Reeti Gupta has always been passionate about emerging technology. After receiving her undergraduate degree in architecture, she moved to the United States from India 22 years ago to pursue her Master of Arts degree in Digital Arts and Sciences at University of Florida.  

She was drawn by the opportunity to discover the intersection of technology with her architecture background. For her thesis, she even created her first virtual reality (VR) experience that told a story about ancient historical palaces in India with a focus on virtual heritage. As a graduate assistant, Gupta worked on University of Florida’s campus 3D model walk-through for its 150th celebration. 

“We took pictures and textures to create the model in 3ds Max and ran it through a large server,” Gupta says. “Keep in mind this was 20 years ago, and we didn’t have headsets and personal devices at the time. With a partnership between computer science, visualization, and art students, we all came together to roll everything into an immersive, game engine experience with a joystick. We could walk around and look at everything on three, 16’x 16’ wrap-around screens.” 

Fast forward to today and Gupta is still exploring new ways to bring technology and practice together. As the Director of Practice Technology at HKS, she helps drive implementation of current and emerging technologies, including BIM, VR, AR, real-time pixel streaming, and the metaverse to continuously improve project design and delivery processes for their clients. 

Increasing adoption of VR for projects

Over the past few years, VR has moved from experimental and “playing around” scenarios to more integrated parts of HKS’ workflow.  

“As both the software and hardware are maturing, we now feel like it’s the right time to start offering more opportunities to use VR.” Gupta says. 

HKS has used VR for a variety of uses with Prospect by IrisVR, including design review meetings, model coordination and collaboration. 

“I feel like collaborative design reviews really help in decision-making and obtaining feedback,” Gupta says. “It’s not just from our clients, but also our senior designers and project leaders. Being in that true-to-scale environment allows for a proper understanding of distances and clearances.” 

With Workshop XR, Gupta sees even more opportunities to increase the adoption of VR within the firm. 

“The overall fresh look and ability to create design review workspaces in Workshop XR is great,” she says. “Improved issue tracking is important. Maybe you have eight issues in the first VR walkthrough, and then it’s reduced to three and then none. That provides us a better understanding of the ROI and accuracy of using VR.” 

Removing the hurdles

While the benefits of using VR are readily apparent to Gupta, there have been some challenges. She sees Workshop XR helping to solve them. 

Loading a high-fidelity federated model in VR used to be time consuming. “It took a longer time in Prospect by Iris VR to export and make sure everything was loaded properly,” Gupta says. “Workshop XR loads very quickly, and it’s a lot more seamless.” 

The visibility of project status and changes with Autodesk Construction Cloud is another important benefit along with improved communication.  

See progress immediately

“The direct connection to Autodesk Construction Cloud is great,” Gupta says. “We can see progress and changes immediately. When I first tried Workshop XR, I started creating issues and assigning members. The speech-to-text is also very good, so you don’t have to type.”  

At the end of the day, VR is still a new innovation for many architects and design teams to learn and adopt. Her advice? Encourage the teams to think about the best way possible to make design decisions and obtain a detailed understanding.  

“If you’re standing there in the space with VR, it’s just different,” Gupta says. “Maybe it’s a nurses’ station for a healthcare project, and the viewpoint is telling us there are three rooms they can’t even see. You don’t have to prove a point or create any diagrams. That instantaneous real-time feedback and thorough understanding of your designs is just one reason to try Workshop XR.”