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BW Sessions: VRdesign

BW Sessions: VRdesign

by Karl Sorensen

In true startup fashion, Seattle-based VRdesign™ joined Burnham Works via webcam and live video stream to demonstrate its latest offerings in virtual construction. Some 2,000 miles away from our offices, co-founders Jamie Kelly and Mark Haverstock sat tightly crammed between stacks of hand-written notes, electronic hardware and flat screens to describe a virtual world of spacious landscapes ungoverned by conventional regulations, a world of seemingly endless opportunity.

Started in 2010, VRdesign™ has spent the last four years developing and testing a fully immersive (supporting full motion or movements), fully responsive, wireless, 3D technology.  Unique to its offerings, this new platform supports several virtual reality applications, including hi-definition motion tracking cameras, head-mounted displays, wireless technologies and graphic formats. 

Making dreams concrete

In recent years, our industry has seen video-game developers become increasingly involved in design, engineering and building activity. Just last month at the AEC Hackathon in Seattle, dozens of young technologists from both inside and outside the industry came together to tackle some long-standing problems brought to the group by real project managers seeking answers.  

One such challenge has been design visualization, the challenge of being able to experience environments before they are built. The solution?  A multi-user, manufactured sensory reality that allows users to interact with pre-designed environments through the use of a virtual design studio. So, that which was once limited to BIM “fly-throughs” or static architectural renderings, has now become an interactive, virtual world in which visitors can walk, sit, touch and interact with projects as if they had already been built.  

Early-stage 2D view of what a user is seeing as they physically walk through a virtual space

Early-stage 2D view of what a user is seeing as they physically walk through a virtual space

“No wires and low latency,” said Kelly, “That means users can have true virtual reality experiences without restrictions and without dizziness.” Not only that, but the VRdesign™ is multi-user and completely immersive. “(So) multiple users connected through a network can all see the same thing at the same time,” he explained.  

To further illustrate this point, T. Ron Davis, VRdesign™ chief marketing officer, suggested that one might imagine an architect in California… a project manager in Illinois… and the client in Florida… ALL standing next to each other in the same virtual reality space, to discuss matters such as countertop placement or light fixture designs. “When collaboration is seamless, productivity is maximized,” added Davis.

How does it work?

As witnessed by this writer, the process of converting 2D drawings into a 4D world is nothing short of magic. Many of the proprietary mechanisms are still under wraps, but VRdesign did reveal that there is both a hardware component and a design component involved. In practice, they can convert a design file (ie FBX) into a format that headsets may use, and the user can then upload that file to his/her headset. Soon, systems will be in place that will enable the user to have complete customization control. “With a special pointer you can click on walls (change the color), flooring (change the flooring or carpet color), countertops, appliances, fixtures, any lighting effect can be selected –from actual fixtures based on their published light distribution specs, to times of day – daytime, dusk, night,” said Davis.

So that which not long ago, most of us would have dismissed as ‘virtually’ impossible, today is poised to take that incredible leap from virtual to reality.

You would be a good candidate for VRdesign™ if…

  1. You are in any industry that requires visualization (AEC, real estate, aerospace)
  2. Collaboration and hands-on demonstrations are essential for multi-party buy-in.

Video by VRcade™

Members Only:  For more in-depth analysis, please contact Burnham Works' in-house research team ( or myself (



Karl Sorensen

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