The transition to VR adoption faces significant barriers. Unlike the smartphone, this requires big changes in consumer behavior. Head-mounted displays (HMDs) are a new idea. In order to get people to buy Pepsi, they have to know what soda is. For this reason, adoption may look more like personal computers, which took fifteen years, than smartphones, which took two years.
During the Internet explosion in the early 1990s, we often looked at a graph which showed rates of consumer technology adoption. The data suggested that the speed of adoption would continue to accelerate, which proved to be true for smartphones and tablets, but those devices took what we were already doing and made it much better.
It took fifty years to electrify the country. It took thirty years to wire landline phones. It took radio twenty years. Television, ten. The Internet took less than five years. AR and VR cannot be conflated with these technologies. Instead, it is like the personal computer, which took fifteen years to hit an inflection point. Personal computers came into our lives very slowly.
Throughout the 80s, personal computers were considered first adopter novelty items for nerds and rich people. It wasn’t until the end of the decade that PCs were common in most offices. They were expensive. They ran expensive CD-ROMs, which were either games or educational in nature. If the computer had a modem (it was considered a peripheral, like speakers), you had to open it with a separate program. I remember in 1993 I needed to open several programs to get onto the Internet. One for TCP/IP. One for the modem itself. One for my sleek new Netscape Navigator web browser, and yet another for IRC (chat).
However, once the PC met online services, the PC hit an immediate inflection point. This happened within months. The advent of online services like AOL and Prodigy, with their all-in-one discs that brought all the disparate Internet software together into one simple (sort of) plug and play program, pushed the PC to an inflection point. By 1996, everyone had to have one, because at that point, the value proposition was so clear and substantial.
In the early 2000s, many people were given their first smartphone at work, the BlackBerry, which allowed users to send email on the go. Soon, consumer cellphones had those features, and people received remarkable upgrades for free as part of their normal cellphone replacement cycle. The wireless providers and handset makers took what we were already doing and made it much, much better. Yes, please!
Mobile AR, which turns the camera into the window through which we see the world, has been available on Android phones since 2015 and on iPhones since the fall of 2017. Because of Apple’s scale, within a few days, hundreds of thousands of people could do much more with the phone. There were just two problems. The first was apps. They’re novelties and game enhancements. Second, holding one’s arm out to view the world through the camera may be the worst form factor accidentally invented by man.
Augmented reality works exceptionally well for enterprises (as computers did in the 80s), but they largely aren’t for consumers, although there are some nifty AR-enabled toys and books. For consumers, AR headsets are in a protean state. There are basic problems with optics and field of view. Costs are still going up, not down. Interface solutions are not obvious. Speculation swirls around the big companies and some stealthy startups (most notably Magic Leap).
Ironically, the really big utility problems are outside the smartphone. They’re in the cloud and pertain to unsolved issues of bandwidth, compression, artificial intelligence, and the lack of a geospatial social “AR Cloud” that would make the glasses contextually aware. In regards to VR adoption, the problems are simpler and more profound. Navigating with hand controllers is extremely awkward and people still get motion sickness. The optics are terrible. At current resolutions, the pixels are visible, creating a “screen door” effect. Even advanced headsets only have a 110-degree field of view.
Rapid advances in smartphones have spoiled us. VR and AR aren’t going to be like that.
This is an excerpt from my book Charlie Fink’s Metaverse, a continuously updated, AR-enabled guide to VR & AR, published January 9, 2018, by Cool Blue Press.
We’d like to thank Charlie Fink for joining us as a guest author on our blog! Check out more of his work here – and if you’re ready to adopt VR for your own business, sign up for a free Yulio account!
This post was originally featured on Forbes.com on December 13, 2017
Used with permission. c. 2017 Charlie Fink, all rights reserved
We’ve talked a lot in previous posts about the unique power of virtual reality to; immerse viewers in environments that don’t yet exist, in those that do exist but are a long distance away or in environments too large, expensive or complex to model.
We’ve also looked at how this unique set of qualities is being brilliantly exploited by creatives across numerous industries, architecture and design, retail, manufacturing, healthcare and others and is helping them communicate their products, their services or their causes in a very different way than was possible before.
We’re going to look at what tricks, tools, and creative flourishes can be used with VR designs to make them more vivid, more immersive, more intuitive and compelling or, simply, more useful.
We have a few great examples of next level virtual reality design, some directly from Yulio clients, and some used by corporate giants that will inspire your next level designs:
Mayhew’s VR Showroom Feasibility Study
VR’s ability to provide viewers with a clear spatial awareness of an environment before it exists was put to great use by Mayhew for Kubota, a tractor, and heavy equipment manufacturer when designing a new showroom facility. Scaled renders of Kubota machinery was added to detailed CAD drawings of the proposed showroom before being created as VR experiences.
With Kubota’s products being so significant in scale, being able to evaluate exactly the how the space would end up when full of equipment – before anything existed in real life and any cost had been incurred – had obvious value. Developers were able to experience the look, feel and layout of the structure from several different vantage points, and understand exactly how it would be once it was in place. Taking the time upfront to think through the physical placement of heavy machinery, while still having a human-focused workspace potentially saved significant money and time, had problems been uncovered during construction, instead of in advance with VR design.
Bringing Spaces to Life: SmithCFI Photo Realism
SmithCFI took advantage of the ability to use photography, and not just 2D CAD design to bring the next level of realism to their VR Experience. Using a 360 camera (and some very still workers), they shot their completed design studio and brought it to life with real people using the space.
You can even click on the hotspot overlaid on the worker to see what the space looks like from the perspective of someone sitting at the desk. To achieve this, they’ve linked scenes from their VR renders before the space was ‘real’.
Customers can visit the design center and investigate the different options for offices configuration. But, the photo-realistic tour demonstrates one of the core uses of VR, being able to view something even if it is far away or difficult to travel to.
Showing a room with a view (and sound)
Having an, as yet unbuilt, environment able to be experienced as if it were real is one of the key values of VR. Getting creative and augmenting computer-generated visuals with real-life images and sounds can add a heightened sense of reality to your virtual reality design.
Combining real and computer-generated imagery can add depth to a VR experience. We’re aware of recent examples where, using a drone, images were captured of views at the height of each individual floor of a proposed new condo development. When added to a VRE of an internal layout, potential buyers can then appreciate exact representations of views they will experience on various floors in the building.
