Technological evolution

Designing with technology

Two years ago, when Palmer Luckey, the creator of Oculus Rift, released the DK1 (virtual reality headset) for developers, it was the beginning of a technological breakthrough for many fields including architecture/industrial design.

I was fortunate to buy the DK1 at that time and the first 3D model I decided to convert to virtual reality (VR) was a concept train I had designed a few months earlier. For the first time, I was able to see my design from every angle, like it was real.

VR gives you a sense of scale you will never get with a screen. Immediately, I was able to see what was wrong or good with my model, something I couldn’t see before. The only thing that could compete with that would be a 1:1 scale model, which would be far more expensive, obviously.

I think that in the near future every architect will use as standard 3D goggles when they design... and the next generation of architect/designers will be using VR and new real-time 3D tools

This applies to architecture as well. For example, with the Oculus Rift, you could detect flaws or issues that you couldn’t see on plans.

The other thing provided by VR is interactivity. For my second demo, I decided to convert plans of Ty Hedfan, a house in Wales designed by Featherstone Young. I wrote a programme and was able to open the doors and turn on the lights. You can instantly change materials for the walls or floor, and the position of lights.

Interactivity means you can experiment with a lot of different options — design, materials, lighting, weather — very quickly.

I think that in the near future every architect will use as standard 3D goggles when they design. The next generation of architect/designers will probably use VR and new real-time 3D tools.

The next generation of 3D real time engine (Unreal engine 4, Unity) will use real time global illumination (like Vray or mental Ray). So you will get a photo realistic rendering or animation in just a few seconds.

Also, we could expect an empty room with positional tracking dedicated to VR in every architecture practice, for testing new designs.

Finally, you could invite your client to try your concept and choose different options or, if they cannot come, why not send your project to their smartphone? The Samsung gear VR headset has already proved that a smartphone can give a good VR experience.

Thirty years ago, computers and CAD software started to change radically the workflow for architects/designers. Now VR is going to fundamentally change the way we work again.

Olivier Demangel is design director and founder at IVR-Nation