity, you’re going to come up against a lot of other early adopters. In this scenario, VR alone isn’t enough to give you a competitive edge. You need to make your presentation the most immersive and enjoyable your client may ever experience. Doing so ensures you stick in your client’s memory, meaning you increase your chances of getting new business.
So, how do you do that? These tips show you how to create immersive and engaging VR experiences for your clients.
Tip #1 – Guide the Audience
How do you present your VR experience to your clients?
Many architects just boot up the hardware and drop their clients into virtual worlds. While this gives the client the chance to explore, it offers no context. You may find that your clients ask a lot of questions because they don’t understand what they’re seeing.
Create compelling narratives surrounding your models to counter this. Even the most basic model becomes more engaging when you have a story to tell. Best of all, you don’t have to tell the story verbally. You can use your virtual world to create visual and verbal cues that guide them to the next part of the story.
Here’s an example. Before presenting your model to your client, create a small tutorial for them to work through. Think of it like the beginning of a computer game. Use the tutorial to show them what they can do in the virtual world. For example, you could have them ascend a set of stairs, turn on a light switch, or pick up an object. This teaches the client what they can do when you introduce them to the virtual model.
Once they’re in the model, use visual cues to direct the client. Have them use the skills they’ve learned in the tutorial to affect the world you put them in. For example, you could have the client turn on a light switch when they enter a room. The light then reacts realistically in relation to the room, which can wow the client. Or, you can cue a sound to play when the client reaches a certain point. This pulls the client’s attention to the next part of the model you want to show off.
VR offers freedom, but that doesn’t mean you don’t need to provide some guidance.
Tip #2 – Use Strong Character Animation
To immerse a client in your model, you must make it as realistic as possible. This isn’t a problem with the model itself. Your experience and talents allow you to build realistic structures and objects. Your clients can engage with those structures as they would in real life.
However, a barren structure doesn’t show off the full potential of your model. Many architects use virtual architecture software to create characters as well as structures. Their clients then interact with these characters during their journeys.
Unfortunately, many underestimate the importance of realism in relation to their characters. Nothing damages immersion more than seeing a jerkily-animated character who looks like he doesn’t belong in the world. Your attempts to build immersion fall flat, instead taking your client out of the moment and reminding them that what they’re seeing isn’t real.
You must avoid that if you want to keep clients engaged throughout the presentation. Remember that you’re using the features of virtual reality to create a “wow” factor. Your client wants to remember the experience for its positives, rather than the little things that took away from the package.
Create strong and realistic characters. Put as much effort into their visual style and animations as you put into the structures you create. This keeps your clients immersed in the virtual world when they interact with the character. Furthermore, you can then use your realistic characters to simulate other real-world scenarios.
Tip #3 – Don’t Forget About Freedom
Don’t forget about the importance of freedom when creating your narrative. Remember that you want to guide clients, rather than forcing them through particular paths. If you completely eliminate freedom from your model, you lose one of the key features of virtual reality.
Much of the appeal of virtual reality lies in the freedom to look around and explore whatever you want. Striking a balance between freedom and narrative creates a more immersive experience. Your clients don’t feel confined during their time inside the model. They also won’t come away with the nagging feeling that you were trying to hide something from them.
Take open-world, sandbox video games as an example. These games introduce a virtual world to the player, and offer freedom from the off. Players explore at their own pace, but can also pick up missions to complete along the way. The missions drive the narrative aspect, but they still have the freedom to explore. As a result, they can dip in and out of the story as it suits them.
Use virtual reality software to structure your virtual models and worlds in the same way. Use your narrative cues to encourage the user to follow certain directions, but don’t force the issue. Allow your clients to explore anything that engages them before they come back and deal with the story cue.
Here’s why this works. Keeping the clients’ freedom intact means you don’t constantly remind them that the virtual world has limits. Exploration engrosses them, while your cues guide them.
Tip #4 – Plan and Test Extensively
You can’t create compelling stories on the fly. You must plan every aspect of the narrative you create within your models. In fact, don’t use your virtual reality software until you have a plan in place.
