How VR, AI, and Lidar Could Streamline Architectural Design

How VR, AI, and Lidar Could Streamline Architectural Design
How VR, AI, and Lidar Could Streamline Architectural Design

Last week I had a passing a chat with an architect, having been in property for 15 years in my early life, I have a deep understanding of an industry that hasn't changed really since the days of CAD and the 2HB pencil.

I immediately thought that there has to be a faster and cheaper way of designing houses, extensions, even master planning. So thinking on my feet I told him my ideas, but what ensued was a 30 minute discussion and pushback on why this would never catch on. To add context, the individual identified himself as an architectural "technologist".

Let's dive in

Virtual and augmented reality, generative AI, and smartphone lidar scanning have the potential to truly transform how architects and clients experience the design process. Rather than static 2D sketches or floor plans, architecture may soon leverage these tools to boost 3D visualisation and efficiency. (The new Varjo XR4 is perfect for this)

Specifically, VR headsets already allow client of architects to realistically walk through life-sized renderings of spaces early in the planning stages. This tactile, experiential dimension helps communicate design intent much better than flat graphics alone. In fact it's so mainstream now, the BBC have a show dedicated around VR home walk rounds.

Generative AI

Generative AI takes this a step further by instantly producing initial 3D model options simply from text or voice prompt descriptions provided in plain language by the human architect outlining goals, aesthetics, layout parameters etc.

From there, the architect can dive into VR with intuitive tools to sculpt and customise, rather than painstaking mouse-based CAD programs, but I see this, with a bit of a training manual, allowing the actual house owner to create their own plans, visuals and drawings.

LiDAR

Lastly, lidar scanning capabilities in smartphones can capture accurate room dimensions to anchor designs to real-world spatial constraints from the get go. This replaces manual measuring while giving architects an actual environment to build within virtually.

The possibilities

In tandem, this technology trio could significantly enhance client collaboration in modeling as well as compress the timeline tremendously through automated computational support. But like I said, the client possibly no longer needs the architect.

While exotic sounding, these technologies are available to us right now.

Rapid advances suggest VR/AI/lidar solutions will likely see mainstream integration soon, what if you trained a LLM on planning laws relevant to your state or county, so you could prompt your entire buildings drawings, a visual overview and tour, with full interior/exterior design, and submit to planner after you have tweaked it all to get the look and feel right, plus a list of component parts or building materials that means you no longer need a quantity surveyor.

The local planning authority can then get a full street walkthrough in VR, a full set of drawings that also follows building regs that the LLM model has been trained on. Of course you have to keep tweaking the LLM for updates and changes in planning law, but thats a data input no brainer.

So, our current tech stack is already powerful enough to achieve all this. I also think with Apple's Vision Pro headset, this could be a true industry killer or disrupter and democratises the planning process to the hands of the homeowner.