iVR, immersive virtual reality in architecture
New technologies, such as immersive virtual reality in architecture, are transforming design communication and verification
The use of immersive virtual reality in architecture offers the possibility of ‘living’ the project even before its implementation. Walking in new environments, changing the elements of a scene, moving walls or modifying furniture and lighting simply with the use of hand controls can be a stunning and extremely professional experience that brings remarkable advantages.
Let’s see what virtual reality means, what are the advantages of using it and its applications in architecture.
Virtual Reality: definition and characteristics
The use of three variables (space, time and interaction) and the availability of a graphic interface, enables the possibility to create a dimension with extreme reality, where the user has:
- the perception of truly being in that simulated world, amplified by the use of a software capable of reproducing 3D environments, a virtual reality viewer and integrated audio systems;
- the enhanced feeling of possessing that dimension, with the help of cybergloves, virtual arts, a joypad, which allow him to touch, move, manipulate or make changes to virtual objects as if they were real.
According to the level of immersion and involvement, we can distinguish:
- Immersive Virtual Reality (VRi), enhancing the feeling of space immersion that can be visually explored while interacting with virtually configured objects;
- Non-Immersive Virtual Reality (desktop VR), which does not generate any feeling of involvement because the created environment is not perceived as real;
- Augmented Reality (AR), which allows you to overlap computer-generated images with real ones, increasing information-rich 3D models.
The use of virtual reality in architecture
Virtual reality, originally created for gaming, has modified technical-scientific approaches in many different sectors: architecture, environmental impact simulations, interior design, tourism, enhancement of archaeological sites, museums and exhibitions, industrial, medical, surgical sectors and rehabilitation.
In the architecture field, the advantages of virtual reality are numerous. The photorealistic 3D rendering technology is already obsolete, compared to the current prospects of virtual reality.
Currently, even the most realistic renderings can partially convey the feeling of spaces, materials, light, since the two-dimensional perception is limited to the original idea. For this reason, not everything described is easily understandable to the client.
Vice versa, within the virtual environment, projects can be presented in multiple ways, quickly assessing lights, colours, environment, furnishings, but above all spaces. The future construction can be spatially examined also avoiding serious design errors, which can be solved with small changes in real time.
Thanks to the immersive virtual reality, the client and the designer can experience the project even before it is built. Walking within the project, assessing dimensions, details, materials, being able to appreciate the value of the project ideas so that they would meet the initial requests. Once inside the virtual world, you will be able to examine spaces in an intuitive and realistic way and make any adjustments with an almost final approach.
The potential of immersive virtual reality
Here are some possible uses of immersive virtual reality in architecture and design:
- selecting and changing lighting parameters in any environment or external context, with certain types of light that determine specific aspects of the environment, creating particularly realistic reflections and refractions on each material;
- immediate choice of the different types of materials and colours to be associated, for example, to floors, walls, furniture elements, expressing personal taste and style;
- free selection of furnishing complements allowing a concrete customization of each environment in order to satisfy the user’s preferences during his virtual experience;
- possibility to navigate any environment by interacting with the scene elements: opening doors, choosing furnishing elements, turning on the television and lighting devices, thus allowing the user to be involved in every detail of the action;
- reproducing the water flow and simulating wind, fire lighting or inserting noises to stimulate perception senses while, being in a three-dimensional space, the perception will change according to the user’s location;
- accuracy and precision in textures creation, which are particularly effective and realistic and will undergo changes and modifications depending on the lighting parameters chosen;
- the BIM model, that will be navigated through immersive virtual reality, will be modified and updated in real time, based on the changes made directly by the client or after further technical examinations by the designer;
- having the possibility, again when using the 3D BIM model, to view the progress of the construction phases, the designer will be able to be immersed in the construction site to verify the processes involving particular risks, or to assess conditions security of certain operational areas.
With the dynamic integration between BIM architectural design and the immersive virtual reality, new frontiers have been opened, thus improving the design experiences and the BIM model use by the various stakeholders that participate in the process of creating and maintaining the digital model, as well as the future work to build.