A Guide To Virtual Reality in Design

Posted by Hayley Lambert on 1/03/2017

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Everything you need to know about Virtual Reality in office design

Virtual Reality (VR) is more accessible now than ever before, its uses span across a diverse range of industries and been introduced beyond the workplace into everyone's pockets. But where does VR come from, what is it, and what can it be used for in design?

Where does VR come from and what is it?

Virtual Reality in its simplest form is not new, the actual concept has been around since 1838. In history, VR was merely a concept to represent the vision of the future, represented in the media as a technology akin to robots and flying cars. Fast forward to present day, what was once a vision is now a reality, and ubiquitous in modern day vocabulary. There is perpetual discussion surrounding VR in the technology sphere, however to many it is still seen as a foreign technology. 

The meaning of VR is not straightforward, and can be presented in many forms using a host of different tools. For the purpose of this guide, we are going to refer to VR in simple terms. VR is digital environments, ‘built’ by our designers using software, which can then be virtually interacted with. 

Why now is it popping up as a potential tool to revolutionise the way we design? 

One of the key reasons this technology has reared its head to revolutionise design, is because it has now become more accessible than ever before, and into the pockets of the majority. Partly due to the release of Google’s ‘Google Cardboard’, a head mounted display (HMD) made of (surprise surprise) cardboard, that acts essentially as a window to view VR and 360 images through your phone using Google’s VR software. 

Office design | Virtual Reality | Commercial interior design | VR

The VR Craze

Google's release kicked off the bombardment of more advances HMDs becoming available that all do the same thing, but with added functionality.

A key aspect in the appearance of this technology in design is that VR is in line with what a lot of design and build companies were already doing; creating 3D visuals to allow clients to visualise what their space will look like. The emergence of VR meant that designers could take these digitally constructed spaces to a new level, to create immersive settings that serve a whole new purpose. 

Why are design and build companies using it?

Technological trends such as VR can be seen as a gimmick that companies use just to be perceived as ‘up-to-date’ without any practical application. Whilst we can’t speak for anyone else, we have found VR to be incredibly useful in our design process, and for our clients. 

Sara Gammon, Account Manager at Interaction cites the benefits of using VR in design in helping clients understand their space:

“During the design of Hydrock’s new workspace in Bristol, the engagement of their people was key in creating a space that worked for the whole team. We utilised VR to aid in this engagement, taking some of the team on site to stand in the empty shell of their office, put on the VR headset and see the space come to life. Additionally it was a great tool to allow the teams who were not able to visit the site, be able to get a feel for the space and include them in these sessions without physically being there. VR is a useful tool to have at your disposal, to allow people who will use the space to help understand the design, providing spacial clarity, context and also to build genuine excitement!”

Experience VR in our 360 visual below, simply click and drag your mouse over the visual or move your smart phone to start looking around! 3D Render for Hydrock, Bristol

Design Engineer at Hydrock, Chris Scott, comments: 

“Working in the construction industry I understand the value of using well-worked renders and 3D imaging in portraying ideas to clients. When Interaction surprised us with a VR headset at our second meeting it really helped to gain a new perspective for the space which they were designing for us. This is not something I see as just a gimmick, but a really useful visualisation tool; something which my company is beginning to use in our own designs.”

Evidently VR has many practical uses in design, providing a physical element to a process that is more reactive to human interaction. Ultimately VR allows you to go from being a viewer to a participator, and the benefits are bilateral - it enhances the client's understanding of their potential space, and our understanding of how they feel about it. 

How do we do it, and what are our plans for the future?

Rasa Simonyte, part of our team of 3D Visualisers helps to answer this question… 

“We have been creating realistic 3D digital renders for a while now, we’ve found them to be incredibly valuable for our clients so we did debate whether VR was going to add any value. However we quickly realised that VR provides novel benefits, providing an immersive experience that cannot be matched by anything else in our design process.” 

Office design | Virtual Reality | Commercial interior design | VR

The excitement of VR

“The evolution of this technology is important for us to be able to apply it to office design. We are all really excited about how this technology will progress, and we will continue to remain at the forefront of this to ensure our designs remain progressive and innovative.”

“We’re in the process of increasing our VR capabilities with the aim of allowing clients to walk through and interact more with their potential space.”

What does the future hold for this technology?

It is anyone’s guess, but one thing that we can be sure of is that this technology will keep evolving and continue to be useful for many industries including design. 

Despite all of the hype and discourse that surrounds VR, it is a prominent shift in the way we communicate with our clients, allowing them to momentarily step into their future workplace whilst still being in the room.