The ARCH


Realtime Cities by Arch Virtual: Welcome to Virtual Dubuque!

Introducing Virtual Dubuque, a premiere development of our new Realtime Cities initiative by Arch Virtual, built with ArchTech Engine.

Read the full post HERE.

This new community resource will provide free and easy to access windows into interactive, customizable 3D models of cities.  To learn more about how we can build a realtime model of your city or architectural project, send us a note here.  We’re currently seeking development partners to build new features, create custom content, and build out additional architecture and cities around the world, so please send us a note to learn more.

Over the past year,we have been partnering with local businesses and organizations in Dubuque, Iowa to develop features and sponsored content, including a project in the Historic Millwork District for a local real estate developer (coming soon!), as well as the Masonic Temple, where international members of Demolay will be working with industry pioneers in developing a world-class learning environment, using Virtual Cities as its core platform.

Read the full post HERE.

“We’re harnessing the same technology used to make the latest iPad apps and XBox 360 games, but we’re not making a game, we’re building dynamic and ever-changing models of cities that are designed to serve as true community resources that can be easily accessed directly from a website,” said Jon Brouchoud, Founder of Virtual Cities.

Using ArchTech Engine and the Unity3D platform, we’re now able to transforms buildings, geography and entire cities into realtime 3D environments that are easily accessible, and can be embedded on your website, or deployed to a tablet.  These interactive models can be geo-referenced to real-world coordinates, dynamically linked to databases, and layered with interactive content.

Virtual Cities by Arch Virtual - urban planning

As visitors explore virtual cities, links to websites and additional information about nearby buildings, parks, and businesses appear automatically.  For example, when you approach a restaurant, you can click through to read their menu.  If you’re near a historic building, you can learn more about its past.  Businesses and organizations can customize and enhance their space in the virtual model, layering it with more information or interactive features.

Read the full post HERE.

Proceeds from sponsorship and custom content are then re-invested in the ongoing development of the city model, enabling Realtime Cities to add more features, build new parts of the city, and refine models with more detail.

But a virtual replica is just the beginning.

Virtual Cities by Arch Virtual - Dubquque Iowa

“If you’ve ever experienced the Voices Gallery in the Millwork District of Dubuque Iowa, for example, you’ve seen how a building can be completely re-imagined into a destination that celebrates the unique architectural character of a place, yet transcends it to become something completely unique,” said Brouchoud.

“That’s really what Virtual Dubuque, and the Realtime Cities initiative is all about.  A replica of the city as it is now will certainly have interesting use cases, but I’m looking forward to seeing how cities can be re-imagined within an environment where anything is possible.”

Read the full post HERE.

Virtual Cities for architectural visualization and urban planning

Read the full post HERE.



$85 million Rutgers School of Business recreated virtually with Unity3D game engine

Construction is now officially underway on the new Rutgers School of Business, designed by the renowned architecture studio Ten Arquitectos (frequently covered by arcspace), but you don’t have to wait until construction is complete to explore the new design!  Arch Virtual recently completed a virtual prototype of the new facility for Rutgers University, replicating the design based on architectural CAD drawings, BIM models and blueprints provided by the architect, then publishing them into realtime 3D with the Unity3D game engine.  See a video preview of the virtual model below, and see some screenshots of the model here.

Read the rest of this post on our new site HERE.

Rutgers University leveraged the best of several virtual platforms throughout design development of this project. In early design phases, Arch Virtual replicated the design in Second Life, which was ideal for recreating the schematic and conceptual models and making the design accessible to students and faculty (seen here).  That model was then brought into OpenSim, where it was integrated into a more comprehensive model of the campus, including more of the context surrounding the Business School’s new building site.

When final construction documents were ready, we interpreted the architect’s CAD drawings and BIM model with Autodesk Maya, that could be brought into the Unity3D game development engine. Rutgers worked with Tipodean Technologies to export their OpenSim islands, including buildings surrounding the new business school. Tipodean converted them into Collada mesh format, along with the textures, which were then added to the Unity3D environment. The final result is a blend of the architectural model alongside meshes exported from OpenSim.

Read the rest of this post on our new site HERE.

