In an industry that typically relies on traditional drawings, one architecture firm has ventured into virtual-reality software to show clients their restaurant designs. Imagine standing in your restaurant prototype before it’s even constructed.

That’s the idea behind a new division at Chipman Design Architecture, a retail-/restaurant-focused architecture and interior-design firm in Des Plaines, Ill., outside of Chicago. The new division, Blue Marble 3D, uses high-end virtual-reality software to allow you to immerse yourself in your restaurant design without the high cost of a physical mockup.

Chipman Design Architecture opened its doors nearly 35 years ago and since has built an impressive portfolio, including projects for leading chains, such as McDonald’s, Noodles & Company, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and Buffalo Wild Wings. Matos spearheaded Blue Marble 3D’s creation to showcase the firm’s venture outside of traditional architecture.

Another reason, Matos adds, was that one of the firm’s clients had asked him to investigate 3D immersive systems.

He did extensive research and settled on EON Reality, which focused primarily on the gas, oil and aerospace industries. The two companies formed a strategic partnership: EON delivers 3D software while Blue Marble 3D helps EON understand the needs of and develop systems to support the architecture industry.

“The team at Blue Marble 3D takes your traditional Revit-based architectural plans and construction documents and creates the prototype virtually in full size and in three dimensions using state-of-the-art hardware and software. Publisher Robin Ashton and I took turns in stepping into a 9-sq.-ft. cube, the walls of which, viewed with the naked eye, looked like a fuzzy rendering of a Chick-fil-A restaurant. But then we put on some special 3D eyeglasses, grabbed a controller (it looks like an Xbox controller) and were immersed in a virtual world. We were in the Chick-fil-A.

In your virtual restaurant, any design problems invisible to you on paper or computer screen reveal themselves. Wall heights, equipment positions and sizes, entry and exit locations, window placement, HVAC clearances, décor, furniture, sightlines—you can see and change them all as your plans come to life.

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