Create storyboards for every action you want the client to take. Let’s come back to the tutorial example. You may want the client to switch on the light, and then pick up an object. Use storyboards to map out the cues. For example, you could start the experience with the client facing the light switch. When the client flicks the switch, the light could shine directly onto the object you want them to interact with. This leads the client through the actions you want them to take.
Beyond that, account for every possible interaction within the scene. For example, the client may turn away from the switch, instead of flipping it. They should still be able to explore the world, however, the lack of light should make it more difficult. You could even include a funny element by having them knock over the object because they can’t see it without a light.
Furthermore, think about how you use cameras in your architectural visualisation. Virtual reality allows you to use several cameras for a single scene. However, this creates the possibility of scene stitching. For example, a character or object may appear in two different places when you use multiple cameras.
Your planning and testing processes account for this. Explore your virtual reality software and model to ensure everything works as it should. Test the model in full, 360 degrees. This helps you to find instances of scene stitching, or anything that isn’t quite right about the scene. Fix the problems before you present, as these issues break immersion as soon as they’re spotted.
Tip #5 – Don’t Forget Sound
Sound is one of the key features of virtual reality. VR offers spatial sound, which means clients can hear the sounds you include coming from different directions.
As previously mentioned, you can use these sounds to guide the client through the model. Verbal and auditory cues capture their attention, keeping the client moving through the model.
However, you can’t forget the importance of background noise when it comes to immersion. For example, clients may expect to hear their footsteps as they walk. They may also expect to hear a different sound when walking over hard floors as opposed to walking on carpet.
Every time you fail to deliver a sound the client expects, you pull them out of the virtual world. Again, remember that you’re going for realism with your virtual architecture software. VR isn’t just about how things look. It’s about how they feel and sound.
Think about what you’d expect to hear when walking through your model. Perhaps there’s light chatter from a group of people in an office. Or, a light whir of machinery in certain areas of the building.
Whatever the case may be, incorporate these sounds into your model. They both act as audio cues for the narrative, and keep the client immersed in the virtual world.
Tip #6 – Keep Things Simple
The ability to simplify complex drawings is one of the main features of virtual reality. So why would you want to make the experience too complex?
Don’t mistake immersing the client into your VR story with making the whole thing too complicated. You still want clients to enjoy their experiences in the virtual worlds you create. Keep cues and instructions simple and slow. Don’t challenge users to complete complex tasks before allowing them to move forward. Remember, your model isn’t a videogame, even if you’re taking some design cues from the gaming world.
Simplicity extends to how you present your model too. Don’t include too much camera movement. This disorientates clients and could even lead to motion sickness. Static and slow-moving cameras create a more enjoyable experience. Don’t pan around too much either. Keep the client focused on what they can see. You may want to show something off, but that’s what your cues are for. Don’t force experiences onto the user.
Remember that most of your clients haven’t encountered virtual architecture software before. They don’t know about the features of virtual reality, so you have to teach them. Complex models assume advanced understanding. This breaks immersion before it has the chance to develop.
Try testing your model on a virtual reality novice before presenting it to a client. Those familiar with the features of virtual reality may not spot where you’ve overcomplicated things. Use your tester’s runs through the model to figure out where you must make things simpler.
With virtual architectural software being so new, many architects don’t think enough about immersion. They focus on creating stunning models, but don’t use the many features of virtual reality to engage their clients.
The above tips help you to create stories within your virtual worlds. In doing so, you present much more than a standard model to your clients. You make the act of exploring the model an exciting and immersive experience they’ll want to come back to. The story you create stands out, and helps your clients to use the features of virtual reality and get more out of your models. As a result, clients remember your models over other VR presentations.
Of course, you can’t create an immersive virtual experience if you don’t understand the technology. That’s where ArchiStar Academy can help. Check the ArchiStar Academy blog regularly to see more tips and advice for using VR in architecture. ArchiStar Academy also offers several course in virtual architecture software. Furthermore, we sell an array of virtual reality and digital design software at industry-best prices.
Do you want to know how ArchiStar Academy can help you to use VR and set your firm apart from your competitors? Contact us today find out about our courses and training opportunities.
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Posted on 28 Mar 2019