Currently the arch viz industry is about hyper realistic renderings. The drive is to achieve perfect photo realism. There are creative style decisions made with color, lighting, camera, mood etc., but photo realism is the theme.
How much further do we need to go with quality of realism? The level of realism that is achievable now is remarkable. There is always room to further perfect it, but why? Is there a need to? Magazines are filled with architectural 3d renders that nobody can tell the difference from a real photo. They say 80% of an IKEA magazine is 3d renders now. Expanding the realism would not accomplish much for the audience at this point. So, what is the next step. How can we offer more to clients in the arch viz field?
It could be real-time visualization. Yes, like a video game. Video games have been the primary use of real-time interactive technology, but they need not be the only one. Real-time applications allow the capability to experience a space that simulates real life better than any other form of visualization. That is true even if it is far less photo realistic than a still render.
There is also animation. Creating pre-rendered walk-through of a space with a single determined path, but the time invested is comparable to a real-time setup and the feeling of personally experiencing the space is lost for the client. An advantage of setting up a real-time scene, is that you can create any number of animations or stills from it, albeit the quality is less.
Imagine being a client trying to decide between multiple floor plan options. Currently, you would most likely look at still renderings coupled with 2d floor plans. What if you could actually walk through the space simulating the first person view of being there. You could get a true sense for how close walls and objects feel to each other as you move around, and how long it might take to travel between two spaces. The amount of information you can gather to make an informed decision goes up dramatically.
This type of possibility for real time in arch viz is relatively new and there are limitations. Each year, technology makes real-time more accessible and viable but it has a long way to go for arch viz uses.
It takes a lot of extra work to turn a scene into a real time application. Easily doubling or tripling the time involved in creating a still render, comparable to an animation. If many stills would be needed, to see more of the space, than the difference balances out.
There are also limitations in the quality of real-time applications to balance with performance, so the client can actually run the app. The realism quality is far from what can be achieved in a still, but the gap is closing quicker than photo realism is advancing. I think the current quality is enough to make real-time relevant for arch viz uses.
A third hurdle is the adeptness of clients and designers to control real time applications. I did not anticipate this, but it quickly became an obstacle. I grew up with video games and am comfortable controlling a camera in an interactive space with either keyboard and mouse or tablet controls. In observing others in the office testing applications there was a lot of clumsiness and frustration getting the camera to move how they wanted. What felt natural and fluid to me, did not translate. I had to spend time trying to design easier controls, with control instructions on the interface, both of which I am no expert in. This issue, will lessen with time as real time applications become more abundant in new markets and users become more familiar with them.
Clients and designers have adapted to viewing designs on mobile devices. It seems an ideal evolution to view projects with an interactive app. Project discussions could occur with each member of the meeting walking through the space for themselves on their tablet. It is important to remember that most the added value in real time is attributed to the user driving the application. Any decision maker has to personally use the application. The lack of adeptness in real time camera control, had project managers considering having me in presentations to drive the application so the team could watch. The problem is that an observer has no different experience than watching an animation. This does not seem like an important consideration, but I stress that it is. The difference between personally driving a real-time app and observing, can be likened to actually walking through a space vs. watching a video of someone doing so.
Advances that help overcome the limitations to this form of visualization are happening rapidly. We look forward to making smarter and more accurate decisions in the future by interacting with designs virtually. The advent of this option in architecture and interior design is realized as we discuss and consider it. Keep real-time in mind next time you are reviewing a presentation of a design, and keep the conversation going.
Here are two real-time examples we did, viewable with the unity web player.
Interior Example: http://www.arkosdesign.com/images/Unity/2014-09-19_web_build_1.html
Exterior example: http://www.arkosdesign.com/images/Unity/Marycrest_Exterior_Web_Build_Left.html