Yulio uses a feature called Audio Hotspots, which allows audio clips to be strategically placed within VREs. These are already being used in a number of creative ways from annotating an architectural designer’s thought process when adding particular features, including details for specific products and adding ambient background sounds which compliment the environment – think children playing in new park development or background music in a new hotel lobby design.
An alternative use of hotspots is to display different design options for better side-by-side comparison. By having contrasting designs, and being able to see them in a real atmosphere, the client or designer will be able to make a more informed decision for the space without the worry about what the final look will be.
Real Virtual Prototypes: Ford testing and designing in VR
Ford was quick to adopt VR to cut costs and development time of prototypes for greater efficiency. Ford uses VR to intuitively design their vehicles with less error and expedited time to market. Prototypes require a lot of time for development, plus, not every prototype was going to work on the first try – The price tag to develop a new car from start to finish can go as high as $6 billion, so there was large room for improvement before VR that could save these corporate giants billions of dollars every year.
Designers can design directly in 3D then VR so they can rapidly bring their designs into virtual environments to put their ideas to the test. With added components such as mock car cabins, simulated sounds, both from the vehicle itself and from external elements that you might hear while driving, artificial weather components such as wind, and even virtual traffic – these companies attempt to create the most realistic virtual testing scenarios as possible.
Engineers can inspect every component collaboratively, then decide how to proceed based on the outcome of testing – this routine has allowed them to reduce their need for real physical prototypes, ultimately decreasing their cost of production.
VR design is still a relatively new skill and creative uses are being uncovered every day. Whether it be immersing shoppers in a new room and changing finishes on-the-fly or positioning people in an empty warehouse and allowing them to view how it would appear when fully finished, VR is not only able to deliver fun and engaging experiences but also to drive real ROI with customer engagement and speeding time to sale.
To find out more about adding VR to your business, download our whitepaper which outlines the best implementations for ROI from VR. And when you’re ready to try your own VR design, sign up for Yulio Free – get access to everything you need to create a VR experience.
Have you ever drafted a design, presented it to a client, and had them tell you that they’re “just not seeing it”?
The design process can be daunting for many due to the many variables and project details that get conflated early in the design process. To clarify those, designers spend time and money trying to draft better visualizations of designs for clients to remove their worries and frustrations. The longer it takes to represent a design to a client and have a mutual understanding, the more time and money that is spent before the next phase can even begin.
Isn’t there an easier way? With over 200,000 views of Yulio VREs for our clients, we’ve identified the 4 ways that virtual reality for designers can simplify the design process.
(1) VR for designers allows for better client-designer communication
Having clear and effective communication between yourself and your client is essential during the design process. Many people struggle to imagine concepts without a real tangible experience to pair with it. In the past, the dominant mediums used to create visualizations included sketching, both on paper and a computer-generated version, or a small-scale replica. These options, although previously effective in most cases, lack a real sense of scale, and are prone to misinterpretations which could lead to a longer design process for the project which is not time or cost efficient.
You can get on the same page with VR because it removes all ambiguity. With virtual reality, you can show your design in true scale and detail directly to your client, which will leave no room for confusion. It’s a greater alignment of what you meant when you said “light and airy” and what the client thought that meant than still images or other tools. It helps give clients greater confidence that they understand your vision and helps them move to the next phase of decision making.
(2) The client will connect more with your design
Studies have shown that VR can deliver a 27% higher emotional engagement and 34% longer engagement than 2D content, so, by virtually transporting your client into your design, they will have a better sense of presence within the space and a stronger emotional response to the design. A study from Google Zoo also noted that “for study participants with busy personal or professional lives, [being in VR] offered a sensory-rich space to experience solitude and connect with a specific set of emotions.”
In addition, the stronger emotional connection that the client has with the design can also allow the designer to gauge the client’s reactions and feedback better than without the immersive experience. So the designer will have a sense of how satisfied the client is with the design right from the get-go through VR for designers.
(3) You’ll get immediatequality feedback
Clients will often want to see the end-product, meaning that they want to see as much detail as possible packed into the design so they can get an idea of what they’ll be receiving post-construction.
Although sketching, CAD programs, and small-scale models all show examples of the end-product, they’re limited because the client cannot picture the design details in a unified space and with actual scale for the project. VR creates a 1:1 scale representation of the clients investment, making it much simpler for them to provide genuine feedback right upon viewing. This leads to less reworking of the design drafts as well as less back and forth between the client and the designer.
In addition, following our last point, because the client will also be more emotionally engaged with the design, you will receive more honest and immediate feedback on what they love or hate, and what they want/need to be improved before continuing to the next phase of the project.
(4) Overall, it’s just more cost, time and ergonomically efficient
Previously, to be able to achieve the same, or similar effect of understanding for both parties, it would require a 1:1 scale replica build of the project – which is an extremely costly addition to a project (and just not logical depending on the project) – plus, if any changes needed to be made it would certainly lengthen this stage of the process. This option just doesn’t make sense to do in most cases anymore, especially when we have the practical technology ready to replace this practice.
Ok, let’s go over some facts. VR for designers:
Makes communication easy between both parties – If the client can see the exact design in real scale and detail, then they can discuss the design in more depth much easier than through other mediums.
Emotionally connects the client to the design more so than to something small-scale, 2D, or purely computer-generated – so feedback will be better and more meaningful towards the project
VR allows you to see exactly what is going to be built – VR representations show the client exactly what they’d be getting – there’s no room for misinterpretation, which leads to faster decision making (or a faster rework of the design for any alterations that need to be made).
VR is just straight up cooler than other mediums – Ok, we’re a little biased on this one – but you know what we mean… technology excites clients. In fact, 53% of people would prefer to buy from a company that uses VR over one that doesn’t.
Virtual reality for designers can save clients and artists a lot of back and forth, which can add up to be a lot of time (and money!) depending on the scale of the project. Designers that use VR from the get-go can test and weigh different options and design details while they’re developing the whole project while also being able to relay designs to their clients much sooner than conventional practices.
Ready to learn more about VR for designers? Sign up for our FREE 5-day email course to learn how VR can enhance your business workflow. And, if you’re ready to test out the problem-solving capabilities of VR, sign up for a free Yulio account.
