NEWS Events

VR: Design Tool of the Future or Marketing Gimmick?

Our second Future Forty event was a great success and gave much food for thought on the future of Virtual Reality in the design industry. We asked our three presenters, including Hilson Moran’s Dave Lee, to answer the question: VR – Design Tool of the Future or Marketing Gimmick? The presenters were given the additional challenge to make their argument within the constraints of the ‘Pecha Kucha’ format of presentation – using only 20 slides, with only 20 seconds given to each slide.

The first presenter was Ares Simone Monzio Compagnoni from Factory Fifteen, a company who specialise in visualisation, animation and 3D representation – also our hosts at The Factory. Ares’ presentation extolled the virtues of Virtual Reality as the ultimate tool to understand how light will penetrate a building and demonstrated a workflow to achieve this.

Second up was Hilson Moran’s Head of BIM, Dave Lee, who took a slightly different stance. He felt that the limitations of existing software meant that VR wasn’t currently a tool which could facilitate collaborative design across the whole design team and that it was only really architects who were able to make good use of it at this point. He suggested that our focus and investment would be better spent on the model behind the VR, but looked forward to a future where new softwares will allow all members of the design team to make use of VR and AR (Augmented Reality) from the outset of the design process.

Our final presenter was Paul Nichols, Creative Director of Factory Fifteen, who was excited and inspired by a tool which he felt could facilitate a completely new way of designing. He argued that VR and AR should not be considered a replacement for existing design tools or ways of working, but an alternative and complementary one. In the same way that parametric design has given birth to a completely new visual language in our built environment, VR may well take us into other unexplored territories.

The presentations were followed by a lively Q&A session, with questions from attendees including Make Architects and Foster + Partners. It was suggested that VR might help our clients to achieve and buy into WELL standard buildings, by making elements such as light and floor-to-ceiling heights more tangible.

The problem of a lack of eye-to-eye contact whilst using a VR headset was also highlighted – how can we collaborate without human interaction or being able to read people’s faces and reactions to our designs? Factory Fifteen suggested that we should not be looking to replace traditional meeting set-ups with VR, while Hilson Moran suggested that future hardware / goggles might be more lightweight.

After the discussion, Factory Fifteen turned on their own VR set-up, allowing attendees to have a go at sketching in 3D. Since it was Shrove Tuesday, the evening was topped off with pancakes.

Thank you to all of those who came to the event. For further information on our programme or to participate in any of our events, please email Trina Jeffers, Marketing Manager, at:

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