Visual-Wise: immersive 3D on a phone

London startup Visual-Wise can take an architectural model and, with a little help from a cardboard holder, turn your smartphone into a 3D headset.

Visual-Wise logoI took a quick trip into Google Campus in London’s Shoreditch yesterday to talk to engineering duo Megan Masterson and Reuben Carter of 2014-founded London-based startup Visual-Wise. This offers the immersive experience previously confined to expensive soft/hardware such as Oculus Rift [first commercial units to be available in early 2016, reports TNW] and makes it available to users via a mobile phone (albeit held in a simple cardboard ‘headset’).

Reuben explained that the technology behind Visual-Wise takes design information (which can be generated from any design authoring tool, from Sketchup or 3DS to Revit, for example), then runs it through a stereoscopic rendering engine, adding lighting, shadows and materials to provide a near photo-realistic depiction of the modelled space. Available as an Android app (and being ported to iOS), Visual-Wise allows the model to be viewed on a smartphone held in a lightweight flat-pack cardboard headset (the one I tried was held in a more durable wooden version), eliminating the need for expensive and bulky hardware and related software. Multiple spaces can also be linked together, so that the viewer can move virtually from room to room, if required.

The technology has already been tested by architects and clients. The Visual-Wise website includes a link to a RIBA Journal case study on how Purcell Architects used the toolset to show designs for a proposed new annex to a southwest London church. Megan told me they had also had interest from property developers and property brokers looking to quickly show new developments to prospective tenants or purchasers.

Riding the current BIM wave, Megan, a civil and structural engineer and former McKinsey consultant, and electronic engineer Reuben have been busy talking to different architecture, engineering and construction businesses about their idea, initially funded through the Entrepreneur First programme. We talked about parallel tracks being pursued by other developers, including holography (post), augmented reality (used by Costain at London Bridge station, for example) and 360-degree panoramic photography (eg: Stickyworld). I also reflected back what I’d learned from covering other virtual reality platforms (eg: Denmark’s Realsite, Cafe4Tune): while it may be less important to those marketing properties, for AEC industry use, in my view, applications need to be more than stand-alone viewing tools and capture feedback for further collaboration.

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