VR; a new reality for Landscape Architecture

 

2017 was a big year for virtual reality — from being stuck in beta mode and kept in research, the technology finally emerged and became available to the masses. Presenting a completely new paradigm of interaction, virtual reality began to move us from touch-based interactions to interacting with all senses.

So, what does this mean for hardware and content and how they relate to virtual reality? Where do we think VR will take us? Better yet, how do we think VR will take us into the future?

 History

Though advanced, the concept of virtual reality isn’t necessarily a new one. Most people know VR as the flash-in-the-pan, bulky yet futuristic entertainment technology from the late 1980’s that fell flat on its face, but in fact, virtual reality got its start over a century and a half before.

In 1838, Charles Wheatstone invented the stereoscope and unknowingly invented the underlying technology now used by VR headsets. The technology proved the possibility of creating the illusion of three-dimensional objects by projecting images optimized for both eyes. And therefore, somewhat abstractly, Charles Wheatstone’s stereoscope provided the first example of visually teleporting a user to new places — virtual ones.

Physical illustrations and images used in the stereoscope were replaced by screens that displayed computer graphics dynamically based on where the user was looking, creating a stronger sense of being transported to another place. At this point, however, the technology was only available in research labs using dedicated hardware, and the visual output was very primitive compared to today’s standards. Even though this was a breakthrough for VR, there were still a multitude of technical problems to solve before this technology could be repurposed as a consumer product.

 VR in Landscape

Virtual Reality (VR) in Landscape Architecture has certain advantages compared to other representation tools traditionally used (2D drawings, images and video). VR exceeds the capability of visualising of the present situation and offers a medium to examine the future and the past of landscape scenes as the computer graphics’ hardware and software are getting cheaper and more powerful. 

As described by Noah Nehlich of Pool Studio; "When you put on the Virtual Reality headset, the world as you know it completely changes. You look into a different 3D world, and your brain thinks that the world you're seeing is real . . . exactly as though it truly exists. If you look over an edge in Virtual Reality, your body reacts. If you fall in a virtual 3D swimming pool, your muscles actually tense up. If you sit in a virtual lounge chair and watch butterflies float by, you instinctively put your arm out for one to land on."

What are the limits of VR in landscape architecture? Who's to say temperature, sound, smell, or textures couldn't be added to the experience? I guess we'll just have to wait and see!


 

stefI joined Mattinson Partnership in April 2017 as a Trainee Recruitment Consultant, working alongside Freddie on the Town Planning and Architecture desk. Before joining Mattinson Partnership I was studying Law at the University of Bedfordshire and worked on a part-time basis in an accountancy firm. I was promoted to Consultant in Autumn of 2017 and now I head the Landscape Architecture and Urban Design desk. When I'm not out socialising with my colleagues you'll find me at home with my beloved black cat, Snowy.

0207 960 2589

ss@mattpart.com

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