Virtual and Augmented Reality

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The architectural and engineering industry is always moving and adapting to future needs. Adopting the use of computer drafting was the first large step, which sped up the design process significantly. As technology advances, so will the ways we design. Having to create a 3D model, then having to convert it to 2D to build it is a major flaw in the industry. However, this will change in the future. The use of virtual and augmented reality will allow for designers and engineers to work in an immersive environment and allow for more complex problem solving while being able to collaborate more than ever. Although virtual and augmented reality are in their infancy, they are still extremely beneficial to the design industry and offer many more perks than drawbacks.


Virtual reality is when one is completely removed from the environment around them and placed in a virtual environment. This could mean that they are wearing an immersive headset such as an Oculus Go or Rift. The user has no sense of what is happening around them but can adapt to their virtual environment. Virtual reality is extremely beneficial to the architectural industry because it allows for the designer to truly understand the architectural expressions one is making, helping to define an experience. This is also extremely beneficial when working with a client who isn't as versed in reading plans and understanding the true scope in 2D. With a variety of products on the market, there are a few which are easily accessible and at a competitive price point. These programs include:


  • Lumion rendering software - It has a built-in 360 photo viewer which would allow clients to view spaces on any device.
  • Momento 360 - It allows one to view 360 photos and allows viewers to make comments with pin markers, which can help speed up the decision-making process.
  • Gravity Sketch - It allows users to draw in 3D, creating complex geometries, and export it to Rhinoceros to be used in a future model. It is great for massing.
  • The Wild - It combines each of the programs above. It creates a collaboration space for architects and engineers to work through problems in a virtual environment.

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Augmented reality is the addition of a virtual environment on top of the real world. It is viewed from a pass-through lens and overlays images that correspond to what is happening outside. This can be a headset, a pair of glasses, or even a smartphone. This, in my opinion, has the most potential for the future of the industry. The adoption of augmented reality headsets in the construction industry would allow for untrained workers to accomplish more complex tasks with higher degrees of accuracy. Augmented reality also allows for a designer and their client to experience a whole project in its corresponding location without any ground being broken. This major benefit would improve the design process and cause fewer late-stage changes. Some programs with this technology include:


  • Morpholio AR sketch walk - It allows users to lay a building plan or elevation out over a real site at full scale. Other users in the area can join the session and mark up the original document from their device, allowing for collaborative work effort.
  • ARki - It is software that focuses on 3d model presentation. It allows a user to project the 3d asset onto a real-life surface and show different iterations of the building.
  • Unity Reflect - It is an all-in-one program that is extremely versatile. It causes VR and AR capabilities and brings together the architecture and engineering industry.


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Virtual and augmented reality still have a long way to go to become a major presence in an office environment, but starting to adopt some of their uses now will allow for an easier transition in the future. This technology will allow you to speed up the design and development processes while reducing the use of paper and preventing mistakes from being made, saving money and time.


Design Collaborative already has resources in place to utilize virtual and augmented reality. With an Oculus Quest and a smartphone, you can use every one of the programs explained above. The adoption of a more defined protocol for this software would be extremely beneficial and allow projects to stand out when competing with other firms.


With the rapid growth of software engineering and a green future, I think there will be many changes to the architecture industry soon. I believe that VR and AR capabilities will allow offices to collaborate all over the world as if they were standing in the same room, which would make way for a new global architectural style. The construction industry will adopt AR technology and use it to help create smarter, more complex buildings. These headsets would be capable of updating live on the site, speeding up the construction process. Finally, I believe that architects will be designing in 3D and handing those models off to contractors, without the need for any paper documents. All these pieces together will allow for a greener and more efficient future.

Written By:
Elliot Tishler
Architectural Intern
Design Collaborative