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Virtual Reality for the Masses 101

As a designer have you ever walked into a space you’re working on and said what the hell! or worse, have one of your clients? Maybe it was just a drawn-out silence (which can often be worse – growing up as a kid I knew I was in really big trouble when my dad said nothing rather than giving me an earful!)

And yet it’s a very familiar scenario that’s played out in the design world on a daily basis.

Our vision of what should be doesn’t match the what is. And why is this? Traditionally designers and clients have to translate information from 2D drawings and material swatches. Often also using scaled models to view perspectives and study light and shade. Any given project produces a deluge of information which in reality can only convey so much in terms of scale, lighting, colour, ‘feeling’ etc.

So how do we move this forward and give ourselves and clients a greater understanding of the design intent?

Enter the world of virtual reality or VR – and believe it or not, you can begin to play with VR for very little money with Revit and Google Cardboard.

Here’s how:

Autodesk 360 Render in Cloud Stereo Panorama from RevitCreate a Stereo Panorama from Revit

1. In Revit, under the ‘View tab’, click 'Render to Cloud' and select the 3D View (Revit camera perspective) you wish to use
2. Choose Stereo Panorama as the Output Type
3. For Render Quality choose Final
4. Exposure use Advanced
5. Width 1024 px
6. Click 'Start Rendering’

It’s worth also checking the Email me when complete check-box. This way you will be automatically notified when the Autodesk magic pixies have completed your render.

RenderNOTE: you can also render to the cloud from 3DS Max.

Once the job has been processed you will receive an email with a link to your render held under your rendering.360.autodesk.com account.

7. Once rendered, click the thumbnail to preview
8. Click 'Preview' on Phone
9. Scan the QR-code with your iPhone or Android (or Copy the URL to Clipboard and then paste into an email and send to whoever you wish)
10. Place your phone into Google Cardboard or similar phone VR device and view!

What’s Google Cardboard I hear some of you saying? Well is a pre-cut / scored pattern which when folded creates the most basic and affordably phone based VR device:

Google Cardboard

These can be ordered from Google directly, or online stores like Amazon. They generally cost between £5 and £10 pounds and there are dozens of versions in all colours and phone sizes.

Whilst really cheap, there are (in my opinion) a few issues with Cardboard.

Firstly, there’s the folding construction. It may seem very straight forward, but get it wrong and the unit is weakened + the all-important plastic lenses pop out easily.

Then during use each time the phone ‘flap’ is pulled open the Velcro pads tend to pull from the cardboard and the scored ‘hinge’ weakens and eventually tears. It’s really just designed for a few uses, though I have managed to keep one of mine going for 6 months with liberal use of duct tape.

The other issue is one of hygiene. Pass one of these cardboard versions around a room and it will come back with a lovely grease stain from someone’s over active forehead gland secretions. Ewwwwww. Time to drop that one in the recycle bin.

Fear not though as there are many, many, many alternatives on the market. I bought a great unit from a B&M store for just £8. It’s a rigid plastic shell design, with a soft plastic padding around the area which touches your face (can be discreetly wiped clean of yucky natural body secretions) and has controls to adjust the focus of the lenses, which gives a much cleaner, crisper scene. All for a couple of extra quid...bargain!

VR Headset Unit

What is good about Google Cardboard though, is that you can brand the units very easily and it becomes as great marketing tool. Send the client a Google Cardboard kit. Then render out their project as a stereo panorama and email them the link. (This is fine as it’s only the client that has to press their head to the same surface).

To find out more about VR, AR, engines for an immersive experience such as Unity and the Unreal Engine, plus loads more just download my free informative whitepaper ‘Beyond the Render – the Immersive Side of BIM’. All you need to do is fill out the form below and then click on the 'download whitepaper' button. 

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