With the model in Unity, Rutgers will now be able to embed the virtual model into a variety of formats. For example, they can embed the model directly a website or Facebook page, but could also publish the same model to be accessible from Android or iPad mobile devices, or as stand-alone applications that can be installed on a Mac or PC and run locally without being online, and at full screen.

To follow the progress of the virtual Rutgers School of Business, join the Rutgers University Virtual Worlds facebook page at: http://www.facebook.com/ruvw3d

To learn more about how Arch Virtual can translate your blueprints, CAD, or BIM file into a virtual experience, contact us here. http://archvirtual.com/?page_id=3388

 

 

 

 

Read the rest of this post on our new site HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Customer-Created Design: Virtual reality and realtime design enables seniors to design their own community spaces

There’s a fantastic snippet in this video, about 2 minutes and 58 seconds in, that does a great job of capturing the spirit of this project.  This is a group of senior citizens looking at the virtual world of Second Life projected on a wall in front of them, and you can hear the almost visceral reaction the group has to watching their suggested design changes to a new senior living community take shape before their eyes.

Read the rest of this post and view the machinima at our new site, HERE.

A single window was turned into a glass wall, which suddenly lets in more light, and opened up more views to the outside.  The impact of this design change was immediately evident to everyone in this session, which was held simultaneously in a conference room in Madison, Wisconsin as well as a platform in the sky above Architecture Island in Second Life.

My long-time friend and colleague, Derrick Van Mell, of Van Mell Associates, had recently introduced me to Rita Giovannoni, CEO of Independent Living, and we sat down at a coffee shop for a quick demo of Second Life. Derrick had been following my interest in virtual worlds since the very beginning, and knew Rita was interested in a fresh perspective on the design process for her next project.  Having led construction of 3 previous senior living facilities, and entering the early design planning for a 4th facility, she was eager to find a unique approach to design.

Read the rest of this post and view the machinima at our new site, HERE.

I opened Second Life on my laptop, and walked my avatar into an empty virtual room. So far, so good, but Rita looks hesitant. Inside, my avatar reaches up and slowly starts lowering the ceiling down until it’s hovering just above his head. “That’s way too enclosed and claustrophobic! We don’t want that.” Rita immediately reacts.  I then slowly raised the ceiling up higher. “That’s too high – it looks too institutional.” I lowered it half-way down, until it was “just right.” We went through other parts of the building, and similarly modified the design in realtime, until it was all “just right.” Rita immediately recognized that this was not only a truly unique way to visualize design ideas, but also an opportunity to actively engage others in the design process itself.  We started brainstorming ways Independent Living might be able to invite prospective residents to participate in designing their new facility.

We decided to work with focus groups of prospective residents who were considering a move into a facility like the one Independent Living would soon be building. We invited Jim Gersich, Partner-in-Charge at Dimension IV Madison Design Group, which has a lot of experience with designing senior living facilities, and he offered to host the session in his studio’s conference room.  We projected Second Life onto a wall, and invited the group to imagine how they would like the new facility to feel and function. I had been concerned that the virtual modeling might cause some motion sickness, or may even be just too silly to take seriously as a design medium, but there was no hesitation with this group, they got it immediately.

Read the rest of this post and view the machinima at our new site, HERE.

The movable ceiling trick was all it took to get their attention.  It never ceases to amaze me how strong of a reaction people have to watching my avatar slowly being enclosed by a lower and lower ceiling.  They can literally feel the difference it’s making to the way the space feels.  Therein lies the whole idea behind this endeavor – to use virtual reality to immerse people in a simulated environment, where they can immediately see and feel the impact of design ideas in 3D as the discussion unfolds, in realtime.  What’s more is that they can actually suggest design ideas, and watch their ideas take shape before their eyes.

All of the residents did a great job providing invaluable feedback on the design of the new facility, and I think they each left with a sense of ownership in the project, having contributed to this early ideation phase.  As we prepared for this session, it was tempting to assume we knew certain things about how the design would layout, and to start preparing design solutions ahead of the focus groups.  But as we quickly learned, many of those assumptions turned out to be wrong, and this group had a lot of great ideas we would never have thought of.

Not every project is right for bringing end-users into the design conversation this way, but there are always numerous project stakeholders with a vested interest in being sure the building feels and functions exactly as they need it to.  Working within a virtual environment not only helps everyone visualize the design more holistically, but it opens up the opportunity to take steps toward getting it “just right,” and ensuring the project more closely reflects the goals of the organization.

