Virtual Reality

Time sure does fly past fast. Almost a year ago I posed the question, Are We Virtually Ready?. If Autodesk University is any sign, Virtual Reality (VR) is here and it is quickly becoming available to anyone. IrisVR is taking a different approach by supplying tools to create interactive Virtual Reality from your architectural models almost instantly.

The Problem with Virtual Reality

Around three years ago Shane Scranton, CEO, and co-founder of IrisVR, was heavily involved with architectural modeling and visualization. He got his hands on a development Oculus Rift and fell in love.

IrisVR Shane Scranton

Shane quickly discovered that with Virtual Reality, you can communicate with your clients in a method that provides huge cost savings. By using VR you require fewer meetings and you get quicker sign off to projects and to changes. Most importantly VR highlights errors that are caught by virtually walking through the model. Errors that would be difficult to see on the 2D drawings or with the 3D models.

The problem, as Shane saw, was the process to convert the 3D model into something Virtual Reality ready was too involved and took too long. The process typically involves gaming engines that require game design skills. A Revit model typically requires 100-200 hours to transfer into Virtual Reality properly at a level providing a presentation level experience.

Shane wanted the process to be plug and play and go. With this, he started IrisVR.

IrisVR Goes Mainstream

Things just got stepped up a notch as IrisVR recently announced it has raised $8-million in Series A funding. With this and other investments, IrisVR’s total funding is $10-million. Based in New York, IrisVR is currently 15-employees. Shane joked during our interview that he thought “VR would be easier” hence the reason most of the employees are engineers.

IrisVR Virtual Reality Headsets

Even though the products just moved out of the initial beta phase, IrisVR has over 22,000 sign-ups so far for their Prospect product (more on this product in a bit).

A quote from the funding release:

“There are real, industry-changing applications for this technology and IrisVR is building one of them,” Shane said. “Simply put, we’re reinventing the canvas on which a vast, global industry communicates. For design and construction professionals, the vision is the core of every project. IrisVR brings that vision to life.”

So what does IrisVR do? They build VR tools focused on the architecture and design-related industries. Their goal is to provide VR ready content from your models in 30-60 seconds. The difference between their products and others is they are after the quick-and-dirty, as in get the model pushed into VR instantly and start collaborating interactively. If you are after the high-level presentation continue using others which involves much more of a time commitment to build the presentation VR.

See here for more details:

The plan for 2017 is to continue development with a focus on “effective communication.

So what makes IrisVR’s solution different? Instant VR with a focus on collaboration. Plus their base products are free to use!

The Products

IrisVR offers two products: IrisVR Prospect and IrisVR Scope. They are available in free and paid for versions. Prospect is intended to take your 3D models and convert them into VR viewables for devices like the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive. Scope is intended to convert panoramic images into a VR viewable for smartphone devices like the GearVR and Google Cardboard.

IrisVR Immersive Review

Immersive review courtesy of the IrisVR Blog

Iris Scope

For IrisVR Scope you generate the panorama in V-Ray, OctaneRender, Lumion, Autodesk A360, Corona Renderer, and others (and more are coming) and then convert into for VR with Scope. With the panorama converted, you view it virtually using your mobile device.

With the Scope Library you upload the “panos“, generate a code, and share the panos with whoever needs to see it.

The free version provides support for the Cardboard and Samsung’s GearVR. It allows you to view any pano shared with you. The Pro version ($40/month) gets you access to the Scope Library with unlimited uploads, the option to sort panos into sets, and fullscreen 360 previews.

Iris Prospect

Prospect offers support for Revit, Rhino, Sketchup, and OBJ models. There really is no limit on the model size as the product can handle complex assemblies.  There is no limit on the number of files you can process, even with the free Basic version.

Within the IrisVR Prospect environment, you get to experience life-like presentations with complex details. The conversion from model to VR is “in less time than it takes to print.

With the Pro ($200/month) the tool set is extended. Using the built-in tools you toggle between different design options by switching layers off and on. The provided annotation features create markups and callouts in 3D. Prospect Pro also provides the means to capture screenshots from within the VR so that you can review outside of the VR.

If you are using the Pro version you can send and receive VR via their IVZ format. The resultant file is small enough to send via email, which at the moment is the mechanism most IrisVR users are using to share with others.

Finally, the Pro version includes daylight system tools so that you can adjust the sun and lighting position real-time.

What do I Need to Start?

The IrisVR website provides a lot of information, not just on their products, but for getting started with Virtual Reality.  First place to start?…. Hardware.

You’ll need a computer. Consider the “VR Ready” hardware offered by Lenovo.

IrisVR recommends getting a powerful graphics card at the recommended minimum. They suggest at a minimum the NVIDIA Geforce GTX 980 or something equivalent.  You’ll also need an Oculus Rift or an HTC Vive. Which one? The Rift is intended for sit-down experiences while the strength of the HTC Vive is its ability for room-scale virtual reality.

For a complete run-down of requirements check out their blog here.

What’s Next?

A Google Cardboard is on its way to me. I’m also on the hunt for a Samsung GearVR. Once I get my hands on one of these devices, I’ll be reviewing Scope.  I’m looking quite forward to it.