news - november 2019
Use virtual reality to bring clients into a space before it's even built!
By Jason Takahashi
A few years into virtual reality’s renaissance, there is on-going confusion about the technology and its applications. It’s been simple enough to buy a VR headset for a mobile device, or even an Oculus Go, and dive into a ‘VR-ready’ app. The truth is, these rapid entry points probably don’t deserve the title of ‘reality’ (albeit virtual). Reality is still something too difficult to define through a digital lens, but if you try and look beyond the strict physical differences and limitations, reality is principally a sign of shared existence - something that can be experienced, defined, fact-checked and proofed by someone else.
As I found out at CEDIA this year, though, when virtual reality is shared, it does start to cross a threshold into something new. When I made arrangements to check out Modus VR, my expectations were relatively moderate in the sense that designing a custom room in VR simply sounded like a lot of fun, but perhaps not that practical. After a few years of seeing drone operators, artists and game developers employ virtual environments, I’ve often pondered the potential of VR integration design. In the end, I was delightfully surprised by the collaborative qualities of the service.
As I awoke in my virtual avatar state, I was caught off guard by my surreal demo guide standing next to me in digital space. Despite lacking a physical stature, he appeared alongside me as a floating head-set equipped with two suspended remotes in his invisible hands. Hearing him crisp and clear through my headset, he quickly walked me through the user interface. Raising up my arms with remotes in hand initiated elegant menus that doubled as toolboxes for endless design possibilities. There were folders filled with countless design assets, like flat panel displays, lighting fixtures, and couches, that with a slight squeeze of a trigger and flick of the wrist could be cast into our space, allowing both of us to witness the design process in real-time.
From there the space is far from static. Your position in the room is quickly changed with a point and click of the remote. Defining angles and measurements are audaciously fast. Similarly, every item you place is easily modified in both location or size. Honestly, after a little bit of practice, I found the software fun and easy to use, like a Nintendo Wii, which is hard to say for many traditional CAD applications out there. What really stuck with me, however, was bearing witness to that particular plane of reality in conjunction with someone else. Almost like sharing a dream, Modus VR opens a little portal to explore design from an entirely new perspective and with fewer limitations. Now I wonder what a marathon virtual design session looks like — like a hackathon of designers working together in virtual space to craft a new world.
As long as the majority of people can say they have never crossed the physical into a shared virtual experience, the technology will seem unnecessary and perhaps even suspicious. However, much like video conferencing wildly expanded our ability to meet, collaborative virtual design feels like the beginning of a new global space for integrators and designers and a new realm for customers as well. Either way, if you haven’t yet taken a digital dive, it’s worth suiting up and taking a look.