Small spaces are a special kind of challenge for architectural presentations. Simple VR presentations could go a long way to help communicate the essence of a small space.
(Images that follow were mostly taken from an actual presentation to help illustrate some of the strengths and weaknesses of each kind.)
All bespoke design has the challenge of bringing a client on board without a final product on hand. You have to get your client to see what you’re imagining in your minds eye before anythings built.
Architecture’s special handicap is working at a scale that’s inconvenient (read: expensive) to mockup. Miniatures are great, but there are features details that you can only appreciate life size. There’s a lot of information there, and the design of any space is best experienced from within.
Sometimes a designer might utilize simplified technical drawings for client presentations; Plans, elevations, and isometrics are an efficient way to communicate what you need to know about a space. But they’re really accessible or relatable. Not everyone is able to read flat layouts off a sheet of paper. They assume a moderate grasp of spatial reasoning – a way of thinking underutilized and unpracticed in many. They also a bit dry, often insufficient to convey the warmth you’d want in a future home.
Images and perspective renders help bridge the gap by giving you feel for a space. Whether they’re project specific renders, or pegs on a mood board, they convey just that – the mood. But they’re ultimately limited by their frame. Further, they do a poor job of conveying what the connections between featured areas look like. A slideshow of pretty pictures has you pretend it was completely natural to move through a room with your eyes closed between points of interest.
Video is a bit better in that regard; it shows you what it’s like to go through a space. But you’re still confined to the views someone else has picked for you, and, save for pausing and rewinding, the pace at which they move.
Smaller projects are further complicated by not having the distance you’d normally need to take good shots. You’re constrained to flat, tight images that aren’t able to convey a proper sense of the space. The alternative is to go wide angle, or fish-eye, allowing more information into the picture at the cost of distortion.
Enter simple VR
Simple virtual reality scenes through 360 panoramas might be the perfect complementary tool for small scale design and presentations. They’re essentially 360 panoramas projected as a photosphere you can stand in. While it may not feature the high-resolution, full interactivity, or movement-tracking we might expect from higher end VR experiences, the simple idea of immersion transcends many limitations of how we normally present a space.
The barrier for entry for simple VR presentations is incredibly low. You don’t need a full htc vive rig, or oculus rift. All the technology you need is on your phone. For immersion, the only other accessory needed is a google cardboard, which you can even build yourself.
Even without a google cardboard, 360 panoramas give you a better understanding of where everything is in a place.
Simple VR fills the niche of needing to feel a space without being limited by a frame. Each panorama enables you to look around a scene the way you normally would a room. You get to see how the pieces connect, how the different sides of a room work well with each other, how light might enter a window, striking a feature on the opposite wall.
Photospheres are easier on your spatial intelligence as they allow you to turn around, and look up and down. Turning your body and craning your neck even gives you a kinesthetic appreciation for how the room might feel around you. You get to experience a space the way you’re supposed to – from inside looking around.
It’s hard to describe if you haven’t tried it before. Below are a couple of 360 Panoramas showing the same room shown above. Click through the screenshots to jump to Kuula.co where they’re hosted. Try loading them up on your phone, and try turning to look around. It should help you understand what I’m saying more easily than words could explain.
BR 3 Purple Scheme
BR 2 Blue Scheme
Worst case, you could view a 360 pano on any larger screen as well. Chances are you’ve come across the idea already from a 360 Aurora Borealis video from facebook or youtube, or the the 360 VR Google Doodle “Back to the Moon” made in honor of French illusionist and film director Georges Méliès. Just pull it up on a laptop or desktop browser and drag the mouse in the direction you’d imagine yourself turning. You don’t quite get the immersion or kinesthetic connection as physically turning around, but you still get the setting idea, and the continuity of being able to look at the whole scene.
There are limitations to simple VR presentations, of course. You can’t exactly print it out, for one. And it still isn’t as good as presenting plans or elevations to convey exact dimensions and material specs. That’s why it’s more of a complementary technique than a straight out replacement for more conventional media.
Small spaces will always have their own particular challenges in terms of how they’re presented. Utilizing simple VR just makes sure you’re equipping yourself with the right tools for the job. It takes advantage of technology that is so easily on hand to strengthen presentations in a way that they’ve always needed help in.
Design is only ever as good as it is communicated, and that you have to do as best you can, by all means possible.
Quick Questions, on Small Spaces and Simple VR Presentations?
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