People are naturally resistant to change not only because of the discomfort but also because of legitimate fears about losing efficiency. When deadlines are pressing, people don’t want to take additional time to try new software or build render time into their workflow.
With a little education, you can overcome this hesitation and lead VR adoption for your business. Take a look at some of the key insights from our Client Success Manager, Dana Warren (DW), as she discusses working with VR. We’ll help you learn how to adopt the technology to wow your clients and feel confident in every client interaction.
What do you think are the biggest hesitations people have when they start working with virtual reality?
DW – The biggest hurdle I find users have trouble with is figuring out how they want to adopt VR into their workflow. Designing in a CAD program is already time-consuming, so they feel like adding a new step to the workflow is daunting; but it honestly comes down to the rendering stage. You can render VR-compatible scenes with our CAD plugins, which means all you’ll need to do is upload your files to Yulio and click ‘View in VR’ to send them to the Yulio Viewer app on your phone.
New technology can seem intimidating, but Yulio was designed to be used by anyone. Things like our CAD plugins and authoring within Yulio may seem complicated, but we can assure you that the workflow process for you is not changing much, and anything you’re unfamiliar with is a small learning curve in the scheme of things. We’re here to make sure you have success with your clients so anything you run into we can help you overcome.
What are the most common questions you get from users who are just starting out?
DW –The main question I get is surrounding where the VR content comes from. Once users sign-up, they find that they’re inside our interface, but they aren’t sure how to get started working with virtual reality as they may not know how to create content.
Here is where our CAD plugins come in. If you install the plugin that matches the CAD program in your workflow, you can make any 3D CAD design into a VR design. Click on the Yulio plugin button in your CAD program, and once the project is done rendering, you can upload the cubemap file to Yulio, and there you go – a virtual reality experience you can share with your clients. You can start working with VR in this way in minutes.
We also get a lot of inquiries from new users asking about what kind of headset they should use or buy. When people think about VR, they picture tethered VR, which isn’t as easy to use in business – you have to have someone on site for every meeting, you have to watch for safety and clients have a greater chance of experiencing nausea.
Yulio focuses solely on a mobile virtual reality experience because of the simplicity, mobility, and how intuitive it is for all kinds of users. We typically recommend the Samsung Gear VR (about $100 and widely available on Amazon) for a higher-end mobile experience, or there’s also the Homido mini or Google Cardboard which still provide great viewing experiences, but with a smaller price tag of $10-$15.
Another common question we get is around how to share a virtual reality project with clients or coworkers. This is where Yulio shines – it’s all about making you look good in front of your clients, and is a simple presentation tool for working with VR. Yulio has two ways of sharing; link, and embed.
If you want to privately share your VR project, then sharing a link would be the way to go. Every VR project has a unique URL associated with it, and you have the freedom to share this link with the audience of your choosing. If you and your clients know how to work with a URL, it’s just the same.
You can also embed any VR experience on your website – you can find the embed code for your website under the sharing link, but just like a video or other resources, you just use the code to add to the site.
What’s the best way for new users to start working with VR?
DW – If I could recommend one thing it would be to just dive in. Give yourself an hour or so and just explore the features and functions, maybe read through some our resources – once you spend time learning the technology, I can promise you that you’re going to become an expert. And that one-hour investment is going to do amazing things for your business – VR adopters find they:
Are perceived as leaders in their industry for having adopted new technology
Have better, more engaging conversations with clients who better understand their design presentations
Get to decision making faster, with fewer meetings since VR brings clarity
Have fewer late-stage changes as their clients are in sync with the design from the beginning
Some resources we have on-hand include, ‘‘how-to” video walkthroughs on our Youtube channel, we have our knowledge base and FAQ’s to answer some of your questions, a live chat on our website which I answer within hours, so if you can’t find an answer you can definitely reach out to me there.
Finally, we just started hosting weekly training webinars to introduce new users to Yulio, and help you with getting started with virtual reality. Grab a spot any week, here.
Do you have any tips or tricks for users who are just starting to use VR?
DW – Some tips that I find helpful and useful when working with VR are:
In your CAD program, set the camera height to 5’6” – This is the average height of people in North America. It’ll give you a good perspective height when you’re viewing the VR project. And think about the camera position your client will see at the start of the experience – you don’t want them facing a blank wall, so you have to consider that starting spot
Depending on the headset that you’re using, VR can be isolating; which is why we remove head straps on our headsets. This makes it easier to pop in and out of virtual reality to keep the discussion with clients flowing.
Next, really think about what you’re designing for. When you’re designing for virtual reality, you have to keep in mind that the user can look all around them as opposed to in one single direction. So remember to design for above, behind, and below your client as well as key areas that you want to showcase.
Finally, think about the story you’re trying to tell, and how you can get that across with features like audio and navigational hotspots. You want to paint more than just a pretty picture, you want to captivate your client and truly allow them to see your vision come to life in front of their eyes.
A big thank you to Dana for sharing her knowledge and insights, and for providing so much ongoing support. She will be continuing to host our weekly training webinars for new users every Thursday at 1 pm EST. At these webinars, Dana will equip you with everything you need to know to start creating awesome VR presentations for your clients using Yulio.
She’ll take you through things like:
Business use-cases and real examples of VR projects from our clients,
How to create a VR project from rendering to authoring
Customizing and enhancing your VR project to be the best it can be
Go through CAD plugins within the actual programs themselves
On top of all of that, the webinar is completely live so you can feel free to stop and ask questions at every step of the process and she’ll do her best to address all of your comments, questions, and concerns.
If you’re interested in joining one of our weekly webinar training sessions, you can sign up here. Or if you want to give Yulio a try you can sign up here and get access to a Yulio account and test our all our features for free.
Exploring new technology always means that there will be a whole new terminology to learn and breadth of knowledge to understand – especially a technology that can have such extensive uses like VR has.
But don’t fret! – fortunately, we’ve created a crash-course on virtual reality terminology and compiled 20 of the major terms that you need to know to sound like a VR expert in a matter of minutes.
This term stands for “virtual reality experience”, which essentially is what a session in VR is called. This is something we use at Yulio a lot and it’s becoming more and more widely used for a single VR story or experience.
