Space Matrix's innovative use of VR in office designs

How VR is taking client experience to the next level: A Space Matrix perspective

How VR is taking client experience to the next level: A Space Matrix perspective

If the year 2017 was an exciting time for technology lovers, this year promises to be even more so. For those of us in the design industry, the buzz around digital reality (DR) – the coming together of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), immersive technologies and mixed reality (MR) – is opening up opportunities to improve the client experience, make projects more collaborative and reduce planning time.

Trend watchers are placing DR technologies among the top technologies that will define 2018. They forecast that companies will use virtual tours as a tool to showcase what they have to offer. Fortune believes it will become mainstream as different industries start exploring how they can provide their customers an augmented life experience.

With a host of new products launched in 2017, there are several software and hardware options in the market today – Microsoft’s Windows Mixed Reality, Microsoft HoloLens, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Google VR, Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality, HP Windows Mixed Reality and more.

Let’s first get the basics out of the way. To understand what each of these terms means, here are some definitions as given by Deloitte:

  • Augmented Reality (AR): Overlays digitally created content into the user’s real-world environment. Features include transparent optics and a viewable environment in which users are aware of their surroundings and themselves.
  • Virtual Reality (VR): Creates a fully rendered digital environment that replaces the user’s real-world environment. Features body- and motion-tracking capabilities.
  • Mixed Reality (MR): Seamlessly blends the user’s real-world environment and digitally created content in a way that allows both environments to coexist and interact. Utilises advanced sensors for spatial awareness and gesture recognition.
  • Immersive: A deeply engaging, multisensory, digital experience, which can be delivered using VR, AR, 360° video, MR, and other technologies. Formats vary.
  • Digital Reality (DR): An umbrella term for AR, VR, MR, 360° and other immersive technologies.

Digital reality impacting the design process

Space Matrix has been using VR in large, complex projects to help convey the design concept to the client more effectively. In a VR presentation, the client gets either a 360° view of a space from different directions or a walk-through video. In the second case, the client can virtually move from one space to another to understand how the entire project would look like.

So how does VR enhance the design process and add to the client experience? Below are some benefits that we have experienced:

1. Creates better client engagement

If you’re viewing a project through a VR headset, as opposed to looking at a 3D model, you’re not a mere observer but a participant in the design process. Designers often find it difficult to draw out a client during a presentation and gauge their response to a design idea. However, in a VR experience, clients tend to show more enthusiasm and open up easily, turning it into an ice-breaker session.

2. Produces a wow effect

While making a pitch for a project, VR is a great tool to wow the client. Things we couldn’t do earlier are possible now. For example, we can show the effect of lighting or the play of colours during different times of the day. Besides creating a strong impression, clients can also get into the functional aspects with greater depth, for example the way a door opens or the position of the cabinets.

3. Speeds up planning

Though creating a VR presentation is time and resource consuming, it helps cut down planning time. Usually designers tend to spend a lot of time to familiarise the client about a project in the initial stage. However, since ideas come alive during a VR presentation, the designer can expect quick sign-off or feedback on how to move to the next phase.

4. Gives clients more confidence in designers

A good designer may not be a good communicator. Communication skills are particularly important at the pitch phase since the designer is only trying to convey a concept and not get into the details. VR bridges that gap by removing any possibility of misunderstandings and helps the client gain more confidence in the designer’s capability.

5. Makes projects collaborative

With VR, you can make changes as you receive feedback. The designer can use real-time rendering in the simulated environment to show clients how a feature can be added or modified. Unlike conventional rendering that takes up to 30 minutes for a single change, here change can be done instantly.

“Currently, design firms are limiting its use because of time and resource constraints. But it’s just a matter of time before these technologies become mainstream. We’re excited about the possibilities as digital reality further develops in the coming years and presents us with opportunities to engage clients better and create a strong impact,” says Marc Marcelo, lead 3D visualizer at Space Matrix.