Review of Vectorworks Virtual Reality

May 13, 2016 5 min read

Editor's note: John Helm is an Architect trained in California with more than 30 years of experience. He currently works with his partner, and Italian Architect wife, doing projects in Italy and California. Check out their website here. John has been using Vectorworks for over 15 years and writes a yearly review of each new update. 

The views, opinions and positions expressed within guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Novedge.

Virtual reality with Vectorworks

When Vectorworks will release their 2017 version, there will be one new feature that just may change the way we look at Architectural Design. Virtual Reality, better known as VR, is a hot topic these days; the big names are all involved as are a few startups. For the last few months I have been allowed to watch and even give a few suggestions as the programmers at Vectorworks have developed their new feature Web View/Virtual Reality.
Here is a quote from one of the programmers:

“We are making Virtual Reality available to everyone – we are taking design out from behind the flat computer screen, and placing it all around the viewer making the design a very real physical experience. The shape and forms surround the viewer and, this is available at any time – for anyone.”

In keeping with their ever expanding list of tools for Architects, Engineers, Set and Lighting Designers, Landscaped Architects, and Designers of just about anything physical, Vectorworks will add this new feature which allows the viewer to immerse himself in the Design. And the ability to do this does not come with the usual heavy price tag. There is no need to buy anything other than the Google Cardboard type headset which can be had for as little as $15. One would also need a pretty good smartphone. But most of us already have one.
So what does this thing do? How does it work? Simplicity is the key word. You, the Designer, can take your 3D model or your BIM of your latest project to the level of detail you want. Then, while being online, you can click on a new export feature and that will send the model to the Vectorworks cloud. After a bit of a wait your model will pop up in your internet viewer. Now you can explore the model in 3D. You can send the link to a client and the client can also view the model in 3D. But here comes the fun part. Copy the link to and open it on a smart phone then click on the Virtual Reality icon. Now the image of the model will change to a stereoscopic view. Put the phone in your Google goggles and you are in. That is, inside the model. You can walk around and look around all you want. You can go up and down stairs. Of course there are a few limitations. It’s not going to be high definition and I suppose there will be some limits on the size of the model. There’s a little bit of a learning curve in order to export the model and get oriented and in the right location when you start viewing. But really the sense of actually being in the space and being able to walk around in it is amazing.
Just imagine: the Set Designer can put himself in the audience and actually see what the spectators will see; the Landscape Designer can walk through the garden; the Interior Designer can put his client in the living room with all the new furniture in place and, if the client hates it, he can avoid making a big mistake. The Architect can walk through his design and get a real feel for it before letting the client do the same(while giving himself a chance to make changes). Imagine client and partners view the model using two different headsets, and both exploring the new design at the same time.
In my review of Vectorworks 2016I mentioned the possibilities of virtual reality, “The next step is the use of visualization goggles to let the viewer immerse himself in our architecture before it’s built. “ Well I didn’t think it would be happening so soon. Vectorworks just introduced this feature at their Design Summit and in a recent press release. This is the tool that will change how we work. Image01From this screen shot imagine you can start walking and looking all around as you walk.

Never before have we been able to actually put our clients right in the middle of a design, then let them look around in all directions. They can walk from room to room, even up and down stairs as if they were actually in the completed structure. The people at Vectorworks are not telling you to spend $3,000 on some goggles and upgrade your computer. It is practically free and easy to use. Image00Let your clients see how the remodel of their townhome will look as if inside it.

So back to reality. The system I have been trying out still needs a bit of work. But these guys at Vectorworks are like a bunch of mad scientists working on this thing day and night. I’m sure that by the time they come out with the official release version it will be beautiful.
I should also mention that this new feature is not just for Virtual Reality. By putting it in the cloud a link to the model can be sent anywhere and opened with a typical web viewer and then viewed in normal 3D. One can then orbit around it or walk through on the computer screen. That’s a nice feature by itself. Image02The Google Cardboard viewer, yes it is made of cardboard. But there are more sophisticated versions.

Virtual Reality viewing of designs from buildings to gardens is the next big thing. Gaming has made many if not most of us familiar with an immersive experience in which we feel as if we are in a place or a world that does not really exist. Even though games are, for the most part, just a pastime, the technology developed around them is getting major plays  in different fields: from medicine to engineering and to all the design disciplines.
Vectorworks is taking a big step in making Virtual Reality available to anyone who has their program. They are making it easy to export a 3D model, that ,once exported, is also very user friendly. Any client can just put on his Google Cardboard headset and go Virtual.
It may be the one thing that brings many of those reluctant to join the BIM movement into the community of Designers already working their designs in 3D.


We can't wait to try Vectorworks VR! It won't be long now, but don't waste any time and take advantage of this amazing promotion across all the Vectorworks products. You will be first in line to enjoy the Virtual Reality feature comes September and Vectorworks 2017.


To find out more about John Helm check out his website and his blog. For everything VECTORWORKS check out Novedge.


Related articles

My Best of Vectorworks 2016 list (so far)
Review of Vectorworks 2016

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