This stands for “fixed point render” which, for mobile VR, is what a single viewpoint is called. When you’re in VR and you’re looking around a space, you’re standing in a fixed point render. FPR means that you’re viewing a single render from a fixed location so you can look around in 3-degrees of head movement, but you cannot walk or change perspective outside of where you’re standing. In Yulio, you can add and link multiple FPRs inside one VRE. So your full VR experience can contain many FPR scenes.
Hotspots are a way to link multiple fixed point renders into a VR experience. Hotspots allow for: a better idea of size and scale, a way to navigate your virtual reality experience by simply looking and going, a way to see multiple design options, or perspectives. Adding hotspots in your virtual reality experience is a great way to make your designs more spatial and immersive in VR. In Yulio, you can adjust a hotspots size to create a feeling of depth and distance within a VRE.
Goggle-less Viewer or ‘fishbowl’
Allows users to view, click, and drag their line of vision directly from their browser without having to download an app or put on a headset. This type of viewing meant to preview the VR content without having to immerse yourself completely with a headset.
Presence is what VR expert content creators strive for when they immerse their clients. The goal for VR content is to have the viewer to feel as if they are actually present within the content as opposed to just wearing earphones and a headset. The idea of having ‘presence’ is really asking how immersed the viewer feels in VR – ideally, the viewer should feel present in the VR content based on the quality of the experience versus the experience in real life.
Haptics refers to any sort of interaction and response through touch, or what users feel while they’re in VR. Haptics allow the user to feel more connected to the content they’re immersed in and can lead to a more memorable experience. An example of this in VR could be if the user is virtually traveling to a sunny or snowy destination. The user, although not literally experiencing warm sun or cold winds, can still experience the sensation through haptics.
HMD stands for, “head-mounted displays” – a vehicle for viewing VR that you wear on your head. HMD’s have screens that are in close proximity to the user’s eyes which allows them to immerse themselves by covering the entire field of vision. HMD’s range from headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR, Oculus Rift, or the more wired helmets that you may see in tethered VR like HTC Vive. Every headset varies in quality of the display, weight of the headset itself, and whether or not it is tethered, so if you’re considering investing in a head-mounted display, then make sure you know your options!
Interactive Virtual Reality
Interactive VR refers to a VR experience that is, well – interactive. This type of VR has components of storytelling which means that the user has more control in their environment and they can choose their own path within the experience – similar to a ‘choose your own adventure’ story.
A good example of interactive VR is from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) – they released a ‘make your own decisions’ VR experience where you are a designated driver, and you need to make the appropriate decisions to be able to drive yourself and friends home safely, and based on your actions, determines the outcome of the night. This campaign was to raise awareness of making conscious safe decisions as a responsible adult at the bar.
Virtual visits refer to the total number of views or users who watch a VRE. Marketers looking to become VR experts will want to note this information because they can not only pinpoint who their users are and how large their audience is watching, but also what they respond to which includes what they look at more, and what may not be working during an early phase of marketing.
360 viewing is similar to an app-less viewer or the ‘fishbowl’ experience in that the content can be viewed without needing a VR headset. Many social platforms, like YouTube support 360 video, which allows people to click and drag around the experience, or physically move their phone around them to see the scene as if they’re in VR.
4D Virtual Reality
4D VR refers to an elevated or heightened experience of VR. Many different kinds of marketing campaigns include a 4D element layered onto a VR experience so that the user can have a much more emotionally connected experience to the content being presented.
Samsung has done some great campaigns in the past which include a 4D components such as roller coasters, motorcycles and more.
This essentially means creating an image for each eye, from a slightly different perspective. It helps create the sense of depth in some realistic VR. When captured at slightly different angles, two photos or videos create a greater sense of depth within the scene. Not all VRE’s are stereoscopic, however, if you’re viewing from a mobile VR headset, they most likely are.
A mobile VR headset will split the image for you so you have a two-eye experience and can have the enhanced illusion of depth within the VRE.
Stitching refers to the combination of multiple images or videos from multiple cameras to create one 360-degree experience. The idea is that from each device, the media can be ‘stitched’ together to create one unified design from which can be experienced in 360-degree viewing (from a browser or in VR). One issue that can arise from stitching is the evidence of the seams which show where one image or video stops and another begins (same idea as the seam of fabric – you can see where one fabric ends and another begins).
Head tracking refers to the movement of VR content parallel to the movement of your head. The VR content should move at the same time and angle that you’re moving your head to mimic real sight and perspective within the VRE.
Similar to head tracking, eye tracking refers to how your sight is being tracked when looking within a VRE (as opposed to the position of your head).
In marketing, eye tracking can be used for heatmaps, which notes where the user has looked and creates saturated paths and points to show where the most time and focus were directed to within the media. Heat mapping technology can be used in a similar way by brands looking to understand the level of attention their products are drawing within displays densely filled with competitors. If products are being bypassed and/or specific competitive brands are getting high levels of engagement, brands are able to evaluate factors such as product packaging, location on displays, etc.
Position tracking refers to sensors that can determine where in a space you’re located and is used to continually track your movement to coordinate with your virtual movement within a VRE.
In tethered systems such as the HTC Vive, when in virtual reality, you can physically move your body and see the movement within the virtual space. Similarly, some VR headsets come with controllers that allow you to control your movement in the VR space, however in these, you’re not physically moving, but using your controller to dictate the movement. Position tracking is limited by the size of the room, and length of the cable (if using tethered VR).
FOV stands for “field of view”, and represents the range of vision of which the user can physically see. VR experiences, when wearing headsets such as the Samsung Gear VR, present the user with a field of view to the extent of their vision – reaching their peripheral vision which creates realistic immersion for the user. VR field of view does its best to mimic what the real human eye would see when looking at a space – so the higher field of view, the better (meaning, the further the user can see in a VRE without the content cutting to a black edge, the better immersion for the user).
Generally, latency refers to a glitch or lag between the VR content and what the real-life experience may be, which can deteriorate the VR experience for the user. An example could be if you’re immersed in video VR content, and the actions and dialogue of a character lags – here we would identify that there is poor latency because, in real-life, people’s actions don’t lag. Latency used to be a huge issue with VR back when it was initially being developed but isn’t a problem anymore.
Simulator sickness, similar to motion sickness, refers to the nauseous feeling that users get when there is a disconnect between what they see and what their body feels. When these aspects aren’t parallel with one another, users can feel uneasy, dizzy, and even get nauseous. This isn’t something that happens all the time, and it doesn’t affect everyone – but this confusion between your brain and your body means that visual cues of movement that you see aren’t processing in your brain correctly which would allow you to avoid simulator sickness.
