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Digital Transformation: Using Augmented Reality to Experience Design

Brian Smale © 2017 Microsoft

The new reality of design is here, and it’s virtual. Creative imagination allows our clients to experience completed spaces in any stage of the design process. With the technology becoming faster and less expensive, it allows us to take the digital assets we are creating during the design process and evaluate them in the context of their environment.

Gensler has partnered with Trimble, a company that designs mixed-reality products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. As part of its Mixed-Reality Program, Trimble recently launched SketchUp Viewer for the Microsoft HoloLens. Designers can take their digital models and put them into the HoloLens software created by Trimble. This gives our teams and their clients the ability to virtually inhabit and experience design and construction projects. The mixed-reality solution allows teams to improve quality, communication and efficiency in the design, construction and operation of buildings. In our partnership, we work together to push the boundaries of technology to enhance the design experience.

Image © Gensler

Together, we recently showcased our partnership with the HoloLens at a Microsoft media day in Chelsea, Manhattan. The partnership explores the intersection of human interfaces, architecture and computing using mixed-reality technology. At the event, we shared everything from signage, to custom design elements to the entire building itself in the headset. Guests virtually walked through within the context of the real space. With this technology, we can provide our clients reassurance because there is less question about what they are buying –now they understand it in a one-to-one manner. HoloLens has opened the door for a whole new way to engage clients to better experience the design process in a more holistic and efficient way.

At Gensler, we use this technology to enrich the client design experience by allowing clients to see our vision for their space at earlier stages in the process. But it doesn’t stop there. We are also seeing this technology used for construction. It is also starting to offer virtual meetings, bringing global clients together in the same space. This means a client wearing the headset can virtually experience the space at the same time as their team member around the globe. This enables design decisions to take place across time zones at the same time, with greater confidence. As our partnership develops, we’ll continue to use augmented and virtual reality to make clients and end users more engaged in the design process.

Mark Pollock is a Digital Design Director in Gensler’s New York City office and a Firmwide Design Technology Leader. He works on bringing the best design technology to the offices projects and clients. He specializes in the research, and strategic implementation of design technology from BIM, Computational Design, Virtual Reality, and Design Analytics. Contact him at mark_pollock@gensler.com.