Last week Cameron Reid and I represented the Shepley Bulfinch Geeks by participating in Construction VR’s booth and ABX2016. It was a collaborative effort of groups in the area who are using VR within the AEC industry. It was exhilarating to be part of a true community of VR enthusiasts who weren’t looking to sell a product, but were excited to share their experiences and provide support for those looking to bring VR into their own practice.
We had visitors from all over the AEC community, including a number of students, reporters, and self-employed architects. There were many oohs and aahs. Reactions ranged from the skeptical “so this is the future”, to the enthusiastic “this is so realistic” and “the attention to detail is amazing”, and the occasional pessimistic “no thanks, I can see it from here” and “but what use do you actually get out of this?” And as much as I love hearing admiration for the work I’ve poured my heart and soul into for months at a time, it’s that last question that’s my favorite. I get to explain why VR is important to Shepley Bulfinch, and how we are able to engage our users and in the end, gain their trust.
On the surface, VR is useful as it allows us to convey space to users in a way that is intuitive and immersive. As one engineer put it so simply on the ABX floor, “this is great for users who can’t read plans.” That’s something we struggle with as an industry: how do we convey our ideas in a way that people without a design or engineering background can understand? When you can put your users inside of a proposed space, in an immersive manner that conveys scale and proportion, they are able to quickly understand the space. When they can understand the context of the space, they are able to make more informed decisions with greater confidence. With this deeper understanding of space and implications of placement, designers are able to solicit real feedback that wouldn’t have come from showing a plan or even a rendering. By using VR early in the design process we can create a feedback loop. Users are able to understand what a designer is trying to achieve while designers learning the user’s needs, which fosters meaningful dialog and helps us build trust with our clients.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to hear someone say “I could walk around in here all day” about one of your projects either.
Jessica is an Application Support Specialist, or “Geek”, providing IT support for the Phoenix office. She has a Masters of Architecture from Arizona State University, and when not supporting the office, she works with Dynamo, data analytics, and develops VR models for the firm.