Jon Brouchoud is an architect at Arch Virtual who has been putting architectural projects within Unity since before the Oculus Rift came out. He’s been using virtual reality for architectural clients for over a year now, and says that VR has the potential to change every dimension of the architecture industry ranging from the design, pre-visualization, engineering, inspection, and even construction of new buildings.
Two of the most important components of architecture is scale and proportion, and Jon says that immersive technologies like virtual reality can start to accurately represent scale and proportion like no other 2D medium. Any VR developer knows that there’s a world of difference between designing a VR environment on a 2D screen versus actually experiencing your virtual world within VR. Jon says that it’s no different for architecture, and that they’re constantly surprised as to what types of intuitive insights they’ll have for improvements on an architectural design even when they’ve thought that they’ve nailed it.
One of the big early VR clients that Arch Virtual had was with the Sacramento Kings basketball team who wanted to see what their stadium would look like for the owners, players, as well as fans.
Jon talks about how Arch Virtual has been using the multiplayer features within Unity in order to start to do design reviews with inspectors, engineers, construction crew, and the clients. He says that it feels like he’s living in the future by being able to have different team members spot potential construction issues before anything has even started to be build. “It’s a lot easier to move pixels than it is to move bricks” says Jon about the power of being able to spot issues before anything has started to be built.
Arch Virtual is also in the process of creating a platform and a toolset to be able to create buildings within a VR experience. When Jon was doing the Toy Box at Oculus Connect, he mind was racing with all of the possibilities that these controllers will open up for architects being able to design buildings within VR.
Jon says that he’s never shown a client or fellow architect who wasn’t completely blown away by virtual reality, and that he feels like he’s got one of the best jobs in the world to introduce VR to the architectural industry. It reminded me of this VR architectural visualization reaction anecdote that was posted on /r/oculus by an architectural intern /u/nielzz:
The architect sat down, I explained the 360 controls and what the camera did. After he put it over his head he tried to look up using the controller, and asked me if that was possible. I told him to just look up with his head, after that it was silent for a good two minutes. He carefully walked around, completely silent. Normally this man would talk a lot, constantly and really hard. My colleagues looked up with a weird expression, “I’ve never seen him quiet”.
Then a soft “unbelievable” came out of his mouth. “I didn’t expect this, not at all”. In the period of 15 minutes, he occasionally broke the silence with: “How is this already possible? I get it now. I’m so happy I didn’t put more bridges in the main hall. I can now finally see how important it is that this wall is yellow. I’ve got to change that. Amazing that I can finally see it. This opens so much to me”. And some more reactions like that.
He finally put the Rift off his head, his eyes were in a total state of blown away. He put the Rift away and just sat there, saying nothing. Some colleagues were giggling and I asked how he liked it. It looked like my question was just some noise to him, and he replied, “Sorry, it’s just so much information that I have to process.” After 5 minutes of staring he shook his head and stood up. “I would never expect this. The building isn’t finished, and I’ve already been there. As an architect, this is cheating, my god.”
Jon says that this VR technology can indeed be very intimidating to architects who may be afraid of adopting this new technology. But Jon says that applications of VR to architectural visualization are such a no-brainer that he feels pretty confident that it’s going to revolutionize every aspect of the architecture industry from design to engineering to construction.
Jon also provided one of the more profound insights that I’ve heard about the ultimate potential future of virtual reality. As VR gets more and more to the point of being indistinguishable from reality, Jon imagines a time when there are multiple people gathering within a virtual building environment in VR and then there’s a moment when they realize that they don’t need to actually build the building. The VR version may be good enough, and so the ultimate potential of VR is that it could lead to a more sustainable future.
Here’s some more projects that Arch Virtual has worked on in the past year:
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Theme music: “Fatality” by Tigoolio