The Challenges of Creating Interactive Virtual Space


For some creators, it is their dream to construct an unlimited virtual space. A place where the participants can do what their hearts desire. Because a well-designed interaction can enhance the experience in a certain space and time.

If a person wishes to preview a space most closely resembles the resulting construction, mock-up showrooms are the best option, that is, without any regards for the project budget. The closer solution is to create a space virtually. Virtual space may be able to reduce the cost of showrooms. Hopefully retain the immersive experience as well. Showcasing architecture space beyond moving pictures is, without a doubt, an effective and intuitive medium. The production process of virtual space, however, open up unique challenges. The ones that an image or a video does not present.

An interactive virtual environment has mainly two criteria, movement and object alteration. Movement includes forces and barriers. Object alteration provides authority and choices.

In this case, Unreal Engine is used to create the virtual space. Unlike a BIM (Building Information Modeling) environment, the only common information retained between the two programs is the geometry of the architecture elements. In BIM, a door is expected to hold utility information such as room location, hardware, material finishes, frame type, and so on. In a game engine, the same door concerns only the virtual space in which it will be rendered. Polygon count, scale, texture map, collision are some information needed to monitor visual quality.

Humanoid movement is a well-developed mechanism constantly under improvement by the gaming industry. First person walk through is an existing feature on any game development platform. Therefore, users can travel to every corner of the apartment and zoom in on every detail.

Accidentally walking through walls and falling into infinity can ruin the realism of a virtual space. Barrier is the main feature that defines meaningful movement. In the real world, we cannot not walk through a wall or a couch because it has mass, it is blocking our way. In the virtual world, this fundamental physics concept is missing unless assigned by the creator. Commonly known as 'collision,' an object has to have an invisible boundary that approximately resembles its geometry in order to collide with others, rather than passing through them.

simple collision box of a chair

To bound the user in a virtual space, elements including walls, floors, ceilings, railings, appliances, and furniture must have collision boundary. These boundaries are separate geometries simple enough to inscribe the object, therefore, they need to coordinated accordingly. If some boundaries are omitted, the users may fall out of the space. But if collision is applied excessively, some location may become inaccessible, or worse, traps.


Object alteration is a huge expectation in an interactive virtual space. Yet, it is by no means an easy feat. While user movement is as intuitive as pressing arrows, having the power to alter objects comes with slight complicated operation.

The most common feature is material options. Firstly, there is one too many element in any scene that tries to bring out the best of a space. It is unnecessary to provide options for everything in an apartment. Wall finishes, flooring, and cabinetry are the main ones to consider. The next layer of work is to provide all the material choices. Every choice requires a new texture, which takes time to make. In order to make the interaction worthwhile, the choices must be distinct enough from the others. At the same time, users should not be overwhelmed by the number of options. Carefully choosing materials or palettes is preferred. Sometimes a visual stimuli overhaul can freshen up the space without moving walls and furniture.


End Note

It is a lot of fun to be able to walk and change things in a virtual space ... for about five minutes. The time and effort spent into creating the interactive virtual space does not justify the walk-through experience. It makes a great medium for the entertainment industry but not for the design professions. In the end, the virtual space is only useful for showing a project that has not been constructed. Even at showcasing, users are likely to visit the space only once to make sense of the project. As we see the ever-advancing photo-realistic renderings from the other industries, it will only be easier to create virtual spaces in the future. For now, interactive virtual spaces are excellent art projects.



About The Author

Billy is the Director of Research & Development at Designblendz who helps us to keep up with the fast-paced technological world. Read his blog posts here.