There were about 16,000 conferees and 1,000 vendors at the American Institute of Architects 2013 National Convention and Expo in Denver the week before last. A “petting zoo” showcase of the building industry’s newest products, from cladding stone to structural fasteners, shading devices, and software, the Expo is always fascinating. I walked the floor for a good 4-5 hours and wanted to share some standouts:
Architecture Virtual Reality System: Ok, they really need to get a better name for this, but think the Matrix, where the digital world appears more real than the actual world, or the Holodeck from Star Trek. The AVRS blew my mind!
For years we have been designing buildings on the computer in 3D so that we can rotate the building, view it from all angles, and project ourselves inside the rooms, but these views are visible only on a computer monitor.
Now it is possible to literally walk into a computer model! Here’s the idea: you put on a headgear with a high-definition mini-monitor over each eye. A series of cameras overhead tracks the movement of your head and compensates for your movement, creating the illusion that the virtual “room” surrounding you doesn’t move. As you look and walk around the computer generated room, the walls, floor and ceiling stay in one place like a real room.
This experience was astounding. Nothing that I was seeing in the virtual space was real, but my depth perception and everyday understanding of space told me the space was real. Objects appeared truly three dimensional because I could walk around them.
I will admit that I looked pretty silly with the headgear, but the moment I entered the virtual space, I forgot where I was. It was like being awake in a dream.
While still early in development, the implications for this technology obviously go way beyond building design with the unlimited potential for (addictive) gaming adventures and entertainment.
For architecture design study, there would typically be a 30‘x30’ floor area set up where you can really walk around in the model spaces. For a larger building, you can easily shift the floor plan to your location, so there are no limits to the size of the virtual space to explore.
For clients developing a complex building where operations, sight lines, and ambiance are critical, this tool will be excellent. With the speed of digital technology, I can see this new way of visualizing space becoming invaluable.
bioPCmat: This product is a Phase Change blanket material that can be inserted into walls or ceilings to absorb heat like thermal mass. Unlike thermal mass, it is weighs almost nothing because it uses the principle of Phase Change do to all the work. The absorbed heat allows the peak cooling times of a room to be delayed be a few hours so that night ventilation can be used instead of air conditioning. From a cooling energy perspective, this is a big deal.
Sitespace View: This app allows you to upload a geo-referenced 3D model of a building to your iPad and take it to the actual project site, hold it up in front of you and see what the building will look like in place. Imagine having the ability to stand across the street from a project site with your client and see the architecture model superimposed over the live camera view of the site. You see the 3D model on the site placed as it will be when constructed. Walk around the site looking through the virtual window and see the various sides of the building IN CONTEXT with the actual street. Further, because the model is geo-referenced, you can walk into the virtual room and look out the windows to see what you will see outdoors. While as somewhat primitive rendering, this will be amazing to use as time goes on.