The year was 1991. As a first year student of architecture, I was on a weekend visit to Ahmedabad and at the office of a friend’s father – a very well respected architect. We were particularly excited that day as Mr.Desai was going to let us see and draw on the new computer that his office had very recently acquired.

After about 60 minutes of trying to do something sensible on the machine, my first question to Mr. Desai was if he thought computers are ever going to replace the way we drew back then. With a smile he said “Never”. He added that this will always be ‘a hand-drawing profession’. New tools will come in but never take over.

Cut to 2009. I was back in Ahmedabad and was walking in the city’s (no country’s) premier design institute. Guess what? I did not see a single parallel and set-square-using student beyond third year. Forget the colleges. I have not seen a design studio since the new millennium that has a drawing board. The unintuitive and error prone CAD has well and truly taken over the world!

Last week I was demoing a design model to a friend’s son, who is going to be at an architecture school this summer. As he took off the Head Mounted Display (HMD), the first thing he said was, “This is the future”. Suddenly it was 1991 all over again.

We actually are at a point of inflection in terms of design technology. The next big design tech wave will be all about immersive computing. The next big design tech wave is already here. The architect’s desk of the 90’s saw the parallel and set square disappear. The desks of the future will all have a Virtual Reality headset on them. The future is immersive indeed.

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