Applications of VR and AR in Architecture
To the architect, VR is a dream come true. Until the advent of this technology, architects would have to wait weeks, months or more to see their work truly bear fruit. To an architect, designs and blueprints on a page are akin to musical notation to a composer. They may express the architect’s vision, but they are not how that vision is meant to be truly experienced. For that, time, money, and skilled labor is required to execute on the plan.
Scale models, although useful, are no substitute for the real thing. A toy-sized replica is more helpful than the printed page or 2D computer monitor, but it cannot express the scope and majesty many architects have in mind when they work out their designs. Models are expensive and time-consuming to create, and cannot easily be iterated upon as an architect makes changes and improvement.
On the other hand, VR is life-size, fast, and inexpensive. A CAD design can be brought to life almost instantly in the virtual world, and a simulation of sufficient quality is effectively indistinguishable from the real thing. Architects can walk through their creations, see them as they are meant to be seen, and even make changes to them in real-time. In the virtual world, anything is possible, and architects can use software to add or remove elements as they see fit. No construction crew or building permit required.
SmartReality AR App
The SmartReality app is a fascinating convergence of smartphone, virtual reality, and augmented reality. Designed for architectural professionals, users upload their plans to the service to be converted into SmartReality-compatible files. Once the file is loaded into the smartphone app, users can scan in paper plans and translate them into either virtual reality or augmented reality.
The software is compatible with a variety of VR and AR head-mounted displays. In VR, users can literally walk through their plans. This type of interaction is invaluable to get a sense of scale and an understanding of how people inside the building would move around.
In AR, SmartReality creates an instant 3D model on a tabletop or other surface. Both functions of the application represent an exciting new way for architects to interact with their creations before they are built. By relying on paper plans, the software allows architects to skip the learning curve, and use their already-developed skills and knowledge to update their designs in the virtual world.
Augment AR 3D Modeling Software
Leaning more heavily on the concept of translating paper plans into the virtual world is Augment, a startup firm creating plugins for existing CAD and 3D design tools. Augment was created to help sales professionals better communicate with their clients, but is especially useful in the architecture and interior home design fields.
Essentially, the software overlays 3D models into the real world. It requires no hardware other than an ordinary smartphone or tablet, and is very accessible and easy to use. Looking at a physical space through the device screen, the user can seamlessly add 3D models, sizing and rotating them as needed.
In the architectural space, site visits become very easy. The app has no limits on the scale of the objects placed, so architects can show their clients how an entire building will look compared to its neighbors. For interior home designers, the app is even more useful. An empty room can be virtually decorated, and the client can peer through a tablet screen, moving around the room to see the proposed furniture and décor from every angle.