As more and more people explore VR as a medium, and more use-cases are discovered, this list of basic terms will grow – but for the meantime, this should keep you abreast of virtual reality terminology.
With over 3,500 prestige clients, Gensler Denver is an architecture and design powerhouse creating remarkably diverse spaces for companies of all sizes. Gensler Denver was one of the earlier adopters of VR for architecture, and they’ve been using it in their business for a few years now.
We sat down with Alex Garrison (AG) about the company’s move into virtual reality and the impact they’ve seen from the integration of VR in key areas of their design and build processes.
To start, how has your office been using VR? What has the reception (by clients or internally) been like?
AG – We’ve been using VR for a few years now, primarily for 360-degree rendering and we share those with clients through Samsung Gear Headsets in the office.
Overall clients love it. It blends both seeing the design of their project with the novelty of being able to use a VR headset. We’ve had a very positive reaction and it’s certainly a real asset to our design process.
Our design teams internally are also really enjoying using it. There’s always something new we discover for the first time when we put on the VR headset and start looking at the space that’s being designed. Overall, it’s been really positive.
Can you describe a recent project where VR played a role in your design?
AG – We’re working on a project at Eagle County Airport, where we’re adding a new waiting area to the existing terminal building. As part of this, we needed to develop everything from a structural concept to the look and feel, including materiality, lighting, and even how large the windows will be for the mountain view while passengers wait for their flight. The visual impact of these separate elements really stands out when we render and look at the design wearing the VR headset.
For instance, in one case we had a couple of different structural ideas; one of them had large trusses that extended into the volume of the space and it felt cramped when we viewed it through a headset. Following that, we tried a concept without the deep trusses and the space felt big and voluminous. The fact that VR offered a compelling sense of scale allowed us to accelerate the design process.
Some other clients have told us that they believe VR helps their clients better picture space and scale – has that been true for you?
AG – The scale is definitely what you get from VR and that’s what’s really hard to get in other mediums. You can do it in physical models a little bit, but VR offers a true scale.
In our education program, we see that size estimation is really hard to teach students, so that’s one of the biggest things design professors are using VR to do. As a designer who has been practicing architecture for some time, is it still useful in that way?
AG – Absolutely. As architects, we often rely on benchmarks, such as certain story-to-facade ratios or typical window heights because we know they have worked in the past. Now, on top of using benchmarks, VR can help us explore, experiment and push these thresholds to see what a triple-height space would feel like, for example. We’re able to simulate our experimentation, learn from it and hone in on the right solution more quickly.
Would you say it can potentially allow for quicker experimentation?
AG – Yes, exactly. We’re then able to simulate that experimentation, learn from it and hone in on the right solution using VR.
Are there any projects in or around Denver that have benefitted from the use of VR for Architecture?
AG – One, in particular, is called Giambrocco – a mixed-use project planned in Denver. Here, we have been using VR to explore the public realm that stitches together several buildings and different uses into a cohesive whole. The intent of these areas is to provide a space for building tenants and the public alike to meet for a coffee, grab lunch, shop or catch a show. Also envisioned is a rotating schedule of events either day or night. In order to give our clients a true idea of what an experience such as a community movie night would look and feel like, we’ve been rendering these in VR.
We’ve also been doing a lot of interior VR rendering tenant fit-out for spaces and office building projects. All of this helps give clients a true sense of space before anything is built.
At Yulio, we believe VR is almost a translation of what’s in the designer’s head and allows them to put their ideas in front of people without any ambiguity – something that’s really appropriate in real estate spaces. Do you find it easier to communicate the ideas in this medium than most others?
AG – VR has a lot more potential than a 2D print-out of a rendering, as we’re able to provide spatial awareness which you can’t always get from 2D. But what VR is still catching up on, is allowing us to entourage and layer on a vibe that you can get on a 2D rendering.
What do you believe people struggle with at the moment when viewing designs?
AG – Probably the same things that’s always been true, in as much as our clients vary in their ability to read the drawings and renderings. Architects and designs often forget they’ve been training for years to understand and interpret the drawings and designs and so the struggle most people have is the fidelity of what we conceive of and what they perceive.
We’re often very focused on the current space and trying to get a lot of rendering of the building to tell a whole story the best we can – especially with pitches and earlier concepts. That way we can try to help clients understand. Sometimes though, in the time allotted to pitch, for example, clients don’t fully perceive the design, compared to say, another design.
How has VR changed client presentations?
AG – VR certainly expedites the sense of scale and space as well as materialities, so with the airport design, we were able to move quickly and in a linear fashion to make decisions on what stone to use, for example.
VR will probably open up more doors where we’ll explore more and more things. It’s tough to say whether the impact is faster, but it certainly is compared to static rendering.
Those are some great uses of VR in later stage presentations. Has Gensler used VR in other phases of a project, like pitching?
AG – Yes, we’ve used VR in pitches to good effect. This can take the form of sharing new designs or sharing our work portfolio depending on the ask. In either circumstance, VR can be immensely helpful during pitches because it can evoke such a sense of spatial realism. It’s exciting for clients to see design concepts come to life so quickly. There is also an aspect of novelty that makes VR exciting to clients, as they may not have seen or used it before.
So, when we show potential clients projects using this technology, they are excited and feel we’re exceeding their expectations. They see value in working with a firm that is using the latest technology to solve their challenges.
Do you think there’s an appreciation from the client’s side when you’re using new technology and experimenting with virtual reality for Architecture?
AG – VR definitely has a feeling of being on the cutting edge. As architects, VR is purely a tool, so we’ve been aware of it for some time. For our clients, however, it’s brand new. They may have seen it, or heard their kids talking about it, but not necessarily have used it. So, when we show them their projects using this technology, they are exciting and feel like we, the architects, are exceeding their expectations and using new technology to solve their problems.
Are you encountering a lot of people that have not tried it out yet?
AG – Yes, we are. We use it with most of our clients, but when we get new clients that haven’t used it before, they definitely get excited about using it.
Do you find that with clients that have worked with VR before, that there’s a ‘been there done that’ sort of mentality? Or are they still engaged and excited?
