Virtual Reality (VR) architectural walkthroughs using an Oculus Rift or other VR headset is a fantastic new way to experience an unbuilt space. If you haven’t seen it yourself it’s hard to describe, but the experience is incredibly immersive. We’ve been producing these VR programs for a while now, and clients generally have the same questions about the product. Here are the FAQs and some answers to get you started. Of course, feel free to contact us if you need more specifics on anything.
how would I use it?
So far we have used it for two main purposes: 1) As a sales/design tool to see a finished interior space before it exists and 2) to do Virtual framing walkthroughs and inspect structure, plumbing and HVAC clashes. Of course, the scope of work and end use is not limited to these functions. If you have an idea for a new use it can probably be done.
How much does the headset cost?
The consumer grade Oculus Rift headset has an anticipated release date of Q1 2016. The price has not been announced, but is estimated to be between $200 - $400. You could also buy the DK2, which is the version used by developers to create content for the Oculus Rift. The DK2 is available for $350 on the Oculus website.
There are also competing products at various levels of development from Samsung, Sony, HTC and Microsoft among others. They may come in at different price points and with different features, but we are most familiar with the Oculus Rift.
Do I need a special computer?
Maybe. The Oculus requires a good graphics card and a fast processor for optimal performance. The developer’s minimum specifications are an Intel i5-4590 processor, an Nvidia GTX970 graphics card (or equivalent AMD card) and 8GB of RAM. Computers that meet these specifications are priced between $1100 and $1500 on Newegg.com.
We have successfully run Oculus presentations on computers with lower-rated components than the developer’s specifications, so the computer you already have may work.
The experience is significantly better with more computing power, so if you’re seeing choppy images you may want to upgrade your computer.
Do I need any special software?
No. You will need to install drivers in order for the headset to function, but the walkthrough itself is a standalone executable file.
What software do you use?
Our office uses Revit exclusively for architectural design and construction documents, so many of our VR projects start with our own Revit models. From there we use a combination of 3DS Max and Unity to create the final VR file. 3DS Max is a professional modeling, rendering and animation program made by AutoDesk, the makers of Revit and AutoCAD. Unity is a 2D/3D development platform that has traditionally been used to create video games for PCs, iPhones and consoles such as XBOX and Playstation.
What kind of drawings do you need from us?
We can start with PDFs, DWGs or a napkin sketch of your project.
My architect already has a Revit/Sketchup/Vectorworks/Archicad/Other 3D model. Can you use that?
Maybe. The 3D geometry produced by most architecture software is not conducive to being used in a video game engine. When exporting to programs that are designed solely for 3d modeling the model from the architecture software often becomes excessively large and difficult to work with. It needs to be prepared and exported very meticulously so as to be usable in an efficient manner in 3DS Max and Unity. Depending on the quality (or lack thereof) of the provided 3D model, it may be faster and more efficient for us to create our own model from your 2D drawings.
How much does it cost?
Like everything else, it depends. The four primary factors that will affect the cost are the size of the project, the visual quality that is required, the files we are provided to begin working with and the deadline. You can email or call us at 301-589-7900 for a detailed quote or more information.