I think one of the participants concluded the session well when she said,  “I just so appreciate that you’re willing to listen, and to get that input. Because, you could just slap up a building, and say ‘it’s for rent, take it or leave it, that’s the way it is’ – and people would do that. They do it all the time.”

If you’re interested in using virtual reality in your next design project, send us a note at info (at) archvirtual.com.

Read the rest of this post and view the machinima at our new site, HERE.



New Build and Upcoming Events in Unity3D / jibe

This site has moved to

www.archvirtual.com

 

Tomorrow (Dec. 2nd), I’ll be joining Kyle Gomboy from ReactionGrid and Anders Gronstedt from Gronstedt Group for their ‘Train for Success‘ meeting.  We will be meeting at the new space I recently finished for the Gronstedt Group – built with Unity3D, and published to ReactionGrid’s ‘jibe’ platform for multi-user access.  You can access the build HERE.

“This meeting will be held in our brand new virtual world developed by 3-D developer and architect extraordinaire Jon Brouchoud in Reaction Grid’s industry-leading, web-based, Jibe platform. Developed with red-hot game engine, Unity3D, this 3-D virtual world can be accessed in any standard browser (no big software download needed, just a small plug-in) and in a few months it will be available on the iPad, iPhone, Android and other mobile devices. Join us for a demonstration of the platform, which can be hosted securely by the client behind the firewall and offers a realistic and beautiful visual experience. Note that this meeting is not held in Second Life, just click on this link to access (it will prompt you to download the Unity plug in):http://jibemicro.reactiongrid.com/Gronstedtgroup/Gronstedt.html

Then on Friday, (Dec. 3rd), I’ll be giving a presentation titled, “Design Methods and Strategies for Creating Effective Virtual Spaces.”  Please check back Friday morning for the exact time.

 



Welcome to my home: first attempts at using Unity3D for architectural visualization

Cross posted from The ARCH Network main site!  http://www.archvirtual.com

unity2
Chez Keystone! Come on in…(plugin required).

This isn’t multi-user (yet), and navigation might take some getting used to, but this is an Autodesk Revit ‘as-built’ model of my home, imported into the Unity game development platform I wrote about last week.  If I make a change in Revit and save it, the Unity build dynamically updates. With the exception of the trees, this is pretty much a raw output from Revit without any optimization (which is why it looks so crude). If I spent a few hours on it, I could add dynamic lighting and even import lightmaps to really enhance the model.   I can also export it to Nintendo Wii, iPhone or a variety of other platforms if I really wanted to, but at this point, I don’t have the necessity or resources to do so.

I should add a disclaimer that we didn’t design this house, but we are planning a green make-over in several stages in the months and years ahead, so we’ve been using this model to test master plan ideas.  I haven’t built or enabled access to the interior spaces, but I will soon.   This is just a starting point for design exploration, so even though I don’t have much to demo yet, I wanted to share some of my initial progress and publish updates with more thoughts on what I’ve learned about using Unity in professional practice.

unity1

What I like most about Unity so far is the ability to quickly and easily embed the virtual model on a web browser, or to a stand-alone .exe application if need be.  This makes it much easier to share design ideas with long distance clients that might not have the time or patience to deal with a registration process, large client downloads and orientation of larger virtual worlds.  Once they get the hang of using their mouse and arrow keys, just about anyone, even on lower end machines, can be walking around inside of a design concept within a few seconds.

When the time comes to add additional details and entourage, I simply save most raw file-types in their native format to the Assets folder of the project.  Unity then automatically finds updates if I change the model in its native application (Maya, 3DS Max, Photoshop, etc.).   What I find doubly enticing about this work-flow is that I can transition my assets into any platform I choose without being locked into a proprietary format.  For example, if/when Second Life enables mesh imports, I should be able to take these same raw assets and use them in SL, or Blue Mars, or on whichever platform I wish – without having to rebuild everything from scratch.  I will then be able to choose which virtual platform is most appropriate for the project’s requirements.

I also like the fact that the indie version of Unity is free to download and use.  Plus, its relatively easy to learn – much easier than any other 3D app I’ve worked with.  Also, there is a rapidly growing community of Unity users and support forums to find answers to just about any question you have, and lots of in-depth tutorials to help you get started.

