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Virtual reality and design on a human scale

Friday, 6 November 2015

Justin MillerEveryone in the design community is talking about Virtual Reality, and that’s not surprising. It seems like every new design tool and technology comes with a promise to help us work more efficiently and more effectively. As a rookie user, I have to say that my VR experience has opened my eyes to the future of design.

When Angeline from our IT team mentioned that she’d been developing a virtual tool that would let users experience their 3D SketchUp models in VR, I jumped at the chance to test it on the NICU (neonatal ICU) room I was developing.

Within a few hours, I was standing virtually in a room I had designed. I could experience the room as the parents of a young patient would, standing at the side of a baby warmer, looking down at their sick newborn. From a design perspective, it was easy to evaluate the built-in cabinetry I had designed for families’ personal belongings and realize that it was too narrow.

Unlike SketchUp, the VR experience provided an excellent sense of scale and a true sense of experiencing designed space. Rather than being confined to the dimensional constraints of a 2D screen, the field of view in VR moved with the motion of my head, offering true perspective.

I’m looking forward to the day soon where we will be standing with clients in a virtual mock-up, explaining and discussing the space we have designed, providing a startlingly realistic experience at a fraction of the time and cost of planning and constructing a physical mock-up.

- Justin Miller

Justin Miller is a member of Shepley Bulfinch’s architectural staff in the firm’s healthcare practice.


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