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.

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Wikitecture 3.0 Wins both Founder’s Award and 3rd Place!

courtyard

From Studio Wikitecture blog:

It is with great pleasure I bring you the news that Studio Wikitecture’s entry in the Open Architecture Network Challenge was awarded the ‘Founder’s Award’ as well as ‘3rd Place’ for our design of the Nyaya Tele-Medicine facility in Western Nepal. The announcement was made this morning.

Architecture for Humanity  awarded its Founders Award to the third place Asia challenge finalist, Studio Wikitecture, for embracing a truly collaborative way of working using online crowdsourcing and Second Life as a way to create a highly participatory design approach. Source

I want to direct a big ‘congratulations’ to those individuals that contributed, on whatever level, to the ultimate success of this entry. Well done! In particular I would like to thank the following for their dedicated contributions.

Jon Brouchoud – (Keystone Bouchard in SL)

Roger Wellington-Oguri – (Omei Turnbull in SL)

Roberto Carretero – (Otrober Breda in SL)

Michael DiTullio – (Far Link in SL)

Simone Riccardi – (Turboy Runo in SL)

Ethos Erlanger in SL

Chip Poutine in SL

I would also like to thank the programming gurus at i3dnow for helping us develop the 3d-Wiki technology we used to help facilitate this whole process. With all the contributions made throughout the process, it would have been a virtual impossibility to build a consensus without it.

And finally a shout out to Kirsten Kiser from arcspace for generously donating a large part of her Second Life island to this project.

We’ve definitely come a long way since asking the question: Can the design and production of architecture learn anything from the open and decentralized methods of production demonstrated in projects such as Wikipedia and open-source software. We certainly learned a lot since the early days of Wikitecture 1.0 and 2.0. I have no doubt Wikitecture 4.0 will prove just as successful.

Thank You, Again.

Ryan Schultz



Casting Shadows

These past few months have brought about a rather exciting surge of announcements and renewed energy around the OpenSIM project, the open source virtual world platform. Though it is still alpha level code, the future potential is obvious, especially for those of us anxiously awaiting the ability to import 3D models created, textured and rendered in external applications like 3D studio, Blender, etc. This ability brings with it the promise of several game-changing opportunities, not the least of which is establishing a dynamic link between Building Information Models (BIM) and virtual environments.

Some of the most visible and promising new features cooperating with OpenSIM are coming from a Finnish group called realxtend. The actual look and feel of OpenSIM is very similar to the Second Life environment, but the realxtend client/server combo includes several enticing new items. For one thing, the File menu now contains an ‘Import 3D model’ option – and it works!  Also, under the prim-editing menu, you’ll find the ‘cast shadows’ option. Yeah, seriously… ‘cast shadows’… can you imagine?

What’s more, even a technical newbie such as myself can download their server code, and open your very own sim running on your own home computer. Better still, you can invite others into your sim to see what you’ve been up to. If you want to go beyond basic exploration, you can host the environment on a more powerful server for less lag and a smoother experience. Visitors to your personal sim can even teleport to and from the Second Life grid, and to other OpenSIM grids as well.

Within just a few hours, I had my own little world running on my computer. Shortly thereafter, I had imported my first 3D models created in 3DStudio. I suddenly had that same sense of urgency and excitement I experienced when I first started working in Second Life. My imagination ran wild!

You might think this experience would lead me away form Second Life itself, but I actually feel quite the opposite. I’ve never felt so confident and comfortable with the time and energy I’ve spent learning and promoting Second Life. It isn’t just OpenSIM either, but none of the new emerging platforms I’ve tried so far show anywhere near the same promise, in my humble opinion, as the combination of Second Life and OpenSIM.

Speaking purely in terms of professional/business applications, or as a platform for architectural practice and collaboration, I’m not convinced that Linden Lab shares the same vectors of interest as the more ‘platformist’ professionals who often think of it as a tool instead of a place, nor should they. The community, and the economy are vital, yet incredibly fragile components of Second Life – a combination that doesn’t lend itself well to liberal new-feature testing. Just like Philip Rosedale emphasized at SLCC last year, Linden Lab can only operate like a ‘lab’ for so long before they have to pull back a bit on experimentation and turn more attention to the ongoing challenges of performance and stability.

But when you combine the vital core elements of community and commerce with the features possible in OpenSIM-based grids, it seems a win-win combination. Despite the never-ending flow of criticism and complaints, I think Linden Lab is doing an outstanding job with Second Life, and I think they’ll be very hard to catch. But I’m excited and glad that the more specialized interests can now have their freedom, their privacy, their security, and any new feature they have the wherewithal to invent. I think Giff Constable said it best, “if something needs to be fixed, you can roll up your sleeves and fix it rather than crossing your fingers and waiting for someone else.”

Cory Ondrejka suggested in a great post today that “Attempts to strongly separate “play” and “work” virtual worlds will stunt the growth of both. Communities that play together work together better. And vice versa.” I think that statement reinforces the notion that the combined effort of SL and specialized OpenSIM places is a healthy mix. I might “work” in my Crescendo Design OpenSIM island, meeting with clients and bask in the greatness of