With several companies building MMO’s or virtual worlds on Unity, it probably won’t be long before I can drop this model into a virtual world for multi-user, and avatar-based experiences.  However, I don’t think we will see realtime, in-world building tools in Unity the way we have in Second Life, or OpenSim.  Unity wasn’t designed or intended to be used that way.  I also think that any Unity worlds that do surface will likely be smaller, niche communities.  For those reasons and more,  I really don’t see Unity as any threat or comparison to Second Life or OpenSim.  However, for online, realtime, virtual architectural visualization, Unity is definitely a platform worth exploring.

Be sure to check out this thread in the Unity forum about architectural visualization in Unity: http://forum.unity3d.com/viewtopic.php?t=33684&highlight=architectural

Also, check out a recent post by epredator on his Life at the Feeding Edge blog regarding the combined application of Unity, OpenSim, Evolver and Smartfox to create the next generation of virtual worlds.



The Architecture of Virtual Education

Here is a video of the presentation I gave last weekend at the VWBPE convention , posted by tree.tv, in both a streaming format and high-def download, available here:

http://www.treet.tv/shows/bpe/bpe2009_varchitecture_27mar09/ Other presentations captured by Tree.tv can be seen here: http://treet.tv/shows/bpe2009

Here is a brief outline of what I covered:

  • Comparisons of virtual and real architecture
    • Main ideas
      • Virtual architecture is less rigid, and far more flexible than physical architecture
      • Second Life is a ‘user-generated’ environment, and places that are built exclusively by professional content creators that do not engage the end-users in the creation process are often the most dull and lifeless places in all of SL – no matter how perfectly built or well designed they might be.
      • Virtual campus spaces should engage as many individuals – faculty, students, community members – as possible – not just one person who goes off to build everything… that’s just as bad or worse than hiring a content developer to build everything for you.
      • Architecture should be driven by the end-use, in an ongoing and constantly evolving design process that doesn’t have an arbitrary ‘end’.  Virtual architecture doesn’t have to shape us…we can and should keep shaping it.
      • People building virtual education spaces are building the foundation for their school’s future virtual endeavors, and have an opportunity to re-think what education means in a virtual environment – not just importing the way we do things in real life.
  • Best practices in developing virtual architecture – framework for approaching projects, borrowing and re-mixing some elements from the AIA’s Handbook for Professional Practice
    • Predesign
      • Gathering resources, use-cases, program development, construction schedule, context analysis, project budget, architectural style, replica vs. virtual, precedent studies
    • Schematic Design
      • Blocking diagrams, wayfinding, feedback, etc.
    • Construction
      • groups, permissions, building teams, etc.
  • Case Study: ‘Re-Inventing the Virtual Classroom’ with the University of Alabama
    • Wikitecture overview
      • Process
      • methodology
    • Description of the process
    • Brief and analysis of the end result
    • Concluding thoughts
      • Can students, faculty and community members design their own physical-world spaces in the future?  Can physical architecture be as dynamic and participatory as virtual architecture?

Many thanks for Gianna Borgnine for moderating, and to everyone who helped organize this conference.  Also, thanks to La Fundación Global Democracia y Desarrollo (FUNGLODE) for sponsoring this presentation.



ARCHviews: Kirsten Kiser, Editor-in-Chief of arcspace.com

Welcome to ARCHviews, a new podcast format where I take to the streets of the metaverse and talk with architects and designers exploring architecture of all forms – real or virtual.  Today I talk to Kirsten Kiser, editor-in-chief of arcspace.com about her experience bringing her online publication into the metaverse.  She celebrates her second year of virtual exploration this week, and has a lot of great insight to share.  If the embedded video doesn’t show up, you can find it HERE.  Enjoy!



The Future is Here: Full-Scale Architectural Model from Revit Imported into a Virtual World

For more information, visit the ARCH Network.

It happened exactly 1 year, to the day I first contacted Jani Pirkola former project manager of the Realxtend team. I heard rumors late in 2007 that they had goals to accelerate the development of the ‘opensim‘ platform, and one of their priorities was 3D model imports. The conversation continued until a few weeks ago, when I received an e-mail from Jules Vos, founder of Visibuild, a company he founded aimed at leveraging and improving the capabilities of Realxtend, specifically targeting his efforts at architecture and the built environment.

