Professor’s Research Turns Architectural Plans into Virtual Worlds

Virtual reality technology is making mainstream headlines following Facebook’s $2 billion acquisition of Oculus VR, maker of the Oculus Rift headset.  Though designed primarily as an entertainment and gaming device, the Rift headset also holds incredible promise as a powerful design tool.

David Beach, assistant professor at Drury University’s Hammons School of Architecture, has spent the past three years working to apply VR technology to the field of architecture and design. He has specifically worked with the Oculus Rift hardware for about six months.

Now Beach, with the help of senior architecture student Sam McBride, is set to demonstrate the results of his research – namely, a custom software solution that takes plans built with today’s commonly used design software and turns them into virtual spaces designers and their clients can explore in three dimensions using the Oculus Rift.

Beach and McBride will demonstrate their work to area architects from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday, April 8 at the Hammons School of Architecture auditorium. The event is open to the public and the media are invited to attend.

“The idea of virtual reality has been around for more than 20 years, but the technology is only just now becoming affordable and user-friendly,” Beach says. “The Oculus Rift is the tipping point for hardware, which then opens up countless possibilities in architectural design.”

The process Beach and McBride have developed is highly iterative, allowing design decisions to be made based on the visceral experience of exploring ideas in virtual space. Beach’s research has focused on making the use of VR technology as easy and affordable as possible for practicing architects. A firm would need to invest less than $2,000 and a few hours of training time to be able to port their existing designs into virtual space.

For more information, contact: David Beach, Assistant Professor of Architecture, (417) 873-7055 or dbeach01@drury.edu.

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