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Virtual and Augmented Reality Are Changing the Way the Industry Is Meeting the Consumer
Maybe you’ve put on a headset and experienced battling aliens in Virtual Reality (VR). Or, perhaps you’ve wandered the streets searching for Pokémon using an Augmented Reality (AR) app on your phone. But it’s not just the gaming industry embracing these devices. The AEC space is the perfect place to use these experiential technologies.
First, VR and AR are different. In VR users experience an environment as if they are actually moving around in it; in AR, the environment exists and you just add on to it. As one tech writer put it, “think scuba diving vs. going to the aquarium.”
One example of VR’s use is that of The Plan Collection, a creator of home floor plans for purchase by builders and homebuyers. “We’ve been in business over 20 years and we’re always early adopters of technology,” says Tim Bakke, director of publishing at TPC. The company was one of the first to use the Web to sell plans online and also to include CAD blue prints instead of paper blue prints. Five years ago, TPC even began including a 3-D printer option for homebuyers to be able to better experience their plans.
Now, TPC takes advantage of VR by using it for walk-throughs. “Consumers area always saying, ‘What does this house look like?’ or ‘I can’t visualize the home from the plan,’” Bakke says. With VR, users are “immersed in the house and can actually see what the elements of the house will look like and get an idea of what they’ll get when the plan is built.”
At the moment, TPC has about six home plans with videos located on a YouTube site with links on TPC’s website. A prospective homebuyer, for example, would download an app and then click on the video using their mobile phone – which they then connect to a headset device such as the Oculus Rift. As more companies like Vive, for example, develop viewing technology and the prices come down (they’re starting), VR and AR will become more common for consumers.
Industry professionals could use VR or AR technology in the following ways:
to help a town planning board experience your next proposed development
to give online homebuyers the experience of walking through your homes
for prospective buyers in a multi-family hi-rise who might not see the finished product for several years
for collaboration among designers, builders and engineers.
for training construction employees
Context VR captures visual records for things such as existing conditions, project milestones, as-built conditions, exterior progression, MEP documentation and safety walks.
Lowes Holoroom, a virtual reality home improvement design and visualization tool that Lowes used in two Toronto stores in 2014. It’s now available in 19 U.S. stores as the company continues to tweak the product.