Virtual Reality as the Next Frontier in Design Tools

Guest article written by Awane Jones

One fantastical technology depicted throughout science fiction is a holographic or virtual projector that allows one to conjure a life-sized, virtual mock-up of their own working ideas, be it a car, building or something more whimsical. Ironically, current virtual reality technology has become quite a close proxy of this, making it an effective design tool that’s already seeing lots of use. In time, we could end up seeing VR become quite the staple for conceptualizing projects and creating artwork, big or small.

A lot of the industry has already adopted VR as a design platform for their projects. One field is obviously architecture, as it’s an architect’s dream to just walk through, and toy with, a life-sized, 3D image of the very structural ideas they have in mind. This has been realized through various VR applications, such as Symmetry and Truevision. Such applications can allow the uploading of a 3D CAD design to a VR environment for show, create a room or building within VR itself, or a bit of both.

Alongside this is a variety of engineering firms and vehicle manufacturers that have created their own VR centers and software for similar use. This would include automobile manufacturers, such as Ford and BMW, as well as those that manufacture boats, navy ships, and airplanes, such as Lockheed Martin and Airbus. Even small companies specializing in interior decoration are starting to use VR.

Regardless of the VR technology employed by these companies, the purpose remains the same: to review a project before committing resources to it. Having both fellow engineers and clients walk through a virtual model of, say, a navy ship can allow them to catch mistakes or make a clarification. This saves them from the major headache of needing to rework a project after so much has already been done. One other useful purpose is that, thanks to networking, it’s great at letting engineers from completely opposite sides of the world work on the same project.

All of this demonstrates the time- and cost-effective aspects of this technology, but a more artistic side is also growing. Even now, various applications exist that can let an artist’s ideas run wild within a virtual world that is their 360-degree canvas. The National Theatre recognized this, creating the Immersive Storytelling Studio in London for the express purpose of studying the relationship between VR and theater. One such VR app they’re playing around with is Google’s Tilt Brush, which could help set designers present a virtual scale model of their ideas to directors before physically producing them.

Beyond this studio and Tilt Brush are other apps like Quill by Story Studio and Gravity Sketch. Both are in the beta stage, with the former useful for not only conceptualization but also letting artists create illustrated narratives, and dazzling performance art that enables other viewers to watch the artist’s design unfold stroke by stroke. Meanwhile, the latter app is more general-purpose, allowing engineers and artists alike to create quick, 3D sketches, among other things, in VR.

This technology is obviously not perfect, given that most apps lack the finer details seen in life and a physics engine for simulation. Nonetheless, it seems this technology has already firmly entrenched itself within different parts of society and is only looking to grow further. Given time, we may end up seeing similar apps used for more mundane chores, like setting up party décor.

 

Who is the guest author?

awane-jones blogAwane Jones is the President of Zone 3 (VR) and the founder of ‘Merchlar’, a company that pioneered the Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) sector in Canada. A Co-Founder and former partner at 5thWall agency and the Montreal Chapter President of the VR/AR Association. He is also a bilingual keynote speaker and has presented at several international conferences including SXSW, C2, G20, Capital Innovation Défi MTL etc.

Click here to find out more about Awane Jones, Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

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