Meet Your Future Office Via Virtual Reality

For many, the term “virtual reality” brings to mind visions of a young gamer, engrossed in a riveting war against zombies, aliens, or other villains that commonly appear in video games. But imagine virtual reality being used in the workplace, and more specifically, in workplace design. Among the rising stars in this field is Elaine Tripoulas, WELL AP, project designer and resident virtual reality specialist at OTJ Architects.

Thanks to Tripoulas’ expertise, the firm uses virtual reality technology to allow clients and potential clients to virtually “walk through” a space long before it’s ready. For example, when the firm pitches a real estate brokerage, numerous test fits for different possible tenants are shown. Prospective clients are able to experience a more traditional law office, corporate office, and open technology office as if they are actually walking through and working in these spaces.

Collecting client feedback regarding their virtual reality tours allows OTJ architects to design the space more closely in line with the client’s ideal vision. The process may be likened to trying on clothing. When a shirt is simply hanging on a rack, it’s difficult to imagine how it will appear on a person’s body. The same may be said for imagining a future workspace, especially for people who don’t have an advanced spatial awareness.

“Virtual reality has sealed the deal with potential clients who love what they have seen,” said Tripoulas. “Alternatively, the client might envision his or her ideal space as different from what was seen via virtual reality, which can bring up important questions. This can then help us to change course and design a space more in line with the client’s dream workplace.”

Creating such inspiring workplaces is an artistic and technological challenge, to be sure. Tripoulas builds test fits using Revit software, a tool often used by architects and engineers to build 3D models. Within the software program, she constructs a full model of a space including all of the architectural and design elements, down to customized fixtures and finishes. She then uses a plug-in that allows a path and a video along that path to be created. The videos that use virtual reality technology are helpful for presenting at meetings. Aside from video, the other option is to do a real-time walkthrough of a space using virtual reality technology, an experience which is sure to impress given the intense life-like perception that it provides. Contrary to popular belief, the technology is so sharp that goggles aren’t even essential, although they do heighten the perception that the viewer is actually in the space.

On a recent assignment designing the workplace of a technology company, the OTJ team presented a virtual reality video and tour which featured the proposed finishes, furniture, and lighting fixtures, as well as artwork, signage, and branding opportunities.

“This really allowed the client to experience what the new space would feel like,” said Tripoulas. “It was incredibly accurate and although the client did have a few changes, it removed so much of the guesswork from the process.”

In addition to leading to a final result that the client is happier with, the use of virtual reality technology to preview a space can also be a significant cost saver, as it eliminates possible change orders.

For Tripoulas, the innovation doesn’t stop at virtual reality. The OTJ team is already experimenting with augmented reality, a mind-boggling blend of experiencing virtual reality while simultaneously being in the physical space.

“You would be in the space and then see a wall go up,” explained Tripoulas. “It will show clients, even more precisely than virtual reality technology alone, how many options there are for their future offices, and what these would look like after being brought to fruition.”

OTJ Managing Partner Lance Jaccard, AIA, IIDA, LEED AP, added “We were among the first adopters of this technology.  We understood early on the potential it offers to mitigate the risks often associated with design as well as facilitate communication. Using 3D modeling and augmented reality, we can help our clients more clearly understand the full possibilities of their future space and design environments that better respond to their needs.”

With an invaluable tool that allows people to essentially see into the future and visualize where they would be working each day, the modern workplace is already on the fast track to transformation, and the possibilities for augmented reality technology mean the best has yet to come.

For more information on OTJ Architects, visit www.otj.com.

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