In the last decade or so, with astounding breakthroughs in the field of futuristic technology and architecture alike, it isn’t surprising that we are using VR technology to predict most of the aspects like the building’s behavior, how the building and the surrounding area will look, what would be the energy consumption of the structure and much more. Almost all the activities regarding a building are being mapped through using different technologies. With the advent of Google maps and eventually Google Earth, we can visualize entire cities and urban fabric in 3D while sitting at home. And with the help of GIS, drone technology and high-quality imagery and photography, almost all of the earth has been documented and real-time changes are being updated continuously to the huge satellite databases.
With so much progress happening around us, it is but obvious that the next breakthrough would be of sitting at home and experiencing distant lands very effectively. And when it comes to traveling to varied places through Virtual Reality, it could become the need of the day. No doubt the real experiences that we have when we travel are completely different and life-changing. During which we get to know the culture, we taste the food, we get engulfed by the local climate and we are surrounded by the local people, we bathe in the vernacular atmosphere and thus, can remember the overall journey for a longer time. But, in times like today, when we cannot step outside the house because of quarantines and also during recent times when the world has been facing severe setbacks due to massive tourism and exchange of people globally, such techniques will eventually give a respite and restore some balance. With excessive people traveling across the world, most of the resources are facing a strain and many must-visit destinations are collapsing under it. And amidst such a period, it is essential that technologies such as VR can be used very productively.
Also, most of the games, nowadays, are operating on AR – Augmented Reality, in which the scenario set in varied parts of the world manifests around us as we proceed in the game. Set in a variety of countries and cities, these games give us an idea about the existing pattern of buildings, ancient monuments, people, vegetation, landforms, and many more aspects. Same thought process and technology goes into making movies and animated films wherein the creative people make sure that they give the audience maximum exposure to the period in which the story and narrative are set. Similarly, we as architects, who bank on traveling and learning a lot about a certain place, can take the help of VR to visit most of the places and gather information and knowledge. With pretty much a realistic scenario that VR presents us, it wouldn’t be wrong to predict that in no time, this technology will trickle through every household and become popular. Experiments have been conducted where short VR videos of cities like Paris, New York, and Rome were shown and people were made to experience these places. A mere 3-minute video where we could direct ourselves to look into different directions, change viewing positions and look at buildings with a bird’s eye view, worm’s eye view or a human-scale view. A walk-through in the entire city at a considerable human walking speed is quite apt to understand the scale of the streets, the buildings on both sides, the traffic movement, the pedestrian pathways, the street furniture, the vegetation, and the climate.
To be able to sit in a chair in our own house, without spending even a penny, without undergoing the tedious process at airports, without layovers and flights and the impending jet-lags, not just architects but everyone will be able to travel to their favorite cities and be able to take in the flavor virtually. Traveling is essential for everyone to break apart from the normal routine. For us architects, it’s even more vital since we would be looking at famous buildings by well-known architects, to study street patterns, to get to know what went behind planning the city, what impact did the history have on the development of the city, how the climate, culture and the beliefs affect the character of the building design and much more. But, it’s not always possible to visit countries due to many unavoidable constraints. So, with the advent of VR and tweaking the technology to give us varied sets of information in detail, it would be possible to gain maximum data through such sojourns. With the amount of data that has been mapped and documented, it could be easily made available at varied junctures while we are in the VR mode. By selecting the desirable toggles that store different kinds of information, it would be easy to get what we want in a short time and basically, weave through the entire data according to our interests. For example, if one is interested in scavenging data regarding just the history of the most important buildings, one could just program the software in a way that it presents only the relevant data and hide all the other information.
An interesting venture into this virtual realm could also open up a plethora of possibilities. As architects, we are always eager to compare different experiences and jump across time to prove our point in front of others or to convince the client about our ideas and design concepts. VR technology can lead to a fast manifestation of these ideas and save upon a lot of time. A slight change in the time can lead to making us experience the spaces at a speed that’s convenient for us. The most important aspect here is that we are not required to depend upon external factors like time, place, people and other possibilities to align for us to travel to a particular destination. It solely depends upon us and our choices as a solitary proponent.
Thus, a subject like this is always open for a debate wherein the experiences learned from traveling in reality as against the experiences having had from visiting the same place in Virtual Reality can have a vast difference of impact and on different people and also a variety of opinions. But, we cannot deny the fact that technology has indeed offered us a gateway into the possibility of visiting our dream destinations at the click of a finger!