Architectural Visualization and the Oculus Quest: An Exploration

Me and my partner bought a house last year, and slowly but surely, we’ve been putting it into a state that we are happy to inhabit. We managed to redo the front room with little to no disagreements on how it was going to look, and both of us were pleased with the end result.

The finished front room (eagle-eye game aficionados should recognise the art on the wall….)

The bathroom, which we having done in August, has turned out to be an entirely different beast. We have had no end of disagreement as to what we want it to look like.

The problem, in the way that I saw it, was that we both had a idea in our head of what we wanted, but no way to push it out of our brains into the other persons. No way to see it from either of our perspectives.

Our bathroom now. I know, disgusting…

Then I thought, well, why don’t I just make what I have in mind in Unreal Engine, and then put it on my shiny new Oculus Quest VR headset for her to see? I could learn a little about how to approach Architectural Visualization (Arch-Viz, for short) AND learn how to create a build of it in VR. I learn something new, and our bathroom should be better for it.

Everyone wins.

To begin with, I started by pencilling down the dimensions of the room. I didn’t take into account a lot of information at first, things like the heights of the units, or the the exact location for where they would be coming away from the walls. This might sound like basic of the basic of information, but to someone who has never done it before (I barely do DIY if I can help it) it wasn’t the first thing I thought of. In the end, I used to figure out the size of everything and it’s location in the room. It boggles my mind on how useful is – I tend to use it every day for all manner of tasks.

One thing to note with this drawing: the unit sizes are what the bathroom is currently. I thought this would be the best way to do it, as I would know what I am working from first.

After some back and forth at getting the right dimensions, I set to work on it in UE4. I had some difficulty in finding assets and materials that worked for what I had in mind. I eventually paid £19 for a pack from the Epic Marketplace as the free items weren’t current enough in terms of what is available in current showrooms.

This is how it came out.

We had units and fittings in mind, so I resized the assets to be the same dimensions as what we were thinking to get. This aided us in seeing how things will look in terms of size and location.

I followed a course on LinkedIn Learning on how to improve my lighting skills. One thing that I picked up from it that has been extremely valuable is that it’s best to start from the directional light first, then add your environmental lights and reflection captures. End it with adding the post-processing volume for the final touches and overall colour of the scene.

Next I set forward on how to get it onto the Quest. A video online guided me through the process on how to set up Unreal with the Android SDK. I always knew that the Quest works off a mobile chipset but it never set in until I was downloading the SDK. If anyone is looking for a good guide to get it up and running, they can find it here.

Once translated, there were some edits I had to make to the blueprints so that it understood where head height would be.

This is what it looks like in VR. Obviously the lighting quality is lower, but this can be expected with having it on a mobile platform.

I think the most important aspect of this visualization is that I’ve translated what I had envisioned in my head to Unreal Engine. That bathroom that I had poking around in my head has been placed in an image that me and my partner can further discuss and evaluate.

And then it made me think...

…why aren’t more building companies doing this?

There is a remarkable amount of anxiety when it comes to building a new area of a house, as a consumer and for the person carrying out the work. Neither party can picture exactly how it will come out as each of them have a different idea of that. I know that companies like Ikea and B&Q offer services that can build mock ups of desired rooms, but I think giving people the ability to walk around them in VR is far more powerful than the tools they offer now. With the Quest being what it is, then an entire package is available for someone to come to your door, measure the room, model it in VR and Unreal, and then come back with various visualizations for the consumer to see. With the tools available in Unreal, a user with a very basic knowledge of it’s operation could work it. If I can do all of this, a first year student at Staffordshire University, then I am sure someone with the right training could easily do the same.

I can’t help but think – why isn’t this a thing?

Here’s hoping it comes out like the left image….

Either way, I think the end result of my bathroom will be far better due to creating this visualization. I will certainly update this blog post with images of it, as I’m extremely curious as to how close it will be to the final thing.

I will be giving these images to our bathroom fitter. I bet he’s never seen someone go to these lengths in terms of instructions!

2 thoughts on “Architectural Visualization and the Oculus Quest: An Exploration

  1. There isn’t much out there other than what you did (for the consumer)
    Is the type of thing you’re talking about. Thinking about it the reason why it’s not done as much is (I think) the Venn diagram of people literate on a computer to do this and builders/designers probably isn’t a big overlap.
    Really nice to see your bathroom in Unreal and real-life side by side you did a great job!

    1. SonnyMatthews

      Thanks Scott! Yes I am aware of that there are apps that already exist that can help a person visualize what they are having built, but I think the aspect of having a more tailor created model, and the the luxury of having someone do it for you, could be a viable strategy for a higher market clientele. It also minimises risks for both parties: as both the consumer and the company both know what the end result should look like. I can see obvious problems in terms of paying the right people the amount they expect, but a more user-friendly application built in UE4 could be the way to reduce costs in terms of employment.

      Jason Rubin, the CEO of Oculus, had his future home fully modelled in Oculus so that he and his wife could see 1 for 1 what they were going to live in. This is an example of this sort of thing already happening, although it could be another example of someone with the know how for how to do it.

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