Virtual and Augmented reality technologies have in recent years also been introduced in both the architecture and interior design sectors: let’s discover what they are and how they are used

Augmented reality and virtual reality technologies are set to revolutionise the construction world. As a matter of fact, technological advances are having a huge impact in both the design and architecture sectors and have allowed the application of tools that were previously used almost exclusively in the gaming world.

The advantages brought by these tools and their impact on the construction industry are enormous. For example, the possibility of presenting a project idea to the client, being able to ‘enter’ the project to understand it personally and, consequently, simplifying the work of technical experts and designers during the planning phase.

So what is the true meaning behind virtual and augmented reality? What are the main differences between the two and which practical applications can they be used for?

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Virtual reality

It’s not enough to simply “see” architecture. You have to experience it too. Virtual reality (VR) immersive viewing environments, reproduce the real world in a digital environment, using photos, renderings and 360° videos. New digital technologies allow us to experience the most immersive type of photo-realistic settings while interacting with both the real world and the digital elements contained within it.

VR immerges users in a completely virtual environment that is generated using computer graphics. The user explores the 3D experience and interacts with virtual worlds, but this has its limitations compared to Augmented Reality. In fact, a VR experience cuts out the details of the real world and other senses are partially or totally ignored too.

This is mainly due to the fact that sight is the dominant sense for humans. Therefore, virtual environments should be characterized by high quality images that are capable of replacing reality, while the other senses become less important.

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Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) allows digital information to overlap and be fed into the real environment using 3D visors, smartphones, tablets, etc.

Environment interaction between photo and video with 3D models ultimately ‘enhances’ images with additional details and information from the real world (technical data sheets, construction details, information relating to materials, prices, examples of real applications, etc.) creating a real ‘virtual model’.

Sophisticated sensors and software can determine the position and orientation of the visor and render the 3D objects with the correct proprortions and perspective just as they would appear from an observer’s point of view.

By overlapping  the real world with digitally generated images, the human sensory perception is enhanced through information that would normally not be perceived with the five senses.

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Design and architecture applications

Applications of these two types of realities have recently appeared in many industries including automotive, medical and the building industry too in both architectural and interior design fields.

It goes without mention that even our smartphones, can be used in combination with a large number of Apps and viewers to have full immersive viewing experiences from map applications for tourists to furniture simulators in AR such as “Sayduck” or similar.

These technologies are following the latest advances made in the construction industry by 3D modelling and photorealistic renderings, that have already greatly simplified the work of technical experts during the project phase. In fact, these new tools have replaced the traditional ‘architectural models’ allowing clients to immediately understand proposals and ideas and even participate in the design-check cycle.

Let’s take a look at this technology in terms of practical uses.

3D viewers

When wearing viewers, clients will enter directly into the project. Thanks to the 3D model created, it will be possible to even walk around a house and see how it will look like by the end of the works. Two the options:

  • in augmented reality visors, the client can “enter” the building site (for example in a home before the renovation works begin), as the 3D model images overlap with the real images. The client will be able to walk around and view the home in an “as built” simulated view.
  • in virtual reality visors, the client can comfortably  view the project in a 360° 3D immersive experience directly in the designer’s studio.

The level of realism strongly depends on the quality of the material textures used for the 3D Models and the entire scenario and lighting settings.

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Virtual reality example

Virtual models and apps

New apps and new software allow you to conveniently use your smartphone or tablet for capturing:

  • a drawing or an area view directly on the desk, and to view the 3D model of the project to implement (a new house, the new layout of an existing apartment, etc.)
  • a corner or a detail of the apartment, supporting, for example, the choice of new furniture from the catalog and showing it directly in the real context.
  • a wall, a floor or a bathroom, selecting new materials, new textures or new colours to preview the project.

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