Designing for the Future: Transforming Architecture with Virtual Reality

When you first hear the words “virtual reality,” you might immediately think of gaming headsets, movies, and entertainment ads. That’s not entirely inaccurate, it has far more uses across many industries.

Today, virtual reality serves many lines of business seeking new ways to present information, from healthcare and education to real estate – and even interior design.

What is Virtual Reality? 

Virtual reality (VR) uses computer technology to create a simulated environment that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. A user is immersed in the background to interact and explore, and the brain thinks what it sees in the virtual world is real. Extended reality (XR) is the umbrella term that encompasses this kind of immersive technology and also includes augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR). 

While 3D visualization has been around for decades, the digital and technological landscape is constantly changing. The shift toward nascent technologies is more apparent than ever before, especially given that billions are currently stuck at home and seeking an escape due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’ve seen virtual environments presented in movies for decades, from the Holodeck on the Starship Enterprise, to The Matrix, to the holographic meeting attendees of the Jedi High Council.  While video conferencing has become a part of everyday life for most of us, Virtual Environments are becoming commonplace in the architectural design industry.  It is now becoming more expedient to take the architect’s 3D model and finish it with the details (accurate surface characteristics, electric lighting distributions, and orientation to daylight for example) so that we can experiment with different lighting techniques and material qualities without having to guess or do full scale mock-ups.” Billy Hodges, Founder of Digital Filaments

How Can It Work in Interior Design?

Virtual reality boasts a wealth of advantages for professionals in the architecture and design space, specifically its ability to help sell an idea better than any other medium. Here are three innovative ways that designers will be able to use this technology in the future:

1. Demonstrate scale and space in an architectural project.

One of the biggest challenges for many design professionals is often showing how a project will go from images on paper to a real-life environment. This is where virtual reality can help. Instead of drawing, explaining, or imagining a space’s size and dimensions, designers can utilize dynamic real-time visualizations to create an interior’s realistic environments. Exploring a concept model in a fully immersive environment allows both architects and clients to intuitively understand the spatial qualities and make any necessary changes before the construction begins. 

2. Visualize how specific lighting can impact an environment

Lighting has a dramatic effect on a space’s mood and atmosphere, enhancing the way we perceive architecture and design. Does the room have ample natural light? Do the lighting fixtures set the right tone? Implementing immersive technologies, like virtual reality and augmented reality, can help identify potential issues and conflicts with specific lighting elements while still in the design phase.

3. Provide a safe, hands-free approach to team collaboration. 

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed how teams work, with many people still unsure when and if they will return to the workplace. As a result, architects and designers have had to rethink traditional ways of bringing spaces to life while prioritizing health and safety. For example, companies like Connec2, MeetinVR, and Spatial have created technologies that allow professionals to come together virtually to collaborate, meet, discuss, present, and make collective decisions. 

Using Virtual Reality to Communicate Lighting Design

As more architects and designers begin experimenting with virtual, augmented, and mixed reality in their work, we can expect to see even more changes across the lighting industry. At Digital Filaments, we are exploring these technologies so that we may be able offer them in future client projects.

Please visit digitalfilaments.com or call us directly at 215.600.2024 to learn more about our current offerings and services.