Applications of Virtual Reality Technologies in Architecture and in Engineering

Applications of Virtual Reality Technologies in Architecture and in Engineering

Nicoletta Sala (Accademia di Architettura, Università della Svizzera italiana, Mendrisio, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/ijstmi.2013070104
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Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which permits to create virtual objects and 3D virtual worlds which are hosted on the computer’s memories. It is indispensable in critical simulation, for instance in military training, in surgical operation simulation, in creation of environments which could set off phobias (in psychiatry), or in realization of virtual prototypes, for instance in industrial design. The aim of this paper is to present how VR technologies also find excellent application fields in architecture and in engineering. For instance, in the teaching of the basic concepts, in techniques of graphic rebuilding for the building restoration, in realization of virtual visits inside buildings, and in urban generative processes simulated by computer. Another use of the virtual reality is in the introduction of a new kind of architecture: Virtual Architecture, strongly connected to the Information and Communication Technology (ITC) and to the Internet, and in the virtual prototyping which connects engineering and architecture.
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1. Introduction

Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology which has various application fields (from education to the psychiatry) (Pantelidis, 1995, Popovici et al., 2009, Krevelen & Poelman, 2010, Malbos et al., 2013, Parsons et al. 2013, Tsoupikova et al., 2013). Its hardware components are coceived for a correct human interface and they consist of a set of visual display apparatus (for example, head mounted display), input devices (for instance, data gloves), and position sensors (Sherman & Craig, 2002). A virtual reality system has the following three primary requirements (Rosenblum & Cross, 1997): a) immersion (which permits to the user the physical involvement, capturing exclusive visual attention and responding to three-dimensional input. For example, through a head-tracker, 3D mouse, data glove, or fully instrumented body suit); b) interaction (through the three-dimensional control device to “navigate” in the virtual environment); c) visual realism (which is the representation of the virtual world using computer graphics techniques).

Figure 1 shows the reality-virtuality continuum by Milgram and Kishino (1994), where Augmented Reality (AR) is one part of the general area of mixed reality (van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010).

Figure 1.

Reality-virtuality continuum


In particular, van Krevelen and Poelman affirm:

Both virtual environments (or virtual reality) and augmented virtuality, in which real objects are added to virtual ones, replace the surrounding environment by a virtual one. (van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010, p. 1)

Benford et al. (1998) classify AR as separate from both VR and telepresence, as shown in Figure 2 (Benford et al., 1998).

Figure 2.

Classification of shared spaces according to transportation and artificiality (Benford et al., 1998)


This paper describes two application fields of virtual reality. It is organized as follows: section 2 shows the use of VR in architecture, section 3 presents VR in engineering, section 4 describes the conclusions and the future trends, and the section 5 is dedicated to the references.


2. Virtual Reality In Architecture

Different disciplines involve the application of VR. Recent studies have recognized the potential of VR in education and in different disciplines (Win, 1993; Pantelidis, 1995; Byrne, 1996; Youngblut, 1998; Ainge, 2000; Kaufmann et al., 2000; Mantovani, 2001, Gerval et al., 2002; Shin, 2004; Sala & Sala, 2005; Popovici et al., 2009, van Krevelen & Poelman, 2010, Matsuda et al., 2013, Soares Calado et al., 2013, Tsoupikova et al., 2013). Virtual Reality offers benefits that can support the education and the design project, in particular in the faculties of architecture.

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