I encounter designers every day who know VR is going to be disruptive, and who understand its potential to help them share their vision, speed up client communications and help them win business. But they have a picture in mind of complex cabled VR rigs that bring computing complexity and high price tags. Those complex systems only seem worth it if for those planning to design, iterate and present solely in VR, with clients willing to spend hours in the rig. And so smaller firms may disregard the potential of VR. But we’re entering the age of fast VR which has the power to transform your design process, and it’s an option that not enough designers have considered. Fast VR is a principle, a habit, a way of bringing virtual reality into business situations and workflows at precise moments when it can do what it does best – quickly communicate the complex.
With greater mobility, ease of use and different levels of fidelity, leading edge designers are bringing fast VR to their businesses as a practical, everyday business tool for firms of all sizes.
Take VR anywhere
Fast VR takes advantage of mobile VR headsets. Using just your smartphone, VR can be viewed with inexpensive clip-on goggles, or slightly more expensive mobile headsets. With these mobile options, you have the opportunity to take VR to your clients, wherever they are located. Typically, about 80% of meetings are off site for most designers, so taking VR with you is critical if it is going to fit into your workflow. Mobile VR also provides the option to carry a VR portfolio in your pocket to share the designs you’ve created and win business. No, it’s not as immersive as full tethered VR – but the most beautiful renderings in the world won’t help you communicate with your clients if they are only available back at your office. Using mobile devices and simple headsets to deliver VR experiences means presentations are always at your fingertips and costs are minimised.
VR can just be a tool, it doesn’t need to be an experience. Don’t expect clients to spend hours strapped to a headset taking in every element of a design. Fast VR isn’t about convincing someone they’re in a room, it’s about enabling them to experience a spatial environment. There’s a very real feeling of isolation to being inside VR, and your clients may feel foolish or uncertain about putting on the headset. You don’t want to make your clients feel awkward about using technology while you’re trying to build trust. Again, the fast VR concept is the way to remove this friction.
Consider VR as a pop in and out experience – show your clients a scene they spend a few moments glancing at, before removing the headset and having a discussion.
Used in this way, our early adopter clients have found there are two real truths to VR. Firstly, it creates a much better sense of space and scale for clients who aren’t as comfortable as designers at working in standard heights and measurements. Secondly, it elevates client conversations through shared understanding. When your clients understand what you mean about a feeling you’re trying to evoke, or why you are recommending a certain finish, you move past explaining it and your clients have greater confidence to sign off and discuss other design elements.
Designers may feel intimidated by the ‘reality’ portion of virtual reality. There are very good reasons that you may not want to show a client full renders of a space – you may need a decision about the size of a fireplace before you worry about the shade of paint. There are several ways to resolve this with fast VR – you can show just the elements you want to discuss and render the rest of the VR scene as an empty room. Or show different levels of fidelity, from black and white sketches to guide space decisions, and later full photo-realistic designs for final finishes. A growing number of our clients are no longer providing updated drawings during the iteration process but instead, being asked by their clients to simply update the VR experience in order to move more quickly to a project’s sign off.
Designers can now use simpler VR to easily share their vision (in a hugely compelling way) to clients and carry their entire portfolio around with them on their phones. But focusing on complicated forms of VR has kept some designers from reaping the benefits of better client communication and embracing new technology. VR made all this possible; fast VR has made it viable.