Let’s Get Physical

20 Nov 2017
Let’s Get Physical

As virtual reality becomes more popular, builders need to make sure they have the physical space to accommodate the equipment.

This is part 3 in a three-part series on trends and foresight in the future of architecture and environmental design. Read part 1 here, and part 2 here.

Virtual reality (VR) consoles are beginning to hit critical mass—but as the technology comes of age, one of the most significant issues for this virtual innovation is, well, physical. There’s poetry in the problem: Builders need to design for enough physical space to accommodate the next generation of wholly-virtual gaming and entertainment.

In June 2017, PlayStation’s VR headset surpassed one million units sold. Alongside powerhouses like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, it’s clear consumers are spending more time than ever in virtual gaming worlds. Top gaming manufacturers recommend upward of 60 clear square feet of space for these setups—something not found in most of today’s homes.

So how can builders and designers get ahead to meet the demands of tomorrow’s homebuyers?

Downsizing to Go Big

Ironically, tiny homes may offer an insight. Fueled by design constraints, many tiny homes utilize singular spaces and multipurpose modular furnishings. Born of necessity, this Murphy-bed version of every installation could find significant purchase potential for VR gamers who can’t dedicate the space.

Rock Paper Robot and Ori, two groups borne out of MIT initiatives, feature space-saving options designed for tiny homes that provide not only function but also beautiful design. While Rock Paper Robot currently is focusing on individual pieces, Ori has taken the approach much further, designing full installation-style furnishings that build into the spaces themselves—the kind of furnishings that could easily be part of a complete build-out plan rather than a one-off.

Emotional IQ

While physical space is one issue, there’s an emotional aspect to consider as well. Some homebuyers who can dedicate the space in their home still may choose not to (even if they would like a virtual hub).

The concept of a “man cave” or home-entertainment space is a staple of modern home design. But when it comes to home gaming and VR, some buyers may be interested in dedicated gaming space that is not overtly recognizable to everyday guests. From a strictly social and psychological perspective, there may be significant consumer interest in modular spaces—cleared for gaming when required, but inconspicuous when entertaining.

A New, Heady Fusion

Beyond today’s VR setups, some companies are looking to the future of combining virtual and augmented reality—creating spaces that provide physical artifacts for their digital counterparts. Nomadic VR takes virtual reality a step further by building physical spaces that correspond to their digital counterparts, providing real, tactile feedback for the most immersive experience—from the ability to sit in a physical version of the digital “throne” you see in your headset to being able to feel the warmth of a digital fire as you put your hands in front of you.

In this virtually driven future, it may be the physical counterparts that are finding themselves on the cutting edge. Never mind coding and digital design on the screen—who’s building the chair to sit on?

This article appears as it was originally published on hiveforhousing.com.

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