There was a time not long ago when design and architecture was conceived using only tools such as pen and paper. With the advent of the computer, CAD and rendering software revolutionized the world of design. What was once two-dimensional sketches and lengthy, complex processes was transformed into concepts that could be manipulated and evaluated at a previously impossible pace. Then, just a few years ago, the next revolution began. A startup called Oculus looked to bring to life the decades old sci-fi dream of going places and doing things in virtual space. Early prototypes showed amazing promise and Oculus quickly became the darling of the tech industry. The perceived potential grew to such a feverous pitch that Facebook bought the company in 2014, eventually paying $3 billion (three times the amount the social media company paid to buy Instagram).
VR headsets feature two separate screens, one for each eye. By altering the images fed to each eye, the user’s brain believes that it’s inside a three-dimensional world. Now, a few years later, designers and architects are starting to realize the incredible potential the technology could possess in their field of work. “While imagination will always be a designer’s most powerful tool, the ability to truly understand and experience something as part of the process adds a new layer of depth and efficiency to process,” says Peter Bristol, head of Industrial Design at Oculus. “With a more full understanding of a project, everyone [designers and clients alike] can make more informed, better choices.”
Bristol—a man whose refined design approach runs the gamut from footwear (snowboard boots specifically) andcomplex medical devices to home furnishing as the unique Interlace—has, perhaps, a better understanding than anyone regarding virtual reality (VR) and the future of design. For Bristol and his team at Oculus, much of their perception for the future of design comes from the Oculus Rift (which is a virtual reality headset developed and manufactured by Oculus). “Imagine you’re an architect designing a hotel,” says Bristol. “These projects require a massive commitments of money, but decisions are made based on renderings and trust. Rift can let you experience the space virtually before it exists.”
Like mobile phones or the internet in the early 90’s, we are probably not yet able to grasp the depth at which VR will change the world, but it feels like the beginning of another step forward. Design by its very nature is both living in and creating the future, so it is not surprising to see it already thriving in an emerging space like VR.
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