Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality investment exceeded $1 billion in the first 2 months of this year. The bigger slice of the cake went to hardware companies riding the wave of the success of Oculus and HTC that have already released their first consumer ready Virtual Reality headsets during Q1.
Despite the media coverage and attention that VR is getting through 2016, Augmented reality will have to attend to get its spotlight.
But let’s see how these technologies differ and what value they bring to the Architecture, Engineering and Design industries.
VR hardware state of the art – Consumer Ready
The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive are the VR headsets most used by early adopters. HTC Vive offers a complete VR solution that includes controllers to interact with the scene, a key feature that makes the Vive headset $ 200 more expensive than the Oculus.
Oculus is already working to deliver VR controllers in H2 2016 so we can expect these two products to be very similar in specifics, functionalities and price by the end of the year.
AR hardware state of the art – Development Edition
AR hardware is still in a development stage. Microsoft HoloLens is without doubt the best known and promising headset that has impressed the public with futuristic promotional videos and demos. It’s a quite expensive device, $ 3.000 for the development edition, but it’s a standalone piece of hardware.
The other relevant name in the AR space is Meta. They will deliver their second Development kit in Q3 2016 at $ 949. But there’s a catch. Unlike the HoloLens, which is self-contained, the Meta 2 is a “tethered” device that needs to be connected to a modern PC. The approach of Meta to AR is pretty different from Microsoft; the Meta 2 version of the headset is designed specifically with developers in mind. Meta try to use as much standard hardware as possible to keep costs down and to focus more resources on the software which they consider to be the key for the sustainability and success of this technology.
The value of VR and AR for Architects
Virtual Reality: Explore spaces before they’re even built
VR Experiences enable architects, engineers and designers to explore spaces that haven’t been built yet during the entire design process helping them to:
- Better communicate design ideas to the team and the client
- Reduce the gap between the client expectations and the design proposal
- Preview alternatives, changes and modifications and evaluate their impact
- Reduce errors and detect problems in advance
The success of VR technology for the AEC industry can be measured by the increasing number of solutions that converts architectural 3D files into VR experiences that are already available on the market.
Augmented Reality: Add a layer of information to the real world
AR Experiences lets Architects, Engineers Constructors and Interior Designers to add a layer of visualization on top of the real world. It can be used starting with the construction phase when a real environment is available as a basic layer.
Imagine the MEP systems of a building is being installed, an AR headset like HoloLens could be used to make sure that everything is being built as required, reducing errors and delays. Or imagine a facility is already built and operating. AR could be useful for building maintenance helping workers spot problems and fix them while walking in the real environment. A good solution to the mentioned situations is provided by DAQRI with their Smart Helmet™.
AR helps the AEC industry:
- Reduce errors during the construction phases
- Improving building maintenance
- Showcasing the future design of an existing building or spaces
The potential of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality in Architecture is huge, and today we are still not able to see its full value. The development of VR technologies is at least one year ahead of AR but both are getting a lot of attention and success with early adopters. These will be the drivers of the future of these technologies which aim to revolutionize the way we design, develop and build the cities of the future.