[UPDATE: We have now published an eBook about Architectural Visualization with Unity3D (including a chapter about Oculus Rift) that can be purchased HERE.]
“WOW!” Seems to be an almost universal reaction to a first experience trying on the new Oculus Rift VR headset. Watching a player’s first experience with Rift is always interesting to see, as the player gradually becomes immersed, suspending their disbelief, and eventually becomes part of the virtual environment. With enthusiastic backing from numerous game industry titans, and a recent “WOW!” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, it seems all but certain that the immersive experience achieved with the Rift will be reasonably compelling.
If a player can clear levels in a first person shooter with full head and gun tracking, it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to expect a much slower paced architectural walk-through to be feasible. It won’t be for everyone, but I would imagine quite a few clients would thoroughly appreciate the opportunity to walk through a design concept before construction starts.
One of the biggest reasons realtime virtual tours of architectural designs is slow to catch on is because scale is never quite right. Trying to project a full 3D experience onto a 2D monitor will always be distorted. However, the stereographic technology in Rift promises to resolve this issue, finally offering scale-accurate realtime virtual experiences.
Visualizing architecture is one thing, but what I’m most excited about is the opportunity for immersive VR to completely change the way architects design buildings in the years ahead. Instead of the typical arm’s-length, abstract design process, you’ll be able to experience, create and modify a building while you’re standing in it. There will no longer be a disconnect between design and visualization – it can become a holistic and fluid process. Like a scene out of Inception, you’ll be able to reach out and build walls, stretch windows, form the landscape and meet with clients and project stakeholders from inside the building – genuinely feeling as if you’re really there.
The developer’s kit ships in March, and comes with Unity and Unreal integration. My first experiment will be to port Main Street Dubuque, followed by a couple of new designs for clients to explore. I’ll post my experiences here. Stay tuned!