Exclusive: Major Dallas architecture firm moves aggressively into VR

October 31, 2016

Strap on a pair of virtual reality goggles at Merriman/Anderson Architects, and the complete visualization of a complex plan springs to life.

A white stone entry hall with a glass door contains details down to the surface of a concierge desk. The specific styles of tables and chairs are on full display in a high-up pool lounge with a view.

At a time when many companies are experimenting with virtual reality for the sake of virtual reality, Merriman/Anderson says the high tech option is providing actual, significant business advantages. The comprehensive view of the 3D technology streamlines communication between architect and client.

Take, for example, a recent interaction the firm had with a client that didn't quite understand a design decision in a hotel room.

"We brought them upstairs and put the goggles on them," said Jerry Merriman, the co-founder and partner of the 30-year-old firm. "And they said, "˜We get it. We know why you did that.'"

It's turning out that virtually placing someone in a room might sell the company's designs better than any of the more traditional methods.

"I would say that a year from now, it's probably going to take the place of all of our video," said John Carruth, the firm's director of visualization. "We're probably going to totally stop shooting video."

The firm had been monitoring the VR landscape for some time before diving into the technology upon the release of the Oculus Rift, the Facebook-owned VR headset that came out earlier this year. By late summer, they were using the goggles to show 3D renderings to clients.

"It's been a huge success when they see it," Merriman said. "It's been really well received."

And the technology could be just starting to show its benefits within the architecture space.

Software is being produced to link the images to documents that provide the hard details of a project, Carruth said. If something doesn't quite line up within the rendering, an adjustment to the document could also adjust the image.

That is to say: the benefits of virtual reality might extend outside of its use as a sales tool. Architects might soon be using the technology to take tours of their own creations, fine tuning the projects along the way.

"Somebody is going to be able to sit out here, change the documents in