Virtual Reality

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What is VR?

Immersive artist and entrepreneur Chris Milk once said: ‘Talking about virtual reality is like dancing about architecture’, says Area Sq’s James Barry. It’s a difficult thing to explain because it’s something you have to feel your way through. When I first experienced VR in Venice last year, it felt…like real life. I felt present in the environment my headset had conjured. Virtual reality, then, can be described as an illusion. By using visualisation technology, we can create realities outside of our own and essentially ‘send’ people wherever we choose.

Talk us through VR’s journey?

Stereoscopic lenses emerged in the 1950’s but the desire to simulate realities started long before that. In the 1600’s, Luca Giordano was painting battlefields on 12x2m canvasses. Looking up at these grand scale paintings, you feel immersed in the environments. Whether they knew it or not, artists like Giordano were creating stereoscopic images. So VR, as a concept, has been around for a long time but the technology has of course evolved.

In terms of the design industry, what role is VR currently playing?

Pitching design and architecture projects used to heavily rely on one’s ability to breathe life into blueprints, floor plans and design specs. However, most people find it hard to visualise how a space will actually look when all they can do is glance at plans etched onto paper, or projected onto a screen. Yes, it’s the designer’s job to communicate the vision, but there’s something to be said for inviting people to experience a building before it’s even been built. Such technology can allow a client to grasp a concept when words and images only go so far.

With the impact of VR, how has this changed the way organisations are approaching design and fit-out projects?

As a commercial office design and fit-out specialist, we use visualisation technology to offer our clients a glimpse of the future they’re investing in. This technology allows you to move away from ‘an idea of how it’ll look’ to ‘exactly how it’ll look’. VR tech can be used to explore various home and office environments at the design stage. By using this tech, a future occupier can, in theory, step into their new office or home and have a play around with the furniture, and even the artwork. VR allows people to interact with a space, see how design decisions impact the environment and become more engaged with the process.

What positive impact has it had?

From Area Sq’s point of view, we’ve had a 100% win ratio when we’ve used VR as part of our pitches. That’s not to say the technology was the only reason we secured the business; but it certainly helped our designers communicate the ideas behind the project proposals.

How is VR transforming the industry?

Architects and designers have already begun to explore the possibilities and it won’t be long before everyone will be using this technology. It’ll improve the ways and means of showcasing a design concept. VR will make things easier, better and more exciting for everyone.

Where is VR going?

We’ve only just begun to skim the surface of virtual reality and the associated benefits it can bring to the business world. We’re currently at the same point with visualisation technology as we were when the first mobile phone came out in 1973. Imagine the possibilities over the next four decades. Mark Zuckerberg has recently bought Oculus VR. Considering that one of the world’s leading entrepreneurs is prepared to invest in this kind of technology, it’s safe to say the journey is well underway…but this tech is on an open, endless road, and there are plenty more turns ahead.