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« Visualizing a New Life for the Retail Center: Transforming Assets with Virtual Reality | Main | Beyond Market Niches: Designing Hotels That Can Flex »

Mapping Presence in Virtual Reality Environments 

Image © Nick Merrick/Hedrich Blessing.

Many industries rely heavily on data to inform business and design decisions. E-commerce sites track shoppers online. Brick and mortar stores use surveillance cameras to monitor shopper activity. Post-occupancy surveys measure comfort and satisfaction in built projects, from professional services firms to corporate campuses.

Traditionally, all this data is sourced after a project is complete, but what if we learned these lessons before construction? How can we capture user experience of a design before it’s built? The answer: virtual reality.

Image © Gensler

At Gensler, we’ve been pioneering virtual reality research for architectural design. Virtual reality is a great tool for informing the design process beyond other design storytelling mediums because it provides the ability to experience place during the early phases of a project.

We’ve created a process to generate data by tracking a client’s path, gaze, and experiential likes and dislikes in an immersive, virtual mockup of a building during the conceptual and schematic phases of a project. Working in partnership with Kalloc Studios with their software platform Fuzor, we’ve created a unique tool called the Presence Mapper.

Mark McManus/Image © Gensler

The Presence Mapper records a path, eye tracking, and favorable and unfavorable impressions of a design. We measure where you look, what you like, and where you linger in a design model. This allows design teams to capture and analyze user experience feedback before any architecture is built.

Our clients, whether they are retailers trying to sell a product or offices trying to retain employees, are acknowledging that the power of the design of their physical spaces is the key to maintaining relevance in an increasingly digital world.

Image © Gensler

Clients using the Presence Mapper now have pre-construction insight into how their spaces will be used and occupied, information that they would normally glean a year after a project’s completion.

As part of ICSC’s RECon, Gensler’s Retail Centers practice area will set up a Virtual Reality Lounge where you can visit many of our other projects virtually.

Image © Gensler

Mark McManus is the Regional Creative Media Leader for Gensler’s Southwest Region, focusing on implementing virtual, mixed and augmented reality technologies into daily architectural workflow to improve building design and construction. With over 20 years of experience in art, architecture, and urban planning on multiple continents, his portfolio ranges from theme parks and hotels to complex offices and airports. Contact him at Mark_McManus@gensler.com.
William Maglonso is the sole IT Analyst for Gensler’s Newport Beach office, supporting over 100 users. With over 12 years in the IT field, he has had exposure to many different industries including business, education, healthcare and architecture. Within the architectural industry, he has found a passion for seeing concepts go from conception through the completion. William has worked closely with other offices and vendors to expand Gensler's footprint as a pioneer for future VR/AR technologies. Contact him at William_Maglonso@gensler.com.