Over the past several years, our team at Arrowstreet has experimented with the implementation of Virtual Reality in our practice. VR has well documented architectural applications. The ability to actually experience space early in the design process helps us as designers as well as our clients make more informed decisions during the early phases of a project. The implementation of VR into our practice has improved our process and our communication with our clients and project partners (Construction Managers, Consultants, etc.).

We continue to integrate VR, recently utilizing early massing models to explore development concepts with a client group at early massing stages, well before the development of real architecture. While we are excited about the possibilities and potential for this technology, we believe that Augmented Reality (AR) can supplement (should I say “augment”) our ability to convey design information to our clients and partners.

AR varies from VR in one really significant way. While VR transports the user to an imagined world, AR interacts directly with the real world. We believe that this is important distinction. As it exists today VR, is a very individual experience, not only is the user cut off from their immediate surroundings, their experience is not easily shared with other participants in the room We’ve also seen that not everyone is immediately comfortable with this disconnect to their surroundings. AR has the potential to create a shared experience with the built environment, it puts the user in a virtual/digital experience while still present in the physical setting; in a way that VR cannot currently.

As we look back on the AR in Action conference from this week, we’ve wondered how AR can improve our work and how will it impact the future of architecture. We’ve asked ourselves “what if?”. What if we could show people multiple space configurations and styles within a matter of seconds? What if drawing sets were interactive, with three dimensional details that could be rotated and scaled to convey design intent in the field? What if we could “see through walls” to see the structure and systems inside before design decisions are made? What if building automation could “talk” to the operational staff in real time and space, conveying performance and maintenance requirements as users enter a room? What if architecture could “communicate” with the general population in a way that it never has before?

AR and VR technology are in their infancy – we as architects and designers have an opportunity to shape the direction of this emerging industry. We at Arrowstreet have embraced this role in shaping the future and changing the foundation of how we create.

Topics: Design, research, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, AR in Action, Technology