The Second Studio (formerly The Midnight Charette) is an explicit podcast about design, architecture, and the everyday. Hosted by Architects David Lee and Marina Bourderonnet, it features different creative professionals in unscripted conversations that allow for thoughtful takes and personal discussions.
A variety of subjects are covered with honesty and humor: some episodes are interviews, while others are tips for fellow designers, reviews of buildings and other projects, or casual explorations of everyday life and design. The Second Studio is also available on iTunes, Spotify, and YouTube.
This week David and Marina are joined by Alessio Grancini, Prototype Engineer at Magic Leap and former Head of XR at Morphosis to discuss how VR can be used in architecture offices. The three cover basic terminology, software, workflows, costs, learning curves, using VR in the design process and for client presentations, the pros and cons of different headsets, controls, different types of rendering, the social implications of VR, and how he transitioned from architecture to the technology space. Enjoy!
Highlights & Timestamps
Alessio gives an introduction about his background and how he became interested in VR, AR, and MR technologies. (00:00)
Alessio defines the terms VR, AR, and MR and why the three are confusing. (08:06)
From a very basic standpoint, you can think of this world of mixed reality as a spectrum—the spectrum of immersive reality or extended reality that is called XR. This spectrum goes from augmented reality to virtual reality, and in the middle you can find mixed reality. […] Going toward the mixed reality [area], you are going to start to have a defined media that is playing with space, but is also tracking space, so you are scanning the space and understanding where things are. (08:34)
Alessio discusses how VR technologies were used in Morphosis when he was their Head of the Advanced Technology Department and how they can be used effectively during client presentations. (12:26)
Clients, when they are an environment which they really don’t know, they tend to take the lead. It’s really easy to judge without having information about the project. If you think about a set a drawings for a competition, for example, usually the designer guides you through he project in a very specific way. […] For VR it becomes challenging to work in the same methodology because clients just put a headset on and they can look everywhere. You give a lot of freedom and the client gets super excited. […] There are millions of possibilities for things to go wrong. (15:30)
Alessio discusses having avatars in the VR space. (17:55)
Alessio discusses the advantage of using these technologies during the design process. (20:10)
Alessio talks about the workflow from creating a typical 3D computer model (for example, a Rhinoceros model) to creating a VR experience, the programs that can be used, and refreshing and updating a VR model from a computer model. (20:33)
Unity has a very friendly interface for designers. It is more intuitive than Unreal Engine, because Unreal is based on these blueprint systems that is a language you need to learn of the software itself. It’s not impossible, but it’s more specific. (41:22)
Alessio explains game engine software and live-rendering and questions why these tools are not used more often in architecture and design. (43:42)
The main difference is that when you are rendering, you are basically focusing on one frame at a time, pixel by pixel calculating all of the lighting of the scene. So the render, like a still image [for example], takes a long time to be rendered, because you have a very enormous amount of information that is calculating all of this light. In real time representation you do the calculation a fraction of a second. […] It’s not like I’m just going to set to render and I need to pray to god that this thing is going to look good. (44:45)
Alessio gives advice to an architecture office who is interested in starting to use these technologies and describes the different kinds of headsets, the pros and cons of wired and wireless headsets, the learning curve, softwares, and WebVR. (54:04)
Alessio talks about controls for VR sets and how hand-tracking technology is the future of controls. (01:14:45)
Alessio discusses who is more interested in VR (clients or architects) and the cost benefits of VR in architecture offices and in architecture school. (01:21:17)
Alessio talks about the future of VR, AR, MR, WebVR and shares his experience with Venue (a VR social event) and how these technologies will shape social interaction. (01:31:01)
Alessio talks about the high expectations many people have with VR technology, technology in pop culture, the speed of VR technology’s advancement, how he transitioned from architecture to prototype engineer, and how much more challenging the hiring process is in the tech-realm. (01:49:20)