It seemed that back in the 90′s, the talk about virtual reality technology fizzled out into the aether, never to be spoken of again. It was a science fiction flight of fancy that captured imaginations, but seemed unfeasible and impractical in the real world. So people tucked away both their visors and dreams, but it was only for a while.
More than a decade later, talks about VR had popped up again, and critics were quick to point out its failures from the days of yore. However, it was a new age with newer and more powerful technologies that could make this distant dream into actual reality. Soon enough, it did seem like it was finally going to happen as a lot of prototypes did as they were designed to—make virtual reality come true.
At this point, the technology’s practical applications were then discussed with both great enthusiasm and caution. Aside from its potential recreational and industrial uses, one of the fields looking into VR is architecture due to obvious reasons.
Being able to see a building that hasn’t been build yet from the inside out would be very beneficial for architects who are looking for more ways to improve upon their current methods in designing structures. They can also show clients a house’s interior and exterior easily through VR. Being able to roam around in a 3D space and see everything like how we see things in real time and not just through a screen or a piece of paper.
Not only is it good for viewing 3D spaces, but for designing them as well. Virtual architecture is being seen as feasible within five years or so. You can take photographs and plans that are on 2D planes and draw them out into 3D spaces through VR. While that process is already being done through computer screens now, the implementation of VR in this process can potentially make it much better by giving architects a better eye on the eventual end result.
Application of Video Game Technology to VR for Architecture
This has been seen in video games for a long time now. Pretty much the 3D level design technology in video games is best applicable to architecture and engineering, and it can then be modified and adapted to the needs of building real life structures. Then a VR platform like Oculus Rift can then be used to view and navigate a 3D space of choice in virtual reality.
A lot of the current 3D tools used in video game development are also used in the field of architecture, so this transition does seem logical. Much of virtual reality came out of its potential in VR gaming, stemming from the virtual reality craze in the mid-90′s.
While the development of VR kind of fizzled out back then due to the absence of the technology to make it possible, the dream didn’t die along with it and has been rekindled for all in this period, again thanks to interest in VR gaming.
The Oculus Rift
Among all of the modern VR platforms that are being developed right now, the Oculus Rift is perhaps the most talked about. There are others like the Sony’s Project Morpheus and the Samsung Gear VR (smartphone-based VR powered by Oculus), but Oculus Rift is the one making the most waves.
The most eyes on the Oculus Rift are obviously the video gaming market, but the architecture field is also watching Oculus very closely on what they may come up next. In at least five years, they would have something we have never seen before and could be used by architects to further their endeavors.
Some of the most influential figures in the field are optimistic on what VR can bring to architecture as well. It may be sooner than you think when most architecture offices will have VR headsets and other equipment that doesn’t exist yet right now, or perhaps it’ll be a decade or two from now
Perhaps the biggest hurdle for VR right now is processing power. Rendering images in great clarity with the right field of view and parameters for human binocular vision to register as close as possible to actual vision takes a whole lot of processing power, which may not exist yet at the moment.
It’s hard to believe that the computers we have at the moment, as powerful as they may be right now, aren’t yet completely up to snuff for VR. But with Moore’s Law still working its magic, it shouldn’t be too long.
Meanwhile, developers are still fine-tuning the technology to make sure that it’s right for the eyesight of just about everyone, from those with 20/20 vision to those with short-sightedness, far-sightedness, astigmatism, epilepsy, and so on, to even those who are colorblind or have other visual impairments.
To widely implement VR technology, it must be able to accommodate just about everyone who aren’t completely blind.
While VR technology is still being worked on, it seems that it’s purpose for existing isn’t just present, but numerous as well. With architecture in particular, the possibilities are quite enticing and hopeful. If that’s the next big thing in architecture, then it seems that its future is indeed bright.