How to use Virtual Reality in the presentation of architectural projects

The architecture and the Virtual Reality (VR) are already walking side by side! The technology has evolved and it´s easily accessible by any architecture professional. Discover what you need to know and how you can use Virtual Reality on your projects.

Why to use Virtual Reality?

It´s hard to find elements that justify why NOT TO USE! Today the easy access we have to this technology allows us to use it without any restrictions. It´s a low investment compared to the innumerable benefits:

  • Increases the project value perception
  • Facilitates the presentation putting the clients inside the environment
  • Gives the client the possibility to “enter” the Virtual Environment even before the execution of the work.
  • Helps the clients understand better each detail of the project
  • Reduces the approval time of the projects.
  • Enables to create interactive presentations

With the use of Virtual Reality these benefits are easily obtained in residential or commercial construction projects, renovations, interior design, decoration, or planned furniture.

In big civil constructions, where there is an integration and communication among different people and teams (engineering, architecture, commercial, marketing, security), a Virtual Reality becomes a tracking and review tool, lining everybody up before the execution of the project.

What is necessary to use Virtual Reality

The use of Virtual Reality (VR) consists of three pillars: Immersive Content, Software or App and VR Glasses. All of them are on the same level of importance. ATTENTION: The immersion experience is impaired if one of them is neglected.

1) Content

The content is the base of the immersion experience. An immersive content must be generated in 360°. In case of architecture, it´s not possible to create an immersion experience using 3D conventional renders (flat / still images). The render needs to be generated in 360°.

Why to use a render 360°?

A low quality content doesn´t promote an exciting and enjoyable immersion experience. A 3D project itself can´t reproduce the environments in high definition, impairing the client´s experience. See below the view of a 3D project through a 360° image without rendering.

Project 3D low quality, no rendering

Now, compare with this 360° rendered image in high definition. Do you see the quality difference between them? When we think about Virtual Reality, the quality of the immersive content makes all the difference.

Hig quality 360° rendering

That´s why I suggest to always use 360° renders in high quality. A resolution of 4096×2048 with 96dpi can generate an excellent result to web visualization, mobile and in Virtual Reality.

2) Virtual Reality Software or App

To show a 360° content in an immersive way, it´s necessary to use a Virtual Reality software or app. The same way we use Word to open text files or Excel to open spreadsheets, we need a specific software or app to open a 360° image or a 360° Virtual Tour.

Facebook is an example! When a 360° image is published in the timeline, Facebook understands that the image is 360° and shows it in the sphere, allowing us to turn it to any side or angle.

There are also softwares like MyVirtualTour, that allow to build Virtual Tours with 360° images, making those images available in the sphere and with the possibility to interact (turning to both sides). MyVirtualTour has also a mobile version available to Android and iPhone.

3) The VR Glasses

Some people compare the VR glasses with the 3D glasses (those we use in the cinema). However, they are not alike. They have distinct objectives and provide totally different experiences.

The VR glasses are responsible for transporting the client into the virtual environment! With them, the client sees the 360° images as if he or she were physically in the environment.

But remember: the VR glasses can´t do anything alone! They need to be used with quality 360° images (content) and a good software or App.

How much to invest in Virtual Reality?

Contrary to what many may think, the investment necessary to start using Virtual Reality to show architecture projects is very small. In fact, it´s almost zero, for many of the necessary items you already have!

You may ask: “- But — How come? Do I have the necessary items?” Exactly! You have, and I´ll show you:

  • Computer with dedicated graphics card. Yes, you need a computer where you will develop the 3D project and will render the 360° images. You probably have one, right? Then here the investment is zero.
  • 3D modeling software. It can be Sketchup, 3D Studio Max, Revit, Promob, Rhino, Lumion, Maia, AutoCad… Some are free and other demand a license. You probably already have one of these softwares, then here the investment is zero.
  • Rendering plugin. One of the most popular is V-Ray, but there are other like Kerkythea, Mental Ray and I-Ray. If you already use a 3D modeling software and render flat/still images, then you already have a renderer. Again, the investment is zero in this item.
  • 360° Renderer of 3D images . You´ll need to set the camera properties in your 3D modeling software an in the renderer. Basically it´s the same to say that the camera will have to capture a 360° image from the environment. It´s just a matter of adjustment, there is no financial investment.
  • Virtual Reality Software or App. This is an item that may need some investment. However you can use MyVirtualTour to build your own 360° experiences and VR. As the access to it is free, once again you don´t need any investment.
  • VR Glasses. This is the only item that really demands financial investment. The glasses reach values near $400, however, its also possible to have the first experiences using a model of glasses that cost about $15.

Where to begin?

If you read until here, you can see that there is nothing complex in how to use Virtual Reality. You only need to attend the three requests: Immersive Content, Software or App and Virtual Reality Glasses.

What we need to keep in mind is what the Virtual Reality provides: to immerse the people (clients) in the projects, giving the sensation of a virtual visit. The “How to make” is pretty much like a “cake recipe”. All you need is to follow the script.

To sum it up…

Making a practical summary about the content of this article, is to say that to start using Virtual Reality in your architecture office, you need to follow only these six steps:

  1. Make available the equipment to create the 3D projects and the 360° images rendering (maybe you already have)
  2. Obtain a 3D modeling software (but maybe you already have)
  3. Choose a rendering plugin that can be integrated to de 3D modeling software (that you may already have too)
  4. Apply the settings to render the environments in 360° (there are many tutorials on the internet)
  5. Subscribe a Virtual Reality software or app to build the 360° Virtual Tours (or to use a free software like MyVirtualTour).
  6. Choose the types of VR glasses that please you and your clients.

I hope this posting may help you taking the first steps to implant Virtual Reality in your architecture, engineering, design, decoration or landscaping office.

My best regards and until the next article!

Maicon Klug.