A graduate from CEPT, Ahmedabad and an alumna of INSEAD, Tithi holds over 18 years of global experience and has a knack for devising excellent business strategies.

The famous architect, Mies van der Rohe, has said that ‘God is in the details’.

As an architect, I have experienced this ideology first-hand and firmly believe in the above. Details are the soul of design, and they define how efficiently one can converge a set of design thoughts into functional built spaces. No matter how divergent the design is on paper or on the screen, it is not complete until it is manifested in the same form within the physical world. Discovery and selection of products, materials and finishes that architects use to construct the visual experience of design play a fundamental role in enabling a holistic experience. Product discovery is a critical process in architectural design, that can only be achieved by successful collaboration and communication between architects and product manufacturers.

Over the last decade, product design and industrial design sectors have grown manifold. With significant efforts devoted to research and development, innovative technology and consumer-centric design approaches, the product range within each domain has multiplied. A more extensive range of products does empower consumers and designers, but also adds to the dilemma of selecting the most suited product from the broad range available to them. This has made the process of product discovery and selection both extensive and sophisticated at the same time, thus calling for integrated communication between end-users, architects and product manufacturers. However, with the current pandemic, there is a restriction in movement, and meetings are now limited to the cloud and to computer screens. The AEC industry is severely impacted and has come to a complete standstill. Various phases of the lockdown have disrupted the communication channel between architects and product manufacturers by limiting movement and access to physical markets.

Although on-site construction procedures themselves have to be curtailed – given the critical spread of the virus – there are a multitude of precursory processes such as product discovery and selection which can be conducted efficiently by immersive technology. Traditionally, selection of materials was complicated, involving in-person visits and extensive micro-sized sample reviews which could not wholly resolve ambiguity in the minds of clients or designers. The use of immersive technology here can easily enable us to overcome all these shortcomings by remote engagement. It can allow product manufacturers to build virtual storefronts and showcase their comprehensive product range to be accessed anytime and from any place. This would potentially connect them to a broader set of architects and designers across different geographies immediately. With advanced technologies like artificial intelligence, immersive tech and automation, we can create agile workflows between the product marketplace and architects that would sustain downfalls in such situations which may arise in future. By the use of such technology, manufacturers can diligently divert their resources to other endeavors and not rely on time-consuming and uncertain door-to-door marketing. 

Immersive technologies also equip architects to view products in full scale rather than reviewing it in micro-sized samples. It provides a precise representation of such products with exact proportions allowing the designer to experience the complete visual effect, bringing out its various nuances. Thus, they can make faster and more informed decisions about product usage. The problem of matching products finalized in design with what is available in the market can be eliminated by making digitally immersive product catalogues. At the same time, architects can precisely build an understanding of their design for product manufacturers so that they can effectively help them navigate through the available products.

With remote interaction, we would be able to expand our horizons of collaborations beyond boundaries and time zones, which would provide extensive exposure to architects for product selection by opening up access to expansive markets. Such virtual collaboration and immersion in design would unite all stakeholders in a virtual space to uniformly build the understanding of the project and allow for fluid discussions. It can help us reduce inefficiencies, save time and money, and take quick decisions – not only during this pandemic but also in future.

As we witness a rapid shift towards remote working, we must leverage technology to mitigate the impact of the situation and keep our work afloat. This transition from traditional workspaces to remote working will provide significant benefits in the long run. Though it may take some time to anchor itself, the lockdown has well demonstrated that Immersive Technology is here to stay. While there may not be an immediate switch, we are already witnessing the onset of the same.

We can imagine immersive technology to be a convenience, just as a plotter in architectural offices or X-ray machines in hospitals that were rare initially but soon became a necessity, driving the efficiency in workflow.

The AEC industry functions through a complex assemblage of interlinked and interdependent processes that are carried out by different professional teams, each of which requires precision and timely delivery. In such a scenario, immersive technology can enable the highest degree of accuracy in functioning and communication amongst architects and product manufacturers, thus bridging the gap between them.