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AIA: Looking at the VR (virtual reality) craze in Atlanta

In this AIA Atlanta Show Floor report we focus exclusively on all the Virtual Reality technology exhibited. VR was a huge theme in Atlanta and will be a continuing exciting field to follow.


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More VR at AIA


Kubity was another VR technology exhibitor at AIA Atlanta. Pete Evans tried their software solution and was impressed. Like InsiteVR the Kubity solution is more web-based/web-oriented. You can drop your 3D file directly onto their website for upload. In fact, they provide you a SketchUp file on their website for you to test out by uploading it via drag and drop.

Via the web alone users can experience their 3D models without a VR headset. The user is able to configure rendering and environmental settings like lighting, latitude, time of day, et cetera. One of the things that makes Kubity interesting is that there is a free plan and that because it is based on WebGL you can embed your Kubity model experience on your own website.

01 - Kubity is a new web-based visualization platform with VR support for Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. A free account option is supported.

01 – Kubity is a new web-based visualization platform with VR support for Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. A free account option is supported.

For the premium plan ($15.USD per month) you can upload models twice as large as the free plan, up to 60 MB. You can also add your own sound, music and video and you get 24h email support versus 48h for the free plan. Kubity works with Google Cardboard and Oculus Rift. To learn more visit them here.

We will go over VR again briefly in other reports but before we conclude this one we might want to run through some of the VR headset hardware.

About VR Headsets

Oculus Rift is a name people in architecture are going to hear more and more in the coming years. Why? Because it arguably started it all the VR noise in the AEC space. VR headsets were setup and explored many years ago but they had one fatal flaw: they made people nauseous. The latest VR gear seems to have solved that problem.

02 - The final Oculus Rift is coming in Q1 2016.

02 – The final Oculus Rift is coming in Q1 2016.

Oculus Rift maybe a name you recall if you heard about Facebook’s $2 billion plus dollar acquisition of the young company. Palmer Luckey was the inventor and founder of Oculus Rift. According to Wikipedia, famed game developer John Carmack was doing his own VR research when he encountered Luckey’s developments. Carmack jumped on board and today the CTO of Oculus. The Rift is truly immersive but it looks to be just one of a few really promising VR headsets coming by 2016. The final consumer version of the Oculus Rift ships Q1 2016.

Gear VR is a Samsung partnership with Oculus that brings the power of the smartphone into a VR headset. This was the way we experienced some VRs at the AIA show in Atlanta and the results are equally stunning. You will need a Samsung Galaxy 4 smartphone in addition to the Gear VR headset. You can see some pictures and info here.

01 - The new HTC and Valve co-produced VR headset. The new device gives Oculus Rift serious competition.

01 – The new HTC and Valve co-produced VR headset. The new device gives Oculus Rift serious competition.

There are several VR headsets folks are excited about. The HTC Vive is one of them. Apparently due in the final quarter of 2015, the HTC and Valve partnership is responsible for this exciting VR headset with use the Lightmap technology to track the precise positions of the Vive in space. You can learn more here. 

Additionally, Microsoft, Google and even Apple all seem to have VR plans. Microsoft has recently revealed its HoloLens VR device as it ties into Microsoft Windows 10. And Google Cardboard is already a working VR solution. Because mobile VR is such a clear reality and mobile is vital to Apple’s success, Apple’s VR patents, which resemble the way the Samsung Gear VR device uses a mobile phone for its display, portend to a future when Apple will likely have to release its own VR hardware.

AR Comes Next

While VR is awesome and will begin to change the computer landscape in 2016 and going forward, both Apple’s patents and Microsoft’s current technology dip into AR (augmented reality) where digital 2D and 3D information overlays physical reality.

03 - Apple's VR patents extend back even before the iPhone.

03 – Apple’s VR patents extend back even before the iPhone. In 2014 Apple was hiring VR engineerings and experts for unknown projects. Most insiders believe that Apple will eventually need to enter the VR market with its own products less its mobile devices will fall behind others from rivals Google and Microsoft, two players clearly in the VR and AR space.

Apple’s VR patents show technology that will optically respond to a user’s eyesight limitations. Just so folks know, the Oculus Rift and other headsets out there all make you take you glasses off. If your eyesight is not super terrible this doesn’t seem to present too much of a problem. However, taking into account user’s specific eyesight adds more capacity to what these devices will ultimately be capable of.

Apple’s job positions for VR related positions were specifically asking for developers to build “high performance apps that integrate with Virtual Reality system for prototyping and user testing.” This strongly suggest that real Apple VR prototypes exist in the labs.

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