Augmented Reality (AR) superimposes the digital onto the ‘real world’. As such, it augments the ‘real’ with the ‘digital’. A common example is the client using their phone’s camera, to view a digital overlay of a proposed room over their exisiting room.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a purely digital medium and often used as an immersive environment. For example, a client uses VR ‘goggles’, to view a digital walk-through of their building. The sophistication of VR headsets vary greatly. Oculus Rift is widely thought of as the most sophisticated commercial option, however both the headsets and the design process are very expensive. Google Cardboard (as shown in the picture above) is viewed as the most financially accessible option, requiring only a smartphone and needing a lower design effort for the generation of a virtual environment.
Our industry is better positioned than most to take advantage of advances in AR and VR as most leading practitioners already do extensive digital modelling for projects. This is the perfect scaffold for creating AR and VR experiences. However, it’s important to note that these are just scaffolds.
Client’s expectations are increasingly high when it comes to interactive and immersive environments. A significant amount of effort goes into meeting these increasing expectations. Consequently, we’re seeing new roles and new digital talent being hunted from other industries: especially game developers and animation specialists. Soon we will becoming familiar with job titles such as: Haptic Interface Designers, Immersive Reality Modellers and Chief Technology officers.
Does AR and VR have a use beyond showcasing projects to clients? The answer is a resounding yes. Leading firms are already experimenting with the use of VR as a modelling tool to identify design clashes between different disciplines: for example ensuring that architectural, structural and electrical are aligned. This allows for a more robust pre-build planning process. In the last 10 years we have already seen a big shift in the move from design programs like Autocad to the more sophisticated modelling processes of programs like Archicad. AR and VR will see a similar shift happen in our industry. Very soon these new virtual realities will be setting the standard for best practice. It will completely revolutionise our capability for inventive design.