2018 should prove to be a pivotal moment in how the design community uses virtual reality to deliver work. With leading firms exploring the introduction of mult capabilities, the technology will experience a breakthrough shift from purely enabling new modes of consumption to one that empowers design.
Today, VR essentially allows designers, clients, and stakeholders to consume models in dynamic new virtual environments. One by one, individuals can put on VR goggles and experience spaces that only exist digitally as others watch, listen to their reactions, and wait their turn. This implementation of VR technology has already strengthened design outcomes by enhancing strong communication throughout the design process, translating to less risk and stronger confidence in the eventual built product for clients.
Soon, however, with multi-user VR being rapidly developed, VR will do more than just ensure dynamic consumption. If successfully leveraged, multi-user VR will allow multiple people from around the world to all enter the same virtual spaces together at the same time. In these multi-user environments, users will not be limited to just viewing models and asking questions. They won’t have to take off the goggles, remember their thoughts, and then go sketch new ideas elsewhere. Instead, multi-user VR environments enable true collaborative design; people can discuss, draw, scale, break sections apart and advance the design project in real time. This should allow enhanced communication and increased time for design exploration, ultimately leading to more successful built products.
While this shift in VR technology may still sound elemental—multiple people in a VR model at the same time as opposed to one—consider the following changes it will enable for designers, firms, clients and others.
Multi-User VR Truly Creates Firms Without Walls
In architecture design firms, talented staff are what differentiate one firm from another. Recognizing this, design firms have increasingly marketed the accessibility of their best talent as a key value proposition for clients. The ability to assemble design teams composed of the best talent from around the world is critical to ensuring clients’ goals are achieved.
While technology to date has limited the need for people to be together for every meeting and conference call, a significant amount of design work still essentially needs to happen in person. This means flights, costs and lost time week-to-week for design firms. However, multi-user VR will allow design teams to assemble from around the globe at a moment’s notice to tackle a problem and move forward. If a designer in Boston needs the opinion of a designer in Shanghai, multi-user VR can enable them to connect for an hour without a single cab or flight. If a design team would like to pick the brain of an expert on the other side of the country not directly connected to the project team, they can do so quickly and efficiently. This makes talent constantly accessible, ensures the best ideas are consistently elevated, and can reduce internal costs for design firms. Essentially, the geographic barriers that sometimes delay design work can be erased.
By eliminating these barriers, design firms will also inherently be able to deliver enhanced solutions for the clients. This should translate to even higher quality work, satisfied clients and longstanding client relationships that endure.
Multi-User VR Will Allow Designers to Explore, Test, and Experiment
While multi-user VR will make design work better for everyone, it may spark the most creative potential for designers. The technology will allow designers to test radical ideas and concepts quickly, discarding those that don’t work and building upon those that show promise. The tool will create increased time for exploration and experimentation in the design process, something every designer craves.
Multi-user VR will also enhance the virtual artifacts designers can pull from these digital environments. Today, after putting on VR goggles, designers leave with their notes, ideas and a vision in their head. In multi-user VR environments, designers will literally be able to pull up virtual whiteboards, draw in 3 dimensions, take photos, videos and then leverage all of that to enhance the model. This will ensure every idea expressed while in the model is captured and decrease the time between ideation and implementation significantly for design teams.
Multi-User VR Connects Clients to the Design Process in Exciting New Ways
VR has already proved a powerful new client engagement tool for designers. While floor plans and elevations are easily understandable for architects, clients not trained in our profession often experience a communication gap. Even under the consumption model, VR allows to clients to see and experience their future environments in a way our 2D paper files simply can’t empower.
The introduction of multi-user VR will only enhance this connectivity between the client and their project. If they desire, they’ll be able to virtually step into models with the design team and hear their ideas and strategies as they develop. Even if they lack VR goggles or aren’t in the same location, clients can watch and communicate with the design team in the multi-user VR space on their laptops or mobile devices as their project develops. Multi-user VR models will allow designers to quickly scenario-test for clients and reveal how changes would affect the project at large.
By empowering this new level of collaboration between client organization and design team, multi-user VR will only build on the technology’s ability to enhance communication, reduce risk, shorten project timelines and deliver a stronger built product each time.
At its core, multi-user VR will empower stronger design outcomes for everyone invested in a project. The technology will impact designers, firms, and clients in different ways, but essentially forge exciting new connectivity for everyone. By spurring stronger communication, increased collaboration and new levels of design exploration, multi-user VR will lead to an enriched built and virtual environment for the future.