AG – Yes, I think there is that ‘been there, done that’ quality, but it’s probably just a general human thing. It’s not like they’re bored, they just won’t take as long looking around – they’ll pick up the headset to look at one thing to make a decision and then they’ll put it down. It becomes almost second nature, which is, of course, the goal. It’s certainly happened on projects where we’ve used it several times with clients.
It’s a tool, not a flashy trick. It’s a great way to explore design. Clients will simply pick it up just like they would a print-out.
You presented designs with Yulio at the Colorado Real Estate Journal show in Denver – why did you decide to bring VR to the trade show and what was the response like?
AG – Gensler is all about new tools and exploring ways to increase our abilities to design, so Yulio is one of these companies that aims to create a seamless connection between what we do and what VR provides. As an office, particular Denver, we thought it’s a great opportunity to show people the potential of this at the trade show.
Typically, the environment of a trade show is so that you’re inundated by so many things, that people are usually a little guarded. Most interesting about Yulio being at that booth, was that we noticed that the Yulio content is a lot more simple. It relies on a lot less custom technology or special set up and instead, is a simple tool for conveying 360 renderings through screens, headsets – plus it’s all through the cloud. It was an interesting experience to see a technology that is effective.
From your perspective as a designer, what will make VR for Architecture a more robust tool?
AG – Probably the most important thing is more seamlessness. There’s still a perception (and sometimes reality) that the technology is still experimental, so there still needs to be a lot of tinkering and hand-holding. As a result, it can feel more like an impediment to design.
The most important thing a design tool could have would be to be a natural extension of the designer, so it’s like a pencil in the hand. You almost forget it’s there and so focus purely on what you’re drawing. VR‘s exciting next step would, therefore, be to become seamlessly integrated into our workflow, where it’s basically an output. We don’t have to specially think of creating a rendering in 360, we just do it. Or, it’s real-time and interactive. It just exists. We can literally jump into it like the Matrix and plug into that model with clients.
What are your next steps with VR at Gensler?
AG – To further integrate and make the use of VR seamless. We want to use VR not just with the headsets, but also online and through computers.
In the long term, we want to start exploring technology that allows people from across our firm all around the world to interact with each other through the model and experience it all at once.
Simply put, we envisage two stages; Step 1: interface and interaction, Step 2: to take it to next level to make it more of an online visual experience.
What do you think VR really brings to the industry?
AG – It’s literally adding another dimension to our design. VR is a new tool that adds the idea of scale that we haven’t had before. It’s another exciting tool that increases our power to conceptualize and iterate ahead of actually having to build something.
I’m really excited to see what VR will do and how it will impact design. There’s strong evidence that suggests new tools bring in different design sensibilities. With the use of more computer design, we say beautiful buildings with very intricate computer machine parts – Apple HQ is the epitome of this. VR is going to add a new dimension; I don’t know what that is yet, but it’ll be exciting to see where it goes with its ability to really ‘feel’ space before its built.
We’d like to thank Alex Garrison for taking the time to speak to us this week about his practice’s use of VR for architecture. Check out their unique designs at https://www.gensler.com/ .
We love hearing about how integrating VR into businesses has such a positive impact, not only on the design process as a whole but for the experience of the client and designer as well.
Trying VR in your firm can bring you ROI and allow you to become a technology leader. Want to learn more about VR for business? Check out our free 5-day course, or create a VR experience for free with a Yulio account.
VR has opened up new possibilities for several industries, but the hope it holds for architects and designers is staggering. And like any new technology, the people that use it most successfully will learn to design in VR, rather than simply translate more traditional methods to the new medium.
In 1936, when NBC broadcast the first television show in history, it consisted simply of a camera pointed at two individuals sitting at a table. It was essentially a camera pointing at two people doing a radio show – a medium where a winning pattern was well established. Broadcasters have since become experts in creating within and for the medium, having long ago abandoned attempting to translate a different medium for a television audience. VR presents similar challenges.
The same thing can be said about how web pages were originally designed. The earliest examples were essentially single-page PDFs that displayed text in a very basic template. Now, of course, websites are the primary storytelling medium for brands to communicate to their key audiences. Designers have learned how to use the medium to take viewers on a journey, and tell them a story.
So here we are again at the start of a new learning curve for a new medium. And it will take time, creativity and energy to uncover the extent of its experiential capabilities and to learn to design in virtual reality.
Why should you learn to design in VR?
Goldman Sachs has estimated the VR industry will reach $80 billion by 2025. Specifically, learning to design and tell stories in VR is increasingly on the radar of the largest companies and organizations in the world like Audi, The North Face, UNICEF, and McDonald’s.
In architecture and design, there are already CAD programs that allow the designer to visualize in 2D and 3D renderings – but early adoption is key. Design in virtual reality includes other considerations, such as sound, depth, and the potential for a deeper emotional connection to the content. It’s a medium that pushes beyond traditional image and video content to full immersion. And we’ve only just begun started discovering how it can be used. But how do you start to think and design in VR?
Step 1: Learn the medium
To really understand how to think in VR, you need to have experienced it yourself. If you’ve yet to, pick up a smartphone and a VR headset. There are plenty of budget-friendly options when it comes to hardware. Here is our overview of some options here!
Where do you look, what do you see?
After familiarizing yourself with the medium, you need to think about the perspective of your client when they enter the experience. Our own testing has revealed people tend to look up and to the right when they first go into the VRE (virtual reality experience). Then they look behind them. It’s a different pattern for most designers, who usually focus on certain design elements in one static point vs. the aesthetic of the whole space. Anticipate every head turn and angle, just as if you were presenting a finished product.
When immersed in VR, you’re not just observing a scene; you’re actively participating in it – and changing your actions based on what you want to look at or interact with at the moment.
Remember that design elements in VR come to life in a way they simply don’t in traditional renderings. The quality of your images determines the clarity of the design, which will help with client uncertainty when you’re presenting a design.
“Aspects, such as the structure, how it looks, what lighting layout[s] look like, what kind of wood we’re using and how reflective the type of stone will be are all elements that really pop out when we render in VR and look around the design wearing the VR headset.”
– Alex Garrison, Gensler Denver
Step 2: VR is more than just visual
VR experiences are sensory-heavy, which means you approach every move while engaging with any senses being tapped into. This also means your client will learn they have full control over their respective experience and movement within the virtual space. Designers can use this to their advantage by accessing VR features like navigational and audio hotspots.
