Common Ground with Virtual Reality

I first hired out an Oculus Rift headset two and a half years ago. At this point, Virtual Reality was something I was tinkering with. Playing, exploring, just classic kiwi inquisitiveness. It seemed like a pipe-dream that Virtual Reality would become my reality, but today, I’m at the helm of some pretty exciting projects in a newly established role, as Jasmax’s Digital Innovation Lead.

I’m an architect by trade, and have had the opportunity to work on major infrastructure projects in Australia and New Zealand; most recently Auckland’s City Rail Link. But it was in mid-2015 that my interest was sparked for Virtual Reality, and the potential that new, emerging technologies could have for the communication of design. ‘Minds eyes’ and ‘imaginations’ work differently in us all and yet ‘pictures speak a thousand words’. So, why wouldn’t we use Virtual Reality to bridge that gap?

Today, I’m working to embed these powerful tools into the architect’s and designer’s process. Seeing the reactions of our clients, consultants, collaborators – even our own project teams’ - when they experience their project in VR is what I get out of bed for in the morning.

Short of actually building the project, VR is allowing design teams to experience and interrogate a project in the most true to life medium we have access to. No other medium communicates volume, scale and proportion like VR does. Unlike so many other mediums that we as designers use to communicate our projects, VR leaves little room for misinterpretation.

For me VR is the common ground that designers, clients, consultants and collaborators have been waiting for. There is tangible comfort at the end of a VR project meeting that everyone has experienced the design in the same way, the team is on the same page; it’s actually de-risking the project to a degree. That’s certainly not something I expected from my tinkering two years ago.

At present VR is a communication tool, and we’re still doing ‘the designing’ in our core software packages. I think very soon we will cross that bridge and start designing within the VR environment - it won’t be a year or two away, it will be just around the corner. I’m also looking forward to delivering multi-user VR experiences, donning the VR goggles is a bit of a one man show at the moment, but soon your project architect will be taking you for a VR tour of your future project with both of you in the environment at the same time. You’ll be able to see each other’s avatars (not James Cameron’s blue fantasies, more virtual representations of yourself) and interact with each other in that environment.. how powerful is that going to be?!

Our VR garage is set-up in-house at our Auckland premises – be sure to ask for a spin when you’re next in the neighbourhood.

View Tim's profile here.

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