Great spacebut how can i ensure it looks exactly like i had in mind
Blog Building Innovation

Great space… But will it look exactly like I had in mind?

Rueben van der Peet
Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Let's get visual! While many people find it difficult to envisage the physical layout of an event, it is crucial for organisers to do so, especially with a new exhibition or location or when introducing innovative components. The answer can lie with digital 3D drawings or even virtual reality. Having the chance to ‘walk’ through the space in advance makes it much easier to try out new ideas. But how can you as an organiser make the most of these possibilities?

I spent years at the RAI’s CAD office, where we work out the floor plans for all events. Although pretty detailed, the plans do require you to translate them into more concrete concepts in your head. It’s impossible to see how a person will actually experience the space by merely looking at a 2D map – and yet this is crucial, especially if you’re considering something different: How will that new feature in the middle of the room come across? How will the experience change when you move the bar to the other side? How will the feel change if you put six small stands next to each other instead of three large ones? And how might children or people in a wheelchair perceive the space?

New components are often expensive so the need to succeed is all the greater. This is why it pays to make a visualisation in advance. What are your options?

3D – photorealistic representation
A 3D image provides much more information than an ordinary map. The idea in your mind is given lifelike form in the chosen space.

You can vary heights or colours and place or remove elements. Creating such a 3D display takes time, but is not too complicated for experienced users. The result is a photorealistic image that gives you a good idea of the impact a certain design or notion will have on a given space. In the case of a new exhibition concept, you can even draw up an entire hall in 3D to see if what you had in mind comes out right – what you see will be what you get. You will gain a better idea of the ultimate look and be able to share this with exhibitors, who will have a better impression of the event and be more easily convinced to participate.

There is a drawback to a 3D picture, however: you can only see a scene from one perspective, and you remain a fixed viewer who cannot walk around. There is another technique that goes a step further: virtual reality.

Virtual reality – walking through space
Virtual reality (VR) goes beyond 3D by also taking into account the position of the viewers and allowing them to move virtually through space. VR glasses provide the most realistic experience, but users can also explore the space via computer screen. This will show you whether a given walking route makes sense, what the effect of a particular design is, how the entrance area comes across to visitors, whether the height and colour of items are pleasant, and much more besides. Options include changing the height of the viewer, which allows you to experience the perspective of a child, for instance. In the case of major changes (and the related investments), it can be smart and efficient to test them virtually with VR.

First map the space
Building a virtual reality environment is substantially more complicated than a 3D drawing: you have to include every point in space, pillar, threshold, distance and light source. That requires a lot of expertise, computer capacity and time. Building a new VR world is therefore quite expensive.

Fortunately, the RAI has already mapped out a number of key areas in VR: the Europa Hall (hall 1), the space next to it (hall 5) and the Amtrium (hall 4). In other words, we can generate VR views of new exhibitions in those places.

People who have seen this in action have compared it with playing the popular video game Sims, but I assure you it is more complex than that.

Better decisions, more effective marketing
Once you have set things up in VR, you can start to play. You’ll see if the idea you had in mind really works and can discuss the design with your main partners. It will be easier to make good decisions and adjust things where necessary, based not on an abstract concept but rather on how they actually look. For instance, the InnovationLAB is a key component of a number of RAI exhibition titles. VR lets us display the design and positioning of the lab in advance. A VR preview significantly increases the success of such a feature as you can test the visitor experience beforehand.

Last but not least, the final picture can also be used for marketing an event to both exhibitors and visitors.

Let's get visual!
The extent to which a venue can help you with 3D or VR presentations depends on the venue. At the RAI, we know how much value this adds and like to use these new techniques for our own exhibition titles. This is why we’re now working hard to map the other RAI spaces in VR in addition to halls 1, 4 and 5.

Whatever the possibilities at a venue, it pays for you as an organiser to make a visual translation of what you have in mind: at least in 2D, preferably in 3D and, if possible, in VR. This will help you develop your event and test new ideas. If a picture says more than a thousand words, VR is worth a million.