VR shoot.Spinview

The study tested emotional responses to physical and virtual care homes. Credit: Spinview


VR can benefit human-centric design, study suggests

Digital twins can trigger the same human responses as physical locations, creating the potential for virtual reality to play a growing role in real estate design.

A study led by digital twin startup Spinview and neuroscientist Katarina Gospic tested the emotional responses of care home residents and healthcare workers to both physical space and a virtual desktop version.

Tracking their eye movements – recording how participants navigate their environments – and measuring their emotional reactions and anxiety levels, the study concluded that there was no statistical difference in responses from people exploring a physical care home and a digital one.

In other words, virtual environments could prove to be useful in determining how well a person will respond to an identical space in the physical world.

Developers could, therefore, glean data early in the design process by creating digital versions of their plans, which could inform their decision-making.

Gospic said: “The tool has other applications as well. By allowing experts from different professions to experience a space in this way, they can derive unique perspectives on health and safety issues.

“With concrete tools and measurements to quantify the emotional experience of a space, this could also be used as part of a company’s sustainability report. Working smart from the start is sustainable from an economic, human and environmental point of view.”

Real-life studies needed

Although the study had a small sample size – using just 10 care home residents and eight healthcare workers – real estate investor and study participant NREP said it would explore how it could use digital twin technology in its developments.

Rune Kock, real estate CEO of NREP, said: “Our ambition is to create people-centred real estate that is more sustainable, equitable and liveable.

“The application of this new technology has the potential to transform how new spaces are designed, allowing them to be an exact match to the needs and desires of future users.”

However, Ali Farokhian, VP of enterprise solutions at Tobii, which provided the eye-tracking technology, stressed that more research is needed.

He said: “The study confirms the benefits of digital twins, and being able to perform a trustworthy digital evaluation of design and architecture at an early stage of a project is cost-efficient, makes it easier to include larger research groups, as well as opens [doors] for increased innovation, which in the end will benefit end-users.

“However, it’s important to highlight that real-life studies are still needed to provide architects, designers and other professionals a full set of data and tools to construct and adapt buildings based on the residents’ needs.”

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