Can I get that cabinet moved over just a little? Virtual reality will let homeowners immerse themselves in their home improvement project by allowing for a more realistic visualization.
The human relationship with architecture and the built environment is inherently a visual, immersive experience, so it makes perfect sense that the next big innovation in the industry is a visual, immersive technology: virtual reality (VR). VR isn't a new concept, but its application in the AEC industry is sure to be a game changer.
Experiencing VR for the first time is an eye opener for this user. (Video courtesy of Cadsoft.)
VR Comes to Homeowners
At the International Building Show in January, Cadsoft will unveil its new VR application for Envisioneer software. Now, Envisioneer users can enter a simulated environment to virtually experience the end result of a design before any physical construction takes place. The software has an option for users to go into headset mode and move around a design in VR. This option is built right inside the software so users can easily toggle from 2D to 3D to VR mode within a design.
Cadsoft's VR technology requires the use of an Oculus Rift headset. Users navigate the controls inside the software using an Xbox 360 game controller. They can walk through a design and get a true sense of the space, test out different design options and utilize all of their senses.
Like a Game
"The Oculus Rift is a VR headset that connects to a PC and can be used with any supporting application,” said Kevin Schmitter, lead developer on the virtual visualization team at Cadsoft. "When worn, the Rift can give the user the feeling of actually being present in whatever experience they've chosen. This is incredibly useful for home design, as the designers and clients can experience the home and feel the scale and space in a way that simply isn't conveyed by looking at images, all while being able to quickly make changes to the home design in response to their experiences."
Even though users may feel like they are immersed in a video game, the Envisioneer VR software isn’t built on gaming technology. It uses the same graphics engine as previously used in the software.
And although this technology will be an effective tool for drafters, designers and builders, virtual reality is not only for professional use. It will be available for all versions of Envisioneer software, including the Personal Architect product, so do-it-yourselfers and weekend warriors can take advantage of the technology as well.
Who will benefit the most from this application of VR? The first beneficiary will be the builder. The builder will be able to cut costs by using VR instead of building a brick-and-mortar show room. The second beneficiary is the home buyer. People often have a difficult time visualizing a space, but with VR, they can immerse themselves in the home, walk through each room and fully understand the scale and dimensions of the design.
For example, a builder could have multiple versions of a home available so customers can view different options for their home design. Do they want to add a fireplace but aren't sure how it will look? Or a different configuration of windows in the living room? The builder or building sales team can have different options available so the homebuyer could experience the exact difference each design choice would make to the home. VR can also be helpful in planning a home renovation. A designer at a building supply center can make customized changes to an existing home to help a client select material finishes and visualize how the home would change during a remodeling project.
In short, virtual reality will give builders more ways to communicate with their customers, and it will help homebuyers become more confident in their decisions. Everyone involved in the process will now have the ability to gain a better understanding of what a space will look and feel like before work begins. And this is better for everyone involved in the building process.
Lisa Lance is a writer and communications professional living in Baltimore, Maryland. She has been working in the AEC industry for the past six years and holds a Master of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins University.
Cadsoft Corporation has sponsored this post. They have no editorial input. All opinions are mine. —Lisa Lance