The internet is rife with news stories on the latest trends in Virtual Reality (and now we’re adding one more to the mix), from gaming, movies, technology, fashion and design. Whether or not you think VR is a gimmick that will die out in 2017, one thing is for sure and that is that VR opens up a whole new world of potential within design.

Developers have already created a wide variety of games for Virtual Reality that throw the user into immersive situations, such as racing behind the wheel of a Ferrari, solving puzzles as Batman and descending towards the ocean bed, narrowly avoiding being a sharks lunch. But we’re on work time and not here to discuss the gaming aspect of Virtual Reality, we want to explore how VR technology can change the way in which we design.

Playstation VR 'The deep'

There are already a number of applications which allow the user to design in a three dimensional space and explore their creation once it’s been made in a number of settings.

Person creating a volcano using Tilt brush tool by Google

Tilt brush comes from the company behind Sketch Up, Remixer, Stage and a little search engine called Google (you may have heard of them) to name but a few. Tilt brush allows you to “Paint life-size three-dimensional brush strokes, stars, light, and even fire. Experience painting as you have never before.” Painting with fire without the dangers of setting the fire alarm off? That sounds pretty fun, sign me up! But in all seriousness the practical uses are vast as it allows you to create something and then walk around your creation to explore different parts from any angle at any distance.

Gravity Sketch is still in Beta but looks to bring a huge amount of collaborative potential to the virtual table (and the real one for that matter). “Unlike other artistic VR creation tools, Gravity Sketch is focused on workflow for creative professionals and bases the creation of geometry in non-destructive solid modelling,” said co-founder Oluwaseyi Sosanya. “Designers, architects and engineers can create quick 3D mock-ups of ideas and seamlessly bring them to more complex CAD software.” If all of that wasn’t impressive enough one designer is able to create within the virtual space whilst a co-designer can use a tablet or desktop to work on the same project in real time. Mind blown.

Person doing gravity sketch using 3D pen tool and VR system
People using Audi VR system

Big companies are already integrating Virtual Reality into their design process to create the next line of products we could potentially be purchasing in the future. For example the automotive manufacturer Audi have adapted gaming technology to create a gesture-control experience to assemble potential future vehicle designs in a virtual 3D environment. “We want to make picking up and moving the components more intuitive in the future,” explains Katharina Kunz Audi’s development engineer . “Technologies from the gaming world are ideal for us because they are relatively inexpensive and are being developed rapidly.” By using this wearable device named “Myo” together with a virtual reality headset, Audi engineers and designers are able to interact with elements and test the usability of their concepts with much more freedom.

Architects can now physically walk clients through 3D digital models of their designs without even having to lay a brick. You can even explore Thomas Heatherwick’s proposed design for the Garden Bridge which crosses the River Thames before they’ve even started construction. The viewer can experience fine details down to some of the possible choices for tree and plant species on the bridge as well as the setting of the bridge near London landmarks like St Paul’s cathedral and the Leadenhall building. Hopefully this experience will win over the nay-sayers but hey, that’s a conversation for another blog.

Garden bridge

Don’t get me wrong I think there will always be a need to pick up a pencil and paper to scamp a quick idea, or fire up Illustrator to refine/develop a logo, however designing within VR allows the user to explore a 3D space with a variety of tools he/she may not otherwise have access to within the ‘real world’. Expect to see a rise in Virtual Reality uses within design over the next few years.

In the mean time why not visit our portfolio to see some examples of work we’ve managed to create without the aid of Virtual Reality. Who knows, in the future you might be able to explore our work whilst wondering through an art gallery or exploring a jungle (watch out for that snake!).