Recently there has been great interest, mostly sparkled by the launch of the Oculus Rift project, in affordable, high-quality VR headsets, which have existed for quite a while for professional applications.
The potential – and expected – commercial success of this type of product is likely to encourage 3D software companies to develop and integrate innovative UIs, and this is a great time for thinking about possible applications in the design world.
One of the uses that come to the mind is the review of full-scale models in virtual reality. The observation of a vehicle in its actual dimensions is crucial for evaluating its design.
This is already part of the car makers’ design process, but it currently involves specific facilities with large projection screens – such as the Power Wall – or other expensive proprietary solutions.
The availability of a new generation of relatively inexpensive VR headsets could make this type of process affordable for smaller studios and independent professionals, as well as enable virtual design review meetings among designers working at different facilities.
A further step could be the integration of interactive editing tools, which would allow designers to evaluate alternative solutions in real time and in “virtual full scale” without the need to go back and forth from the computer to the VR room.
On this regard, the video below, released by Microsoft to demonstrate possible applications of its HoloLens headset – showcases the interactive 3D editing of a full-scale motorcycle “hologram.” While the scene was created using VFX, we can imagine that a 3D digital model could include a limited set of parametric features, adjustable in an augmented reality interface.
A third evolutionary step would be the development of software that allows designers to “create” objects from scratch using 3D modeling or sculpting tools directly in virtual reality.
Oculus VR, developer of the Rift headset, and now owned by Facebook, has recently acquired Nimble VR and 13th Lab, two companies that specialize in hand tracking and 3D modelling, so there is actually a great interest in exploring virtual 3D modeling tools.
While this futuristic option looks extremely fascinating, transferring a complex task that requires multiple tools and functions into an augmented reality environment appears challenging, and poses some questions about the possible benefits it may have in terms of efficiency and ergonomy.