Virtual reality and technology in architecture
Immersive Technology is allowing architects and designers to not only work remotely without a hitch but also communicate, collaborate and experience design, writes Gautam Tewari, co-creator of Trezi
The COVID-19 crisis has unquestionably spurred a jarring amount of transformation in the world today. As far as the work-from-home trend is concerned, it is expected to persist as the new norm in an attempt to flatten the curve, especially since it has been proven feasible. Most firms have implemented work-from-home for a longer duration in the post-pandemic context, and are actively encouraging this in times to come. A recent announcement of Twitter allowing their employees to work from home “forever” has been a precedent in the industry, redefining workplace policy and paradigms.
Although numerous companies are confronted with challenges to achieve stability, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted a surge in technological innovations. While advancements in the new ways of remote working are coming to the forefront, the pandemic’s effect on architecture as well as design firms is somewhat precarious. The AEC industry is still struggling with the slowdown of construction and on-site activity, and of course, the lack of engagement and communication in design processes.
Even though many architects and designers are confronted with unprecedented challenges, there is surely a way ahead that looks towards a positive future. The building industry typically comprises fragmented workflows and a general aversion to tech-based disruption. Since the traditional and commonly adopted methods and tools to help comprehend and experience design are inadequate, the industry and its stakeholders also suffer from inefficient and ineffective design collaboration between architects, designers, their end-clients, and product manufacturers. As a result, timelines are extended exponentially due to incremental delays and errors. However, with technological innovations on the rise, people are now adapting novel solutions that offer immense promise and potential. Especially within the building industry, Immersive Technology is one such platform that can enable quick and effective communication and streamlined collaboration, as this is the need of the hour. Immersive Technology today is allowing architects and designers to not only work remotely without a hitch but also communicate, collaborate and experience design. One of the vital offerings of this technology is its ability to ensure virtual co-location of teams. At a time when in-person meetings are avoided, Immersive Tech makes it possible to transfer carefully calibrated work cultures and design intent into the virtual world, while remaining efficient. Immersive Tech can thereby aid and enhance the way we visualise data – by improving understanding, removing ambiguities, and facilitating decision-making.
Immersive Tech currently comprises AR (Augmented Reality) as well as VR (Virtual Reality); while AR still has some way to go before mass adoption,VR is closer to being used on a day-to-day basis in various design and building processes. In the present-day milieu, VR has undoubtedly become an impactful new-age technology that is proving its worth. Owing to ‘social distancing’, designers are recognising the need and significance of virtual reality tools. In many ways, VR is the next logical step for visualisation in construction: from paper drawings to computer drafting to 3D modeling, the next avenue is surely total immersion – stepping inside the design and experiencing each element inside the virtual world.
Research shows that the Virtual Reality market is expected to double from its current valuation at $45 billion to $95 billion by the year 2025. A sizable chunk of this user base is currently from the construction and real estate industries – at 13% and 7%, respectively. These numbers will only increase as penetration of the technology expands across user bases. From an engaging recreational medium to becoming an essential addition to an architect’s toolkit, the trajectory of VR adoption is one that points towards our desire for speed, agility, and accuracy above all else. In the future, Virtual Reality might even become a standard for all construction projects, with an HMD (Head Mounted Device) available at every project site to plan, foresee and troubleshoot. Perhaps, in the long run, Microsoft’s Alex Kipman’s prediction from 2017 will come true after all — HMDs may be replacing computers entirely. After all, we are getting closer to that reality with each passing year.
With the acceptance and usage of Virtual Reality as a holistic dimension itself, the perspective of four dimensions in architectural expression – namely three for space and one for time will soon disappear from the debate. Virtual Reality is revolutionising the ideology of individual perceptions – you will no longer see what you want to see, rather ‘you will see what everyone sees’. IoT (Internet of Things) applies to VR, where enormous data is linked to drawing or model outputs that, in turn, is interconnected with the world wide web.
As Virtual Reality continues to evolve as a technological innovation, the adoption of VR tools is essential in order to keep business running as usual. Consequently, this will lead to a decrease in the number of people required on-site such as contractors and laborers. In this day and age, taking advantage of technology is crucial in terms of the future of marketing and construction in the AEC domain. That said, we must continue to strive to keep our teams productive, even as we stay safe.