Since July 2015, we’ve been hard at work developing a new way of presenting visual simulations via a virtual-reality viewer.

Usually, visual simulations are presented on large printed paper and to get a true representation of scale, you need to be standing at a specified distance from the printed sheet. Another method involves using a transparent film of the proposed design, then going out to site and standing in the exact position the visual simulation was taken from, and holding up the transparent sheet at arm’s length to overlay the proposed design in the real view.

Both methods are low tech and old-fashioned and the later is cumbersome and time-consuming. They only offer a static viewpoint that captures a maximum field of view of just 124 degrees in width and 55 degrees in height. People who view these without an understanding of printed scale can misinterpret the impact of a proposed development by using the printed material incorrectly (they might stand too close or too far away from the page).

The brand-new virtual reality viewer that Buildmedia has been working on removes these issues. This viewer represents a simulation at the correct scale and allows the viewer to be fully immersed in the scene. To do this, we capture a 360-degree panorama on-site using our robotic tripod. We then align the 3D model of the proposed development to the panorama using surveying and photogrammetry techniques and generate an image (visual simulation) that is used in the viewer. The software digitally ‘wraps’ the image around the person using a virtual-reality headset, which allows the viewer to look in any direction and gain a better understanding of the greater context of the project.

a full 360-degree panorama is captured on-site using a robotic tripod.

allows the viewer to look in any direction and gain a better understanding of the greater context of the project

virtual reality visual simulations occulus

This means that people are no longer limited in viewpoint or required to stand at a specified distance from a printed image to get an accurate representation of a proposed development. The virtual-reality viewer allows a 360-degree view and scale is accurately represented without the distortion of a traditional panorama printed on a page.

Other benefits include the ability to quickly compare existing and proposed designs with the simple click of a button. Usually, you either overlay printed sheets, or scroll between imagery on the computer to compare existing and proposed views (possibly at the incorrect scale).

We are also developing a version that can view stereo panoramas, allowing depth perception to be present in visual simulations for the first time. Seeing in stereo means you create an image of both the left and right eyes, projecting each image on the respective eye. This allows us to then interpret depth in an image, in a similar way to a 3D movie in a cinema. This will be a huge leap forward for us, because traditionally, visual simulations have always been 2D. The ability to perceive distance will help determine the visual impact of a development from a specific viewpoint, complete with sound effects – which will create a truly immersive experience.

Benefits include the ability to quickly compare existing and proposed designs with the simple click of a button.

virtual reality visual simulations occulus

Buildmedia will begin to offer this as an add-on to our visual simulation services (our viewer can be used with virtual reality goggles such as the Oculus Rift and Vive available in 2016, or Google Cardboard, available now.

It will be hugely beneficial for some of our clients’ more sensitive projects, which require a cohesive understanding of the wider context. Hopefully, visual simulations in this format will help landscape architects create a more informed decision on the impact of proposed developments.

Tim’s time is spent managing a team of talented 3d artists, while also researching and developing new workflows and exploring the latest in 3d technology.

Testimonial Tim Johnson
Tim Johnson
Studio Manager