He asked for an exported file from one of my Revit models, and the next day he sent me a log-in and password to the Visibuild sim where the model was hosted.  Needless to say, after all these years of waiting, I was skeptical, yet hopeful. I logged in, and there I was – standing on the front porch of our client’s soon-to-be new home we had designed!  It was exactly as I had left it during my last Save As!  This was a dream come true, that had been 10 years in the making.  I was absolutely blown away.  My Revit model was virtual!  Here it is shortly after import:

Before long I had the model populated with tables, chairs, sofa, stove, a Jenn-Air appliances, Kohler fixtures and more – all imported from Google’s 3D Warehouse, most of which are exact or near-perfect matches to the ones specified.  Google’s 3d warehouse is very extensive, and carries one of the largest collection of free 3d models available.  Thanks to Peter Quirk for the Sketchup import tutorial!



I left parts of the design out of the imported mesh that we were still designing, and was able to enjoy the best of both worlds by building those pieces with primitive objects using the in-world building tools.  This way, I could make immediate use of the model as a collaboration tool with our clients by testing, for example, ceiling options in the living room, and trying out an alternate arrangement of the porch and entry area.  There is no limitation to the size of primitive objects here (the limit is 10 meters in Second Life), so it becomes much easier to model without always having to bandage the model to work around size limitations.

The client’s first reaction after seeing a teaser was “I want more!” so I think we can safely say the value of a virtual model was immediately evident.

Even a quick proof-of-concept study of imported buildings that surrounded a project site in Manhattan was fruitful.  When almost any model format can be imported, it feels like the whole world has opened up – and the possibilities are truly without limit.

The combined 3-part effect of being able to import contextual structures shared by others and import professionally built CAD or BIM-derived models and model bits and pieces using the familiar in-world building tools is a pretty astonishing new opportunity.  Of course there are still kinks to be ironed out, and some parts of the work-flow that would benefit from further optimization, but that’s where Visibuild’s value becomes most apparent.  They have the capability of streamlining that process for you, and serving as a one-stop service and hosting environment  for architects, urban planners, realtors, city governments and anyone else with a vested interest interest in architecture and the built environment.

 

Another key feature of this environment is the dynamic shade and shadows.  You need a decent graphics card to experience it, but its nice to know that the feature is available when you’re ready for it.  One common complaint for architects exploring the use of Second Life in professional practice was the plasticness of the builds, and the inability to convey the way light and shadow will effect the architecture.  The code for dynamic shadows has been available for some time now, but has yet to be implemented in any of the newest viewer releases. This is surely a key fundamental to an architect’s concern in design development, and experiencing a building without light and shade doesn’t as accurately reflect the experience you will get in real life.

Since most modern architectural software automatically generates 3D models anyway, the gap between your model and a virtual environment is no longer treacherous or time consuming – but relatively simple (or cost effective if you’d rather have someone else import it for you).  If you already model in SketchUp, for example – you’re only a few clicks away from enjoying the benefits of experiencing the model virtually and inviting others to experience it with you in realtime.  The bottom line is, most architects utilize 3D models at some point in the design development process anyway.  With Visibuild, you’re just one ‘save as’ away from leveraging the value of that model, and enjoying all of the many benefits a virtual environment affords.

These are some of the qualities of this environment I find most powerful:

  • The capacity to import 3D Models from just about any industry standard 3D package
  • Its accessible – there is very little mystery around how this works, and it isn’t terribly complicated or expensive.
  • It is built on an open source platform, and with a little experimentation you can roll up your sleeves and tinker with it.  You still have the option of hiring others to get everything set up for you.  The choice is yours.
  • User-generated content.  I can’t modify the imported mesh in-world, but I can leave off parts of the build that aren’t finalized and use the simple in-world building tools to test ideas on the fly.
  • Multi-user.  I can create an account for each of my clients and project stakeholders (builders, subs, etc.)  We can all occupy the building at the same time, from our own computers, wherever we happen to be in the world.  I can also customize their accounts ahead of time – so their avatars look good, and they appear right at the front door.
  • Realtime.  Unlike an prescriptive illustration or animation, you get to choose how, when and where your avatar moves.  This is much closer to the way people actually experience architecture.
  • Collaborative.  Multiple users can work together on a single group of objects to explore ideas – this capability is at the heart of what Studio Wikitecture is exploring.
  • Shade and Shadows, and the ability to cycle through any day/night setting and customize the sky to whatever settings you like
  • The incorporation of avatars.  I think this provides an enhanced sense of immersion and a feeling of actually being in the space.

