“We are one of, if not the only company that automates the VR process where the user can create content in seconds.” Despite the magnitude of this statement, Shane Scranton, CEO & Co-Founder of NYC-based IrisVR says it with both modesty and pride in his voice during our recent interview. Graduating from Middlebury College three years ago, Shane, along with classmate and Co-Founder Nate Beatty, saw the need to fill a gap in architectural design market for advanced rendering services and 3D visualization experiences and soon, IrisVR was born.
As our reality becomes more virtual and increasingly augmented, BW spoke to both Shane Scranton and Nate Beatty for a deeper dive into how IrisVR is playing an integral role in that transition with their real-time optimization engine and suite of software.
BuiltWorlds (BW): What’s going on over at IrisVR headquarters these days?
Nate Beatty (NB): It’s been a wild ride! We’ve got a new office here! It seems cavernous for New York (laughs). We’re super excited that we have a lot of room for expansion. We’re up to twelve people on the team now with plans to soon grow significantly
BW: IrisVR provides a one-click to VR solution. Why did you guys decide to focus on the AEC world?
Shane Scranton (SS): I come from the design world and immediately saw VR as a wonderful design tool. We’re building a suite of professional software tools that make VR accessible to the AEC industry and we are compatible with as many native workflows as possible (design options from Revit, layers from Sketch-up, etc.). As someone put it recently, they’ve tried a lot of VR demos, but they really need a verticalized solution within this industry. We are trying to provide this industry with their tools. So, we’re building a team of architects and programmers to better the built environment and enhance current workflows. We really are focused on design efficiency.
BW – In the worlds of architecture and design, Virtual Reality has rapidly become an increasingly crowded market, what makes IrisVR stand out?
NB: There’s a lot of hype and many companies are getting into AEC; it’s the inevitable next step. 2D drawings to 2D CAD then to 3D CAD and now, Virtual Reality. But like I said, this is all pretty much hype. Right now, we’re the only ones offering one click; we do everything automatically. We put the tools in the hands of the designers.
Anyone can create VR from their pre-existing content without having to outsource the work to other parties. That enables them to iterate quickly and collaborate. The priority on comfort and interface in VR is what will continue to set us apart. The software does not have any value if it’s not comfortable because that detracts from the experience.
SS: Right now, there’s a lot of marketing competition. There are many people saying they provide VR for architecture. We are one of, if not the only company that automates the VR process where the user can create content in seconds. That’s all done through our software and we don’t have a service arm doing manual work behind the scenes. We’re proud of the fact our software is able to automatically do that all on the fly.
The other large differentiator is that we are VR first. Like when mobile first came out, many claimed to be “mobile first”. The idea here being that if an app, or a website was built for mobile it would perform better on mobile as opposed to something that was ported over, say from a website or a game. We feel the same way about VR. Our whole software caters to the VR workflow first.
BW: Your flagship software Prospect is currently in beta. How has the feedback you’ve received from testers been thus far?
SS: Overwhelmingly positive…when people can get VR to work (laughs). We get a lot of negative feedback when people can’t the Oculus or Vive to run on their machines! That’s the nature of the beast while the industry is in beta. We’re improving daily to get to a point of hyper consistency, and we feel that inside the app the ability to teleport yourself around is improving dramatically. We have some really cool new features that we have rolled out to get a sense of how users will work with them. It’s great to get constant feedback from somebody who can deliver value during design, construction, build, and maintenance, the whole way through a building’s life cycle.
Prospect is the next step to this larger vision that we have of being able to manage your project as a project. It’s funny, as architects we already have a developed language; we’re always talking about “projects” and it’s the natural structure for Iris and any CAD technology to sort work by project. We’ll give you the opportunity to build you own project library.
BW: With the VR experience, a cord is required. This may be a limit as we see begin to see jobsite applications. Conversely Augmented Reality, doesn’t require any cord to provide its experience. Ultimately, how do you see this playing out in the AEC world?
SS: VR will play a huge role in the workflow of design, even with cables. As a designer, myself, I use VR because it’s more spatially accurate than any other medium than I’ve used. On the construction side, it seems logical to focus on the transition to AR, as well, given that clients are going to want overlays built into what they are looking at.
NB: I’m kind of torn on this; Shane and I recently had a conversation about it. The future can play out in two ways. AR replaces VR, or they converge. AR is more resource intensive because it requires heavy inside-out tracking; the device needs to know its 3D position and everything about its surroundings. Plus, most AR hardware is self-contained and there’s no cord. You have to do an extraordinary amount of processing on hardware that can fit into a form factor no bigger than a cell phone. We’ll have to wait for both the hardware and the software to catch up for AR to become a reality, while VR is ready today.
I feel like we haven’t even cracked the surface in terms of what we can do with VR yet! It’s in its infancy, the iPhone zero state. It’s like pre-Blackberry days for VR right now. It’s very exciting and a great place to be in terms of the technology.
Whether it’s VR today, or AR tomorrow, or whatever it is in the future, Iris is going to be able to support real-time rendering and provide 3D content in a fast and robust way.
BW: Hey Shane, when will robots take over our jobs?
SS: That’s a more a more difficult question than anything else! There’s been a big debate here about when VR will replace reality. Will VR be good enough? I would say yes, people will stay in VR for all of their entertainment needs. But, it has become apparent to me that it is exceedingly difficult to recreate actual reality in virtual reality. So, at least in the next 50 years, I think VR is going to increase an appreciation for the real world.
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