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Users will be able to view architectural renderings in VR on their phones. Image via NBBJ/Visual Vocal.
Users will be able to view architectural renderings in VR on their phones. Image via NBBJ/Visual Vocal.

Let’s say your looking to build a new campus for your large tech company, and your architects says “What if we put some giant, globular greenhouses at the base of this new building?” You may not be able to really visualize how that will look without some serious visual aids.

NBBJ, the prominent Seattle-based architecture and design firm known for projects including Amazon’s biospheres, is looking to replace the standard ant-scale replicas with a virtual reality platform for a more immersive look inside planned buildings. The firm is teaming up with startup Visual Vocal to create a new VR productivity tool to help companies translate their ideas for clients.

With the new tool, NBBJ will be able to use the 3D renderings it already creates in the design process to quickly build VR versions of upcoming buildings that can be explored on a smartphone. The firm will be able to show clients exactly what the building will look like in 3D to produce more helpful feedback before construction starts.

“NBBJ’s decision to launch Visual Vocal is representative of our ongoing mission to find more informative and inspiring ways to engage clients in the design process,” said NBBJ managing partner Steve McConnell. “Whether for clients or the general public, virtual reality will deepen design discourse and bring together communities in new and exciting ways.”

Visual Vocal will work with NBBJ in an incubation model, with the new company starting inside the NBBJ’s own offices. The team is led by John SanGiovanni and Sean House, who raised $500,000 for their VR startup earlier this year, under the name 18Angles, which was the working title for Visual Vocal. SanGiovanni co-founded mobile content marketing company Zumobi in 2007 after working at Microsoft Research.

While the tool will initially be used for architecture projects, the team plans to build out a framework for use in fields like aerospace, product design and biotech, which already use 3D models in day-to-day activities. Visual Vocal will launch the platform in beta later this year, testing it with healthcare, corporate and urban planning clients.

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