The State of Small Business

Immersive technologies bridge the gap between design and end product

Rapidly-changing technology such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) is not only having an impact on the architecture industry, but interior design and fit-out as well. In order to keep up to date with the latest developments, design-and-build specialist Trend Group is pioneering the concept of immersive design.

Using the Samsung Gear VR head-mounted display, developed by Samsung Electronics in conjunction with Occulus, clients are able to experience a 3D simulation of their project well before construction even commences. Digital tools are deployed to allow clients to understand their projects a lot better.

Trend Group 3D Architectural Visualiser Emily Clark stresses that immersive design is a powerful concept. “There are a lot of good aspects that it allows to be harnessed. Essentially it entails creating a virtual environment before a project kicks-off, in order to allow a client to visualise what it will look like in the end. It is beneficial in that it minimises risk for both the design and construction teams.”

Construction plans are, by nature, difficult for non-technical people to comprehend. Hence ‘immersing’ clients in a virtual environment gives them a much better understanding of what they sign-off on, thereby defusing any lack of clarity.

While immersive design is not ideal for quick turnkey installations, which is something that Trend Group specialises in, the company is excited about the broader possibilities it represents. It aims to investigate all avenues that can assist its clients in obtaining a better understanding of what it can deliver. Immersive design is, by definition, much more dynamic than 3D stills or even a 360° walkthrough.

A broader implication for the technology is how the digital footprint itself is impacting on the way that physical spaces are designed. The fact that any surface can be rendered interactive gives new meaning to the phrase of a ‘blank canvass’. This is a concept that designers are grappling with, especially given the rapid rate of advancement in this field.

For example, Matterport’s Cloud 3.0 software makes it possible for anyone to create a 3D model of a real-world place, simply by using a supported camera and the Matterport Capture App. Once a scan is complete, it is uploaded to the Cloud where powerful software converts it into a 3D model. A related development is 3D printing, which makes it possible to construct a 3D object from a CAD model, layer by layer.

However, it is essential for immersive design to be integrated effectively into both visualising an environment and creating a physical space. The first step in the immersive design process is a space plan. As an office-design specialist, Trend Group has an existing build envelope available as a 3D model that it deploys as a base. It is here that materials and textures can be assigned, for example, and pulled through into a VR realm.

The Samsung Gear VR goggles are portable and easy-to-use, which means that designers can take the kit directly to clients to use, or it can be linked to a smart screen. It is all about how comfortable a client is with the technology, and how they prefer being presented to. The VR gear can be supplemented with software to make the immersive experience highly interactive in the sense of changing surface materials, for example. It is a quick visual means of exploring different options, tones, and moods.

Once construction commences, a project is documented further by means of photographs. Even if Trend Group begins with a 3D model, this is still documented fully, with the photographs used as a means of comparison, and also to determine construction progress.

“We are always looking for new technologies and ways of working, and incorporating these into our own best practice,” Clark emphasises. Immersive design complements the design process intuitively, as it helps designers visualise in 3D. While this trend is more prevalent internationally at the moment, many local companies are starting to catch on.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the technology is relatively expensive as it is still quite new, so I do not think there is a lot of bite yet in the South African market. But we are very fortunate that we have it and can explore with it. And it is very interesting to see how excited the clients are, especially if they haven’t encountered immersive design before. It helps generate a sense of excitement about their projects,” Clark concludes.


Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity. Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them. Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS. Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.

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