How does the way of designing change with the technological evolution? Let’s discover the characteristics of virtual reality and augmented reality and the connection with the construction world

According to Digi-Capital augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) will represent the “fourth wave of technological growth” that will invest the way we operate.

Where the first three waves were the invention of the Personal Computer, the spread of the Internet and the spread of smart devices.

Technological wave

Technological wave according to Digi-Capital

We therefore are at the beginning of a breakthrough, where virtual reality and augmented reality will show their real advantages being employed in different sectors, especially in the construction field.

Let’s try to make hypothesis what could be the impact on the work of building professionals.

Augmented reality and virtual reality: features and differences

Augmented reality

The augmented reality expression was born in 1992 and is coined by Boeing researcher Thomas Preston Caudell; it implies the enrichment of our sensory perception through various levels of information that would not be perceptible with the five senses.

After being developed in the military field (assisted driving), the augmented reality, like other technological innovations, has been applied in marketing and advertising fields to eventually conquer video games and tourism sectors as well.

Information that increases perceived reality can be added using appropriate markers (Tags). The software able to recognize these markers (AR tags) immediately overlaps with the actual image additional contents such as video, audio, 3D objects and so on.

Smart device and augmented reality

Smart device and augmented reality

Augmented reality suits well representing interior design applications, being even able to show virtual furniture in a certain room.

The Virtual reality

The Virtual reality, on the other side, arises from the wish to ’replicate’ the reality in a non-real world, reproducing its characteristics from a sensorial point of view (visual, auditory, tactile and also olfactory) and to perform actions in a virtual space overcoming physical, economical and security limits. In the virtual reality, information is added or subtracted electronically. Data is then rebuilt by a computer and becomes preponderant, till the point to deceive senses and generating the feeling of being ‘immersed’ in a new ‘virtual’ situation.

The Virtual reality perfectly reproduces three-dimensional models of a project (typical application of the BIM methodology).

Generally, we can state that the augmented reality is based on the enhancement of the senses, while the virtual reality is based on the alteration of the senses.

Construction survey with augmented reality

Construction survey with augmented reality

In addition, we can consider the immersive reality as an evolution of the virtual reality: by wearing a particular viewer, you can find yourself “immersed” in a new reality.

The result is the illusion of being completely immersed elsewhere.

The virtual / immersive reality has many uses and can offer, for instance, the possibility of living experiences such as visiting a city or a museum without the need to physically being there.

Virtual reality and architecture

Virtual reality and architecture


The BIM and virtual reality

Building Information Modeling (BIM) is defined as the “digital representation of physical and functional characteristics of an object”; it can be imagined as a model for:

  • programming
  • design
  • realization
  • maintenance

a construction that uses an information model, i.e. a model that contains all the information concerning its entire life cycle, from the project to the construction, up to its demolition and dismantling stages.

It is easy to understand how the virtual reality is a concept deeply connected with the BIM.
The BIM allows, as a matter of facts, to obtain the 3D virtual model of a building, which is by definition a model of virtual reality.

It is obviously easier reconstructing a virtual environment when many features have already been defined: when the project is drafted with a BIM software, the model already contains a whole series of geometric, spatial information on materials, colors, etc..

In the next article we will discover the main advantages for BIM projects in the use of virtual reality and augmented reality.