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Tech Startup Harnesses Virtual Reality For Use In Architecture

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Other startups are rushing to capitalize on virtual reality as well.

THOMAS HIRSCHMANN: We're talking to cities, developers, architects and institutions.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Thomas Hirschmann was at the National Building Museum here in Washington, D.C., to show off his company. It's called The Third Fate. They had used virtual reality gear to record a temporary museum exhibit - a huge wooden labyrinth. And now...

HIRSCHMANN: The maze is gone. They've torn it down, but we've captured the experience. Using a special camera rig, we documented that experience and recorded it in 360. Now within this VR headset, you're actually able to walk in and stand in the middle of the maze in the great hall here at the building museum and experience it as if it's there again.

CORNISH: Hirschmann also envisions a future where builders and architects use virtual reality to show off designs before they're constructed.

HIRSCHMANN: For an architect, you know, when you're even going in to talk with a potential client, you know, you bring in drawings, you bring in great photography. But what if you could bring your buildings with you? It's eventually - it's going to become more and more commonplace. It just - it's a natural fit with the built environment and architecture. It really works.

BLOCK: Well, how about a quick virtual reality check on all this enthusiasm? Dan Tynan is a columnist for Yahoo Tech magazine. He's tried a bunch of virtual reality prototypes.

DAN TYNAN: I have, you know, been the dork wearing the glasses. I have seen the other dorks wearing the glasses.

CORNISH: And Dan Tynan suggests those big black goggles pose a problem.

TYNAN: If you've ever seen anyone with a virtual reality headset on, they look like they're wearing scuba glasses that have been blacked out and they look like a blind person groping in a room because they're moving their hands around and moving things you can't see. So it's not a very social thing.

BLOCK: Tynan says no doubt there's a market for virtual reality, but it'll have to overcome the social awkwardness. He says there's another technology that does that. It uses glasses that you see right through.

TYNAN: I really think that most of those, you know, enterprise, architecture, medical university applications are going to use something called augmented reality. You know, you still put on, you know, geeky glasses and you still see things that aren't there in the physical world, but you also see the physical world.

CORNISH: Like with Google Glass. Of course, that's another product that has yet to take off.

BLOCK: The major factor in determining the long run commercial success of virtual reality will be revenue. Is there money to be made? And that will probably include advertising. Adweek reported this weekend that Mountain Dew and Volvo are among the companies experimenting with immersive virtual reality ads.

CORNISH: Aha, there you go, another virtual-reality business is born. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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