Exploring Virtual and Augmented Reality

by Karim Hassanein

In recent months, Bora has been exploring new ways of visualizing unbuilt spaces. Revit, Rhino, and other 3D modeling programs have become the industry standards for producing everything from renderings to construction documents, but these tools still fall short of providing fully immersive experiences. There is always a tension between presenting a design concept that clients can understand and interpreted, without having them fixate on details that are still in flux. How do we present a massing model with minimal articulation, in a way that clients can relate to spatially? Could we tour a job site before construction even starts, and really see how our building will sit in its context? What about placing ourselves into designs to inspect details, or test drive multiple room configurations?

Kyle Altman, one of Bora’s more recent hires, has established a connection with Portland Immersive Experience studio Giant Astronaut, to begin poking and prodding at these questions. Understanding that we are testing emerging applications for these technologies, we recognize that both the tools and our modes of interacting with them are at the preliminary stage. But we’ve already begun to see the potential of bringing Virtual and Augmented Reality into our workflow. Giant Astronaut has created un-textured models of buildings currently in early stages of design, and our team has been able to viscerally walk through these environments, note their reactions to volumes and forms, and discuss those reactions as they move forward with design.

We’ve invested in some toys of our own as well, including several Google Cardboard sets that require little more than a smartphone and an app in order to begin playing. Our goal is to develop ways in which we can bring the VR experience to clients in a simple, portable, non-intimidating way. We hope that by dismantling one of the most tenacious barriers to designer/client communication, we can not only develop stronger teams and partnerships, but that our clients can experience the delight we feel when a design truly clicks into place.