Navigational hotspots can be used to move around the space and see different angles and perspectives, or maybe move down a hallway into a new section of a project. They help your client have a sense of space and scale throughout your design.
Another use for navigational hotspots is to display alternate design options for a project, such as alternate color schemes, finishes, and furnishings. Hotspots allow your client to “try on” different styles by eliminating the need to purchase sample products to compare in the space – and thereby, accelerating design decisions.
Navigational hotspots are also used to show what a design could look like during different times of the day (day/night) or year (winter/summer). This can be useful for potential homebuyers if they feel uncertain about location or views from their home.
Audio hotspots are also used in VRE’s to deepen the immersive experience for users. Some common uses are for providing design rationale, adding a narrative element, or including ambient noise to enhance the VRE for your viewer.
Thinking outside of the (virtual) box
Mediums, like language, are something that needs to be learned. Think about how you learn a language. You aren’t truly fluent until you can speak in it without translating it into your head. VR is still a medium that hasn’t been explored much, and really, no one is truly fluent yet, which means that people are likely bound to find some new functionality or use-cases that VR is perfectly suited for.
Consider, for example, a company named VR Coaster. They work to combine virtual reality with roller coasters and other theme park rides to heighten the experience for riders. The VR technology works alongside the real force, drops, and airtime that you would already get from the ride, but with some VR twists to make it an experience of a lifetime.
So, when you’re creating a virtual reality experience and trying to think in VR, remember you’re not just designing elements to look at. You’re crafting an entire environment for your clients to live in for a few moments. There’s so much potential to designing in VR, and the world is just getting started.
Picture yourself holding a VR headset and placing it over your eyes; suddenly you’re on the beach and you can see the ocean stretching as far as the eye can see, there is sand below and all around you, you can hear the calm beach waves hitting the shore, and you can almost feel the warm sun and cooling wind against your skin.
The immersive power that VR brings to the table is truly amazing and is only improving with time, but with technology accelerating at the pace it is, and the VR industry blowing up more and more every year raises the question: if you are going to invest in VR, particularly a VR headset, which model makes the most sense for you to purchase to view your VR content? Our exhaustive VR Headset Comparison is here:
Mobile vs. Tethered
First, you have to decide whether you want a mobile or tethered headset.
These headsets are essentially encased lenses where you can position your phone to view the VR content. Your phone will split the content into two frames – one for each eye, so that when you put the headset on, your phone becomes the VR device, creating the immersive visual experience right in-front of your eyes.
Mobile headsets are – to put it bluntly, mobile! You can take them with you anywhere you go and get them out and set them up with ease. So you can take them with you to show off VR to a client or take your VR portfolio to a sales meeting
They are relatively inexpensive in comparison to tethered headsets (we’re talking upwards of a $400+ difference here)
They require less technology (none of those pesky movement sensors, camera trackers, unwieldy cables, or high-end PC’s to run complicated programs)
Less set-up time (you can typically just open the VR app on your device, slip it into the headset, and begin your immersive experience)
The user is less susceptible to VR nausea
Typically with mobile, you can’t interact with your surroundings unless there is a button or menu option. Usually, mobile VR headsets are set up to process FPR’s (fixed point renderings), which allow you to see all angles of a fixed point, but doesn’t allow you to move anything but your line of sight
You cannot walk around the scene. Mobile VR tracks head movement only in what we call 3-degrees of freedom, not full motion 6-degrees of freedom, so there’s no walking around
Your smartphone wasn’t designed to have the image quality or internal power that true VR needs to be at its best (although you can still get quite the experience without all of all of the tethered gear)
Tethered headsets are a lot more complex than mobile headsets. Mobile headsets are made for smartphones, which aren’t designed for the image quality and processing power needed to have the ‘true’ immersive VR experience; however, this isn’t necessarily needed for all activities that you may be using VR for. Tethered headsets consist of a helmet connected by long thick cables to a powerful PC. The helmet will come with VR quality image display, built-in motion sensors, and an external camera tracker, and you will also have some sort of remote debating on which option you choose to help you navigate your surroundings, which increasingly heightens your immersive experience with the software.
This is what this equipment was made to do; create the most complex and immersive experience for you. (So if you’re looking for the top-of-the-line tech for VR, here it is)
You’re able to play video games and do more mobile and tactile motions within the software (This means walking around, picking up items, and interacting with your surroundings!)
You’re restricted to the length of the cables attaching from your headset to the PC, which means that you can’t wander too far or go out of that range
You need a dedicated space of at least 3 square meters
This tech usually comes with quite the price tag. Don’t expect to spend anything less than $500 (and that doesn’t count the amount of time you need to devote to setting it up!)
Users are more susceptible to nausea because of the interaction in the software
Options in the market: Mobile
Samsung Gear VR
Price: $149.99 – Samsung Store
Compatibility: Works on most devices that are USB Type-C and Micro USB. Does not work for iPhone
Comments: Great design for sleekness and comfort, slightly higher price than the Google Daydream, and great quality for viewing; This option has a large range of content and games available (which includes free ones too!) for users which makes it an attractive buy.
Google Daydream View
Price: $140 – Google Store
Compatibility: Works on most select Android devices including some LG and Samsung models. Does not work for iPhone
Comments: Overall, a great design for sleekness and comfort, and great quality for viewing; however as of right now, there is not enough content available for it to make it worth buying as opposed to some of its competing headsets like the Samsung Gear VR.
** www.thewirecutter.com put in 35 hours of testing comparing Samsung Gear VR and Google Daydream View to see which is the better buy and concluded that Samsung Gear VR comes out on top because of the range of content available.
Price: ~$85 (69.99€) – Homido Store
Compatibility: Compatible with most Android and iOS smartphones
Comments: Great design and said to be comfortable, but the image quality is not as great as the Samsung Gear VR. The grip for your phone inside of the headset is strong, but the magnet that holds the headset lid shut (protecting your phone) is not very strong, so if you have a thicker phone, it might be advised to get a different headset with a stronger clip to hold the shell closed. There have also been complaints about the allowance for your headphone jack; for standard earbuds, they fit just fine, but if you have your own over-the-ear headphones, the jack has to be small enough to squeeze through the plastic cover. Image quality is ok, but not as clear as the higher-end headsets.
