Thursday, June 06, 2013

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Architect Using Oculus Rift as Real World Tool Reports Dramatic Improvements to Design Visualization

Oculus Rift Archiecture application

Wisconsin-based architect Jon Brouchoud is using the Oculus Rift to show off 3D models of his designs to clients, as he explains here on his site. A long-time innovator of 3D graphics platforms for use in his practice, he tells me the Rift has a lot of promise as a tool for the profession:

“In a word,” as he puts it, “scale is what makes Rift particularly valuable for architectural visualization.” Right now, 3D architectural spaces are designed and shown to clients on a standard 2D monitor. “The result might look pretty good,” he explains, “but it's more distorted than most people realize. I've experienced this on real world job sites, where the actual sense of being inside of the space under construction differs greatly from what you might have expected after exploring the design -- even in Unity3D or very realistic animations and illustrations. With traditional architectural illustration, the scale is off, the perspective is distorted, and there's no way around it.”

However, he says, “Rift fixes that problem entirely, and the sense of scale is absolutely amazing. There is no other way to fully experience an architectural design the way you can with virtual reality in a Rift. I've done quite a few demos now, and it's clearly unanimous with anyone who tries it on that it has a future in architectural visualization.”

How does the Rift solve the scaling problem? Check out out these comparison screenshots Jon just sent me, along with his in-depth explanation:

Before and After 3D Archiecture model using Oculus Rift

“Here is an example of an architectural feature that benefits from a more realistic scale experience within Oculus Rift. This project was first built in Autodesk Revit Architecture, then imported into Unity3D.” (Screenshot above, a very early version of a design he’s working on for a client.)

“Notice the fireplace and surrounding built-in cabinetry in these screenshots... To my eye, the fireplace and cabinetry look a bit small, but not too far off in terms of scale and proportion. With more design attention, it could shape up to look pretty good.” But things change when you see the same design in full, true 3D:

“[W]hen you see this inside of the Rift, it looks absolutely ridiculous! It doesn't look 'a little off,' it looks wildly off. The scale is way out of proportion, and it needs to be completely redesigned at a much different scale and proportion.”

This realization has come up in real world projects Brouchoud has been working on, which have been modeled on standard 3D modeling platforms shown on 2D displays:

“During a meeting with the client, we showed them this Revit/Unity model first, and talked about the various design characteristics of the rest of their new home. The scale of the fireplace was never brought up, and we focused more on the exterior entry and approach. Later in the meeting, when we showed them the design inside of the Oculus Rift, they both immediately noticed and commented on the scale of the fireplace. It was as obvious to them as it was to me, and none of us recognized it as being that far out of proportion until seeing it inside of the Rift.” In other words, the Oculus Rift dramatically improved their understanding of the design they were working on.

Architecture Model distortion on 2D screen

“Another interesting thing we noticed was the dining room table.” (See above screenshot.) “In the schematic model, we positioned and placed it in such a way that felt about right. However, when you see that table inside of the Rift, it almost gives you a claustrophobic feeling, since the table is just a tiny bit too low -- there wouldn't be enough knee or leg room at all if you were to actually sit down at this table. It needed to be raised just one and a half inches in order to feel better in the Rift, but that inch was glaringly obvious and important in making it look believable and accurate to real life.”

For Brouchoud, the Rift can become a tool that’ll change how architects design and model buildings:

“[U]sing Rift in architectural design forces you to consider a much greater level of detail that you wouldn't otherwise have to spend time on to gain client approvals. I think this will result in far more efficient and carefully designed architectural details.

“All of this leads me to wonder just how many buildings are designed and constructed where the architect isn't really aware of how it will look in real-life scale until after construction is complete,” he muses. “3D models viewed on a computer monitor are always distorted. Scale simply cannot be understood on a computer monitor. Building a real-life mock-up to scale with plywood, studs and styrofoam, which is occasionally done to test architectural elements, or miniature cardboard study models, are really the only way to see the true-to-life proportions and scale -- until now. Rift lets you experience scale in a far more accurate and holistic way that was never before possible.”

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Adeon Writer

Scale is the first thing people will notice when Rifting into SecondLife. SL's 3x overscaled problem is well covered - but it will be seen first hand when you look down and realize just how high off the ground you are, and then you stress your spine looking up at your house door as it towers over you even twice that height.

It will be wonderful if such a view will discourage the "way too freaking huge" problems of SL content. On a computer monitor the flaw is far less apparent.


Or you could make a study model in real life...

Keystone Bouchard

That's a good point Adeon. In fact, for years I built architectural projects at 1.5x (occasionally even 2x) larger than real life scale in - because of the fact that a 1:1 architectural replica feels way too cramped and claustrophobic in SL.

Adeon Writer

Combined with a default walking speed that's more like a run, and a running speed of an outright sprint, and a default camera that floats the hight if a two story building, scaled models just don't work well in SL.

Which is a shame, because athletically, things are most pleasing when designed for the size of the creatures meant to inhabit them. :)

A good, useable first person mode would fix everything.

Keystone Bouchard

lol @Sean.. a study model you can walk into at full scale? That's a lot of cardboard. ;-)

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