Commercial fit-out specialist Mobius adds immersive virtual reality technologies in its architectural modelling, so clients can ‘walk’ through design layouts – trying before buying.
Tim Wickham dons a VR headset to find out more.
Mobius is a fast-growing Wokingham-based business offering full-service turnkey solutions. But that’s only half the story. Six months ago, the firm broke what it believes is new ground in architectural visualisation modelling through a blend of 3D, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR).
“We’re disrupting the market,” said Kevin Lancaster, design and projects director at Mobius, who set up the business in 2011. “As far as we know, we are the only fit-out company in the UK currently using technology this way. We create fully interactive digital models to visualise, making it easier to communicate ideas to all stakeholders involved in a project.”
Early interest has been positive, with projects underway in Wokingham as well as for a global technology company’s offices in Sweden, Paris, Barcelona, the Netherlands and the Middle East. “We are looking for businesses with a similar mindset to us who we can support. Our instinct is that this use of technology is the way forward. Our philosophy is let’s do things differently and try to be brilliant at it,” he said.
Lancaster has been involved in commercial space planning and furniture supply for over 25 years. Mobius’ small team of designers is complemented by subcontracted project managers and fit-out providers.
Game, headset and match
While 3D and VR design technologies aren’t new, Mobius believes it is applying them in a unique way by adding the latest gaming technology software to bring visualisations to life.
You can put on a VR headset and enter the space being designed, ‘walk’ around it, note what you like and what you want to change. It takes seconds to update the architectural model for you to view again. If headsets aren’t your thing, Mobius has installed a state-of-the-art 3D projector in its Wokingham client VR suite that transmits virtual layouts onto a giant screen enabling them to walk you through the design in 1:1 scale.
The starting point on every project is to conduct a detailed laser scan of the space being designed. The scanner sends out millions of laser beams to build up a highly accurate data ‘point cloud’ that creates the 3D images.
Laser scanning of the space has the added benefit of highlighting any differences from the original architect’s plan. Even small changes in dimensions can create big headaches if a building fit-out is based on inaccurate information.
Landlords, builders, developers and real estate agents are keen to find out more about Mobius’ approach, said Lancaster. Demand is being driven partly by the need for businesses to create more people-friendly working spaces that allow flexible working, along with meeting areas and other facilities.
“We help clients use their space more efficiently,” said Lancaster, who is keen to dispel the idea that a 3D walk-through is an expensive one-off cost.
“For certain clients, where there is the prospect of winning further project work, we’ll do the visualisation at a reduced rate – or even free of charge,” he said.
In addition, 3D architectural models can be used continuously if they include elements required for Building Information Management (BIM) systems, such as the mechanical and electrical layouts needed for running building maintenance programmes.
AR and app on the way
Mobius initially invested around £50,000 in a visualisation suite and has spent a further £20,000 since then updating hardware and software. Updates are continuous. Next up is AR – a blend of real and 3D modelled worlds – and an app is coming with a drop-down menu of design and fit-out options.
“You’ll be able to stand in your office and use a smart device to see what different décors, furniture and layouts will look like,” said Lancaster.
Lancaster and his team get a real boost every time a client puts on a VR headset and discovers what’s possible. “In a few years, we think this will be how everyone does building design and fit-out, and we wanted to be among the first to offer it,” he said.
For more information contact Kevin Lancaster:
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