ETVR 3D VR
Price: $79.99 – Ebay
Compatibility: Compatible with most Android and iOS smartphones
Comments: Many people rave that the design looks good, is still comfortable to wear and compares to the Samsung Gear VR and the Google Daydream View; however, the image quality is not as impressive as the competing headsets. That being said, if you’re looking for a cheap(er) mid-range headset to experience VR, this could be a good option for you.
Price: ~$20 (14.99€) – Homido Store
Compatibility: Compatible with all smartphones
Comments: Designed as a pair of glasses as opposed to a headset/goggle. Definitely more affordable than some of the higher-end headsets, has a sleek design, is foldable, and the image is still clear. The only takeaways from this product are that you don’t have the full spectrum of VR. The glasses aren’t strapped to your head, and the goggles don’t cup around your eyes, which means you have to hold them to your eyes when viewing in VR, and you can still see and feel the environment around you in your peripherals as opposed to being fully immersed in a VR environment. These are still a great light-weight option if you don’t want to blow the budget on a headset, and lend themselves to the idea of a portfolio in your pocket more than most alternatives
Price: $15 – Google Store
Compatibility: Compatible with all smartphones
Comments: Similar to the Homido Mini in that they are designed as lenses that you have to hold to your eyes instead of it being goggles strapped to your head, but the difference between Google Cardboard and Homido Mini is that Google Cardboard cups your eyes, and allows less peripheral vision so that you’re more immersed in the VR content. Again, this option is also on the lower-end for cost, which makes this and the Homido Mini the best bang for your buck in terms of quality of image, effective VR experience, and practicality of use. The Google Cardboard is also very light-weight and packs away easy inside of the fitted cardboard box it comes in. Considering all of the factors, Google Cardboard and Homido Mini are the cheapest and easiest ways to view VR content.
Options in the market: Tethered
Price: $529 (just headset) – $1328-$2628 (headset and hardware setup) – Oculus Rift Store
Compatibility: Rift Hardware
Comments: In terms of just the headsets, the Rift and the Vive are almost identical (1200 x 1080 OLED displays for each eye, a 110-degree field of view, and plenty of room inside the headset to accommodate a pair glasses), however the hardware for the Rift is more advanced for motion control and image quality, and has a very powerful processor to accompany the headset; this option is one of the highest quality (and most expensive) options on the market today. This being said, their gaming focus for the user is either sitting or standing (the range is only a 5 x 11 rectangle), so if you want the full immersive walking experience in VR, you may want to consider some of the other options.
HTC Vive/Steam VR
Price: $799 – Microsoft Store
Compatibility: PC Computer
Comments: The design was made to be sleek and comfortable, and the remotes fit easily into your hands. The image quality is equally as impressive as the Oculus (1200 x 1080 OLED displays for each eye) comes with a 110-degree field of view, and there’s plenty of room inside the headset to accommodate a pair glasses. This system has 360-degree controllers, headset tracking, directional audio and HD haptic feedback which makes the VR experience incredible. This is also the only headset in the market that actually allows you to walk around in VR (in a 15 x 15 space), of course this means that you have to set up the position tracking; with this, the Chaperone system warns you about the boundaries of your play area which is a nice feature when talking about tethered VR. The only major flaw with this product is the setup required; there’s a lot of cables, and each piece of equipment that you want to use needs to be plugged into the computer hardware.
Sony PlayStation VR
Price: $400 (just headset) – $579.99 (PlayStation 4 and headset)
Compatibility: Playstation 4
Comments: This setup comes with two remotes which help you interact with your surroundings virtually. The image quality is not as good as Oculus or Vive (Playstation VR has 960 x 1080 for each eye), but that being said, this is still pretty good quality. It also has a slightly more narrow range of vision at 100 degrees versus Oculus and Vive that have 110 degrees, but again, this being said does not mean that it’s going to make a huge difference. This tethered VR system is the most affordable option since it can be run on a PlayStation 4, of course, that’s assuming that you already have this console at home, otherwise, it can be pricey to purchase the console and the helmet.
Matching the headset to how you want to use it
Now we have or VR headset comparison data, it’s time to break down which headsets are better for what you would be using it for.
For mobile headsets, the majority of the work is being performed by your smartphone, and the headset is merely the vehicle used to view the content, which is what allows companies to keep the price of the headset relatively low. Think of it as if you’re in a rooted chair; you can look all around you but you can’t interact with the 3D space unless there are hotspot options that will virtually move you around. Mobile headsets are standard if you’re just looking for something to use for work or leisurely, and if you aren’t looking for anything more than just a visual and/or auditory experience. Mobile headsets make more sense for those who are not planning on playing more invasive video games because there is no motion sensors or movement tracking. And we think they’re the most practical for business applications. Typically in a meeting featuring a VR presentation, you’ll want to pop in and out of VR while you discuss the presentation – so straps can get in the way, and controllers can be intimidating. And of course, the mere reality of mobile means you can present to clients located anywhere. Your virtual reality headset comparison can’t be complete until you consider the ways and locations in which you typically are trying to show VR to clients or any audience.
For tethered headsets, the majority of the work is done by a powerful processor inside of some sort of hardware purchased alongside your headset. The cost is much higher, but your experience in VR will have a lot more dimension than the mobile experience. Tethered headsets make more sense to purchase if you plan on playing with interactive content in gaming. To choose which tethered option is best for you, you have to consider how often you’ll use it and with what games you want to play. Oculus will have the most options for content to experience in comparison to the other tethered options, but it also has the largest price tag, and Sony Playstation VR is the cheapest option, but you’re limited to the games that PlayStation releases. In business, tethered rigs can make a great splash at trade shows, but can be impractical if you have to have clients come to you for every presentation.
Some Yulio clients started out exploring them for the immersive quality of VR but ended up struggling because clients didn’t want to come in to see each design iteration. One of the most useful VR headset comparison field tests for one of our architectural clients came when he set up a simple mobile experience at a tradeshow booth, only to find his neighbor table struggling with a tethered setup. While the tethered looks cool and is fully immersive, in the end, the trade-off of simple set up that achieved the same goal worked well for them. After all, the real goal is sharing your vision in a new and immersive medium.
Want to know more about VR? Head on over to Yulio and experience it for yourself with our free account, or sign up today for our free 5-day email course.