HMN Architects mix virtual and augmented reality for design

HMN Architects mix virtual and augmented reality for design

The design field is amid an evolution in how we communicate projects with our clients, consultants and contractors. Mixed Reality (the umbrella term for digitally immersive visualization) has allowed for a new level of design understanding and flexibility, allowing decisions and changes to be made in the design phase. The result is fewer costly changes during construction and a better project upon completion. At HMN Architects, we specialize in bringing two different Mixed Realities to our design process with clients.

Virtual Reality (VR) is the more well-known and more developed branch of Mixed Reality. You can think of VR as an immersive video game. When you slip on a VR headset, the real world is completely blocked out. You can use your body movements and a controller to navigate through the proposed design.
At HMN Architects, we appreciate the high-level of realism and impressiveness that VR brings to the table, both for us as designers and for our clients. Our clients can “walk” through highly accurate representations of future projects at various points of the design process when critical design decisions must be made – and many of these changes can be made in real-time while the user is wearing the headset. As designers, VR offers us a very intimate and realistic way to critique and improve our designs. VR can also be used to help our clients sell their visions to boards, councils, and even the public.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a more cutting-edge technology that is still under-going massive levels of development. At HMN Architects, we utilize an AR headset and software to produce digital models that can be overlaid onto real-world settings. Think of it as a “heads-up display” on a pair of glasses. You can still see the environment around you but information (in this case, design of a space) is projected over that real environment on your headset.

Comparing both VR and AR, there is a sacrifice with lower rendering quality and with the field of view through the headset when using AR. However, the benefit of AR, is that there are no cables and you can physically walk around a room, building or site in real, 1:1 scale. You can “fill” an entire empty floor with a new office suite to be developed, you can walk around an entire operating room to really “feel” the size of the space and you can even project how your new building will look from the approaching street.

And that’s just the beginning for AR. In the future, Augmented Reality will lend itself to field coordination during construction administration and with multiple headsets, entire user groups will be able to experience a 1:1 digital mock-up of a space all at the same time, allowing paths of travel, adjacencies and potential choke-points to be planned for as the space will be utilized.

Not every digital technology is right for every project. Not every client visualizes the design in the same manner. With the combined technologies of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality at our disposal, we can tailor the Mixed Reality user experience that is right for you.