Case Study: How VR provides an entirely new perspective for client presentations at A-lab
A-lab has established itself as one of Norway’s leading architectural offices. A-lab’s goal is to influence the urban environment through innovative and sustainable architecture with a strong identity. A-lab is also focused on research and development in cross-disciplinary teams.
We interviewed Angie Mendez - Technology Director at A-lab to hear her insights on the importance of VR in the design process.
Can you tell us about your work with A-lab?
I've been with Alab for about 15 years. We place emphasis on specialization and becoming extremely strong in certain topics. To do this, we have internal research labs in the areas of housing, retail, urbanism, technology, etc. My job as the head of the technology lab is to explore every type of technology out there and stay updated to achieve our objectives.
Of course, we start with a small proof of concept, and once we determine that the technology is mature, we implement it in a project, take it to the client from there, and then scale it to the rest of the organization. We discovered Sentio VR, and it took very little work to integrate it into our workflow. As a result, now I frequently get requests from people asking for the equipment and the key to the VR room.
How do clients respond to VR?
It is really fascinating for the clients. In everything we do, we want to make sure that the user experience is prioritized. Bringing them into VR on a human scale as soon as possible is a game changer for us. For instance, we had a client who was concerned about the first floor of their project. Once they saw it in virtual reality, they began to understand distances and scale density within the project, and the conversation was very different from the one you would have around a set of drawings.
I think architects are trained to think very conceptually, but for clients, we must translate that conceptual thinking into an experience that a real person will have. Therefore, using a digital model to create this kind of future scenario aids in evaluating every decision that must be made for a project.
What problems do you think VR solves in comparison to traditional tools?
Traditional visualization consisted primarily of renders and images. The problem with that approach was that it was extremely slow because it ran in parallel with the design process. As the design evolves, this information becomes obsolete, and the real contradiction is that you are viewing a 2D image of a 3D world.
Thus, adding another dimension to our work was needed to create an experience for our clients. Using tools that are integrated with the modeling programs has been a game changer for us because one can immerse themselves in the design with almost no effort.
VR has definitely helped us achieve that goal, and I must say that the best part of Sentio VR's 360 interface is that it allows architects and designers to create a great experience while still maintaining control over the story that we want to communicate.
How has VR facilitated presentation workflow?
Virtual reality, in my opinion, gives presentations a completely new perspective. It was previously very challenging to deliver presentations while carrying computers around town with cables. I think wireless headsets like the Oculus Quest 2 are a revelation, and VR is becoming more portable and accessible. Our clients are able to walk through their design by entering the 6-digit access code in VR in no time.
How did the VR experience begin at A-lab?
We were asked to present our work at an exhibition in Oslo, and my boss suggested that we make a VR scene in which the entire exhibition uses Alab. I thought the idea was great, so we implemented it. Therefore, instead of everyone having printed materials and physical models, our exhibition was one headset where you could see a reproduction of the entire exhibition.
Can you share a real-world example of using VR in a project?
In one of our projects, the client was so impressed with seeing the site's future view in VR that he requested that we demonstrate it to the town's politicians as well. The politicians visited the location physically to get a sense of how it currently looks, and then we showed them our concept in VR.
They were so impressed with the experience that they told our client that this project had to happen.
We were able to give them a really seamless experience by using virtual reality to show them where everything is currently and where we want to go. VR had a significant impact on that project and meant a great deal to the client as well because getting political support for a project is typically a difficult process.
Project name: Lilleakerbyen
What impact does VR have on the design process?
The context of the conversation changes once the clients view the design in VR. When clients look at the plans and drawings, they usually focus on things like functionality, area, view, and so on. However, with VR clients get an entirely new perspective. They have access to information that was previously very difficult to understand, collaboration improves, and more participants join the project.
The main advantage of using VR is that the project's outcome is probably going to be much better. We can incorporate feedback, make quick decisions, and speed up the design process.
We thank Angie for sharing such great experiences. Check out the entire interview below.
Are you also interested to try VR for design reviews and client presentations at your work? Try Sentio VR for free or get in touch with us directly.