This is truly a defining moment in the story of virtual worlds and architecture!

I’ll be working with Jules and the Visibuild team in the months ahead to help out with some exciting new projects, so if you’re interested in being an early adopter and want to be a part of the private beta, you can find contact information on the Visibuild website here: http://visibuild3d.com


COMMISSION #3: Opening and free workshop today! 1 December 2008

6.30-7.30pm GMT (10.30-11.30am SL Time), Monday 1 December 2008: join the workshop in reflexive architecture

8pm GMT (12 noon SL Time), Monday 1 December 2008: attend the launch

SLurl: teleport to 2ND LIVE (83, 171, 22)

The Project:
In physical reality, the architectural shell is a relatively static and motionless artifact. The occupant plays a passive role, observing but rarely impacting its composition. Winston Churchill’s statement, ‘We shape our buildings and afterwards, our buildings shape us,’ illustrates this point well. In a virtual environment, the architecture is capable of transcending the limitations of static buildings, and can become as fluid and dynamic as the communities of people it hopes to serve. The topic of this installation, ‘Reflexive Architecture’ is just one vector suggesting the emergence of a new language of virtual architecture, free from the habit of pure physical replication. In this way, we can shape our virtual buildings, and afterwards we keep shaping them.

The focus of this study is to utilize reflexive elements in the creation of a new Gallery of Reflexive Architecture. In keeping with the spirit of a user-generated environment, residents of the Second Life community are encouraged to create and exhibit their own applications of this concept. To encourage this process, a core set of ‘reflexive scripts’ have been open sourced that can be modified to create a wide variety of reflexive elements. Residents are encouraged to share their contributions to the gallery by contacting Keystone Bouchard. The scripts can be found here: http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=ddqzdng9_32dwrgxj


The Theory:
There is a polarizing tension emerging between virtual architecture primarily focused on replicating elements of physical reality, in contrast with architecture that explores purely virtual concepts not possible in any other medium. In an environment where avatars are free to create anything they can imagine, the vast majority of the architectural fabric created is still largely driven by very literal parallels to the physical world. This happens for good reason, as we have learned to visually organize the world around us, real or virtual, based on familiar cues and patterns. A roof may not need to protect us from the elements in virtual space, but it organizes a space. Even though you can fly, a ramp is still a strong wayfinding mechanism.

While we import these visual cues from physical reality with good cause, I think we also need to consider the native, inherent characteristics of this environment and build a new language of virtual architecture based on those characteristics. New architectural technologies such as steel, glass, elevators, and electricity have traditionally challenged architects and designers to explore new and unprecedented forms of architectural creation. The same will be true of virtual environments. What can we do in virtual space that could never have been done before?


In examining the differences between real and virtual environments, it becomes clear that physical architecture is relatively static and unchanging, whereas virtual architecture has the capacity to become far more dynamic; behaving more like a liquid than a static and passive artifact. I believe this seemingly simple distinction could serve as a core ingredient and driving force behind a new language of virtual architecture. In this way, the idea of reflexive architecture is not a new language of virtual design, but my hope is only to establish a simple diagram that I hope will inspire further progress and exploration of dynamic new forms of virtual architecture.

More about this concept can be found in these previous posts:

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/machinima-manifesto-we-shape-our-virtual-buildings/

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2007/07/18/we-shape-our-virtual-buildings-and-afterwards-we-keep-shaping-them/

http://archsl.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/gallery-of-reflexive-architecture/



Metanomics: Liquid Artifacts: Architecture in Virtual Worlds
November 13, 2008, 8:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

I’m honored to have been invited to the Metanomics stage this coming Monday, November 17th at noon (12:00) SL-time (PDT) to talk about architecture in virtual worlds.

To learn more, visit the Metanomics event page here: http://metanomics.net/Event111708




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