VR Technology and Interior Architecture Take Center Stage at SXSW

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

Austin’s SXSW (aka South by Southwest) may be best known for its music and film festivals, but its interactive component is fast becoming a hot ticket, too. The SXSW Interactive Festival showcases digital creativity and emerging technology — and, in a panel by IA Interior Architects this afternoon, how they factor into the design of the built environment and specification.

This year, consumers can finally get their hands on virtual-reality headsets — from the Oculus Rift to HTC’s Vive and Sony’s PlayStation VR — and while they’re immersed in game worlds and amusements, architects and interior designers will be using the very same technologies to take their clients on virtual walkthroughs of their projects.

© IA Interior Architects

In IA’s presentation, “Reality Check: VR and AR in Workplace Design Is Here,” the firm’s director of design intelligence, Guy Messick, AIA, and senior workplace strategist, Kelly Funk, will reveal how IA has been using virtual and augmented realities in projects over the past 16 months with great success.

“We are finding that when collaborating with clients in virtual environments, they quickly move beyond the wow factor into decision mode,” Messick told us. “Furniture, layouts, materiality, et cetera, can all change when in VR, as a level of understanding is reached that plans and renderings just do not provide.” He cited as example how one social media client exploring a VR simulation walked out of a large training center space into a hallway and, as a direct result, decided to add significant environmental graphics in several hallways. Another client, a venture capitalist firm, changed its plans for using wall coverings to paneling with reclaimed wood following a virtual walkthrough.

© IA Interior Architects

The IA teams have largely been using GearVR, released jointly last year by Oculus and Samsung, for its portability and wireless functionality, along with Revit and InsiteVR, the latter of which transfers design models to VR models with full geometries and materiality intact. As part of the presentation, Messick, Funk and InsiteVR cofounder and CEO Angel Say will offer an interactive demo giving attendees a firsthand experience with the most current equipment and environments.

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