Architectural Virtual Reality with Oculus

Virtual reality (VR) is one of the hot topics in architecture and this for good reason. Many Enscape users are experimenting with VR or are already using it in their daily business. The experience of a virtual walkthrough is superior to the already great experience of seeing your project in 3D on a large screen or a projector. It enables you to get a feeling for space and design, which you are not able to get through other ways, not even with an architectural model. We started Enscape in 2013 with the vision that one day every architectural project can be experienced in virtual reality.

Virtual reality in architecture – use cases

Already today, 9 out of the 20 major architectural companies worldwide use VR in test cases or even in their daily business. They benefit from virtual reality in different applications. Yet, virtual reality is in its -infancy and therefore only visionaries and early adopters are taking advantage of the powerful tool. Nevertheless, within the next years the technology will become mainstream and the accessibility to the VR- workflow will make the difference between winning a bid or not.

Being able to present the project in client meetings to emotionally impress customers is therefore the main use case of virtual reality. A VR experience amazes clients, gives them a better understanding for the design, and emotionally involves them in the project. Besides customer presentation, two other practical applications profit from virtual reality.

One of them is internal presentations. Showing the design to colleagues or supervisors in VR leads to faster and sounder discussions. Even critics of the technology admit that. Architects who get the chance to experience their project in VR are believers from that day on.

Finally, virtual reality can also be used for own design reviews. Details like balustrades or stairs become much clearer if regarded in virtual reality and offers the architect a way to experience his work in a more realistic way.

Enscape integrates perfectly into the process for these use cases by allowing users to virtually walk through their work with only one click. This means that even last minute changes can make it into the final presentation.

Technical solutions

Direct VR integration into CAD software

Enscape falls into the category of a direct integration into a CAD software. There are several solutions on the market that are specialized in architectural VR. However, Enscape is the only one that is directly integrated into the CAD software. The integration enables a direct experience of the CAD-model with only one click. This sort of virtual reality application is very demanding for the hardware but delivers great results without additional effort. As a result, this is the preferred solution for all use cases, as you can use a computer, do not have to wait several weeks and do not have to spend a five-figure amount to create a walkthrough. Additionally, the ease of use marks the integrated visualization, like Enscape, as the solution with the greatest potential for the future.

VR with a game engine

CAD models can also be exported into rendering engines that are known from computer games industry. The advantage of this solution is the quality, which comes close to the quality of a photorealistic rendering. However, the process of creating such a virtual reality walkthrough demands skill and effort as well as time. This results in much higher prices.

360-degree panorama picture

Some VR users are interested in sending a high quality picture to their clients. For this the best option is to export the CAD model into a 360° panorama. However, the disadvantage here is that the view is not flexible, as the model needs to be exported and only distinct spots in the project are possible to view. All devices but especially Google cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR can run this sort of VR application. Enscape currently does not support this feature. If you want to see this feature in Enscape, feel free to vote for it on our development agenda:


Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift is the head-mounted display (HMD) that is currently supported by Enscape. The Oculus is one of the first and most widely used HMDs worldwide. The final version runs with a resolution of 2160×1200 pixels. This is the preferred Enscape solution, since it runs in similar quality as the vive at a lower price.

HTC Vive

The HTC Vive will be supported by Enscape, in one of the next versions. The resolution of the screens is comparable to the Oculus Rift. The Vive comes with great positional tracking, meaning that the user can actually move naturally in an area of 15 feet by 15 feet (5 m × 5 m). This is a great advantage and at the same time a disadvantage as it needs to be installed in a certain area to get the most out of this technology.

Gear VR, Cardboard

Both of these HDMs are not supported by Enscape since the GPU and a cellphone are not strong enough to support the Enscape application. For the future, the possibility to export a walkthrough as a video or a 360° panorama are planned to be added to Enscape in order to get the benefit of having a mobile experience.

Architectural Virtual Reality with Oculus

Caleb Lowery
Thomas Shafer Architects

I’m impressed by the ease of use, and how smoothly it works with Revit to produce quality content. This is a great medium for producing visuals for clients in our design stages without spending a ton of time exporting to 3ds-max, re-texturing, rendering, manipulating, etc. It will certainly help close the gap between our design intents and client’s understandings.

Architectural Virtual Reality with Oculus

Ian Siegel
BIM Practice Specialist
Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF)

We were immediately impressed with how little time and effort is required to produce real-time design reviews and high-quality renderings. What used to take days now takes minutes. We’re rolling out Enscape to all our global offices.

Architectural Virtual Reality with Oculus

Stephen Holmes
Practice BIM
Manager & Partner
Foster + Partners

We have been using Enscape as both a design presentation and decision making tool. It seamlessly integrates into our BIM process with minimal training. Enscape’s immediate feedback to design changes of geometry, material finishes, lighting and acoustics directly from the BIM model is a significant benefit.

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