TEG Architects Using Virtual Reality to Assist Clients
Virtual reality is frequently touted for its capability to take the people to locations that they can just imagine but can’t go for a number of reasons. Maybe this place will be the one that doesn’t exist anymore, that never will exist, or that doesn’t exist yet.
It looks fantastic, but it is the perfect use case, for an architecture firm in Jeffersonville, Indiana.
To show the 360-degree renderings of building projects to their clients, TEG Architects is using Samsung Gear VR headsets.
Virtual reality made its journey to TEG because Charles Crochet, 3D illustrator at TEG, has been interested in virtual reality technology for a long time, and even two years ago, he requested an Oculus Rift Developer Kit 2 for a Christmas gift.
In August 2015, Charles and his fellow 3D illustrator Jason Gilbeault went to SIGGRAPH, a computer graphics conference, where they learned more about virtual reality, and also started thinking about how they could use it for TEG.
They started the process of shaping out what they needed to do to put the customers in the designs of buildings that had not been built yet. That involved a pitch to buy the apparatus. Gibeault and Crochet presented the Google Cardboard to higher officials in the company without knowing the fact that he had a problem with depth perception.
Crochet said, “Even though he does have that situation, he still understands that other people look at it and go nuts, so why not take a leap of faith — it’s only $100.”
Over time, the price tag did rise as the they didn’t have enough powerful computers to properly render the virtual reality scenes. Gilbeault and Crochet worked on this initiative during the procedure in their off time, and showed it to one of their clients, Thorntons.
Thorntons is a chain of convenience stores and gas stations located in Louisville, Kentucky that have been operating since 1971. For the first time, the company decided to build a corporate headquarters. Rodney Loyd, Chief Development Officer at Thorntons, said, TEG is their lead architect for their location which is about 100,000 square feet.
Loyd said, “My reaction was like every other person that I’ve witnessed try it for the first time. Everybody says, ‘Wow,’ every time.”
The induction of 360 view assisted Thorntons and TEG to effectively communicate with each other.
Loyd said that to this point, architects have the capability to show 2D drawings to their clients, 3D printouts, and discuss many design elements and colors, but the unavoidable task is to add imagination in sense to really grasp the location.
Loyd said, “There was nothing that allowed you to get a sense of what it was going to feel like.”
Virtual reality has also helped to expose flukes of the design that may have been left on paper. Loyd talked about preparing the sight lines. A monumental staircase interrupted the line of vision from the front to the back of the structure, because it was too extensive. Imagining this out helped them to make the decision to narrow the stairs and open up that area of the view.
Thorntons actually went out and bought four Samsung Gear VR headsets of their own. They use it not just for the designing purposes but also as the way of communicating the project internally, Loyd said.
He also said, “It helps everybody else see what they’re getting and begin to think about how to use the space and how to be productive in it.”
There are a lot of challenges in incorporating a new technology into the pre-existing workflows. TEG noticed that more design facts need to be decided and applied in advance, before displaying the 3D images to the clients. Otherwise, it will not look perfect, and it will not be truly effective.
Architect Kyle Wilson, the vice president of TEG, said, “By the time we have everything figured out, it’s closer to the end of that process, but to use virtual reality as a decision-making tool, you want it to be presented to the owner earlier in the process. So, how do you accelerate all of your design forward to get good information into the virtual reality?”
They also need to apply different formats of the plan up-to-date so that the changes made in the software should also appear in the models of virtual reality, and vice versa.
In sum, virtual reality can take a lot of time.
Currently, they are working to refine their process.
Wilson said, “It’s allowing [clients] to make good decisions. You want less surprises. You don’t want to get to the end of the process and have a building or a space that isn’t what you thought it was going to be.”
Loyd said they have been thinking of new ways to use virtual reality. Thorntons has an experimental space known as Store X, which they use to try out variations that they may have done to their stores.
Loyd said, “Instead of having them rebuild everything in the store and take the time to do that and the expense, and rent this additional space that we have to be able to do that — can we take that process and put it in virtual reality?”
This could save them a lot of time and money of numerous repetitions.
Loyd said, “It helps me gain confidence we’re building exactly the right product we promised the organization. I know exactly what it should look like when I show up. You just cannot replace that.”