MADISON, Wisconsin – Almost three decades before Building Information Modeling (BIM) would go mainstream, the term “Virtual Building” was used in the earliest implementation of BIM through Graphisoft’s ArchiCAD debut in 1987.
Since then, the concept hasn’t changed, but visualization technology has advanced to the point where designers, engineers, contractors, and building owners can become so immersed in the virtual building model that they feel as if they’re actually there.
Technologies like the Unity3D game engine and the new $300 Oculus Rift virtual reality headset are making it possible.
“The first thing people do when they put on the Rift is to reach out trying to touch the walls or furniture they see in the virtual model, even it doesn’t really exist,” said Jon Brouchoud, owner of Arch Virtual. “It’s an almost involuntary reaction, which I think that says a lot about how immersed they are. They really do feel as if they’re occupying a completely different place.”
The possibilities for design and visualization are endless. For their recently completed River Home project in northern Europe, the client provided an ArchiCAD BIM file, which was converted into the Unity3D game engine and published into an Oculus Rift application. The client used the virtual model as part of their schematic design development process to get a sense of how the space was shaping up, the relationships between different rooms, and the views to the adjacent river and lakes.
“Once our clients experience their project in virtual reality, they’re immediately hooked. Traditional illustration techniques just aren’t the same,” said Brouchoud.
While most assume virtual reality is an expensive upgrade, contractors, real estate developers and architects are finding they can actually save money by commissioning a real-time virtual model vs. traditional architectural illustrations.
“Not only do our clients receive the virtual reality model they can embed in their website, along with an Oculus Rift-compatible application, we can also generate a limitless number of screenshots (like the ones shown in this article) as well as animation that can be uploaded to YouTube to help promote the project,” said Brouchoud. “Virtual reality is the next natural step for BIM. We’re building bridges between VR and CAD / BIM software, and looking forward to the day when virtual reality can seamlessly blend into the design process, ultimately improving architecture and the built environment.“
About Arch Virtual
Arch Virtual provides 3D and virtual reality environments for use in visualization, simulation, marketing for clients located around the world. For more information, visit http://www.archvirtual.com