Design in Virtual Reality

Published January 9, 2017

When we describe experiences within VR it’s hard not to talk of ‘immersion’, the idea of feeling like you’re there, the concept which sets VR apart from other traditional forms of media consumption. Coupled with intuitive input devices which represent our limbs and accurately simulate our movement, we come as close as ever to blurring the lines between digital and reality.

We have seen VR used for entertainment, and within marketing as a format for interacting with real-world products in the digital world. Ikea Kitchen stands as an example of a consumer focused VR app which allows users to engage with a predefined product and space. Companies like Lowe with their Holoroom concept, however, advance this by allowing customers to design spaces using a simplified app, to be consumed using VR.

“Translates something intangible, your vision inside your head, in to something everyone can see”

But what of VR as part of the design process itself, are there advantages to designing and building in virtual reality, and what attempts to do so have already been undertaken?

VRTisan, a piece of interior design software, takes the Lowe Holoroom concept a step further, as users directly interact and modify the space around them in VR. This, it may be argued, grants an individual a closer connection to the environment they are designing, and provides a greater sense of space and awareness during the design process as they shift walls, apply textures and adjust furniture. VRTisan call this using “your entire body as part of the design”, by which you can “put someone else inside your minds-eye” and “communicate ideas quickly and intuitively”.

“The methods that we talk about could also easily tie back to the existing design workflows as the digital geometry can be exported and imported between the virtual environment and 3d modelling software used within the industry.”

One piece of software which solves the problem of intuitive design within VR is Google Tilt Brush; painting directly within a 3d space allows the production of design work not easily achievable in both classical digital software or traditional mediums, and for some users, has taken on the role of a ‘rapid prototyping’ software for 3d design; as such, some talented artists have begun experimenting using Tilt Brush as a tool for producing conceptual art for 3d.

Tilt Brush enables us to ‘sketch’ in 3d space, to give weight and scale to concepts and quickly communicate ideas destined for 3d space, in 3d space. What Tilt Brush perhaps lacks is complexity and a physical application which would actually make it useful within a design workflow.
One of the most powerful aspects of VR is its simplicity and the intuitive way we use it, and in this regard, it lowers the learning curve of 3D content creation. Gravity Sketch is attempting to bridge the gap between 3d design and the average user, supplying them with simple tools to create complex 3D designs. We may liken Gravity Sketch’s mantra to the 3D printing revolution, providing a means by which an average user can bypass complex manufacturing (and software) processes and begin creating real world objects from their home office. The barrier, as Gravity Sketch asserts, is the complexity or “logic” of the software used in standard design processes.

“Everything around us is 3D… 99% of all the objects around us are created by less than 1% of us, and that’s something we want to shift” – Oluwaseyi Sosanya

VR is still in its early stages of development, there will be continued development of not only software, but headsets and input devices that will only bring us closer to a truly immersive and intuitive experience. As such, we must recognise that software such as Tilt Brush, VRTisan and Gravity Sketch are merely forerunners in terms of VR for design productivity, but they already open us up to the possibility of creating and experiencing design in a virtual space. The benefits of designing 3d objects within a 1:1 scale 3d space are obvious, but the technology is still young and true integration of VR in to a professional design workflow has truly yet to be seen.

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