Virtual Reality (VR) challenges the way we perceive things. In summary, it immerses individuals in a completely artificial, digitally generated three-dimensional environment. It is not a new technology but some of the ways it is starting to be used in everyday life is innovative. As you may know, there are social inclusion programs where you can experience someone else’s feelings by jumping into their digital body, medical students can explore the human anatomy with the advantage of a stereoscopic presentation and other students can learn remotely without leaving their home.
For architects, it means being able to show and experience an environment that is not yet built. Being able to walk through the building and surroundings as if you were physically present. We have seen video games with similar possibilities but what is now innovative is being able to appreciate the effect of the light internal and externally, the textures and colours of the materials in conjunction with the light and the scale of the spaces by including very realistic people, furnishings and the surrounding vegetation.
I am personally more in favour of the ‘pencil, paper and glue’ process since I do not think software allows the same design freedom. But, at the same time, I recognise the potential of the digital tools we rely on nowadays. These tools can help achieve an optimum design process by involving all stakeholders in early stages and providing an effortless understanding of the space. Also, by discovering details that are not working well during design stage we can considerably reduce the risk of future construction problems with the consequential costs and misunderstandings. VR is an honest presentation of the design that ‘bares all’!
In these times of social distancing, shops, museums, and galleries have used VR for online tours. For work environments, I see an opportunity for people in different locations to meet inside an artificial world for a “site visit” with the added possibility of real time modifications. We could be spending our time more efficiently while reducing travel and the associated impact on the environment.
If you think that “one image is worth thousand words”, thousands of images together creating a virtual world is an incredible way to engage with design. The challenge now is to be critical with all the tools we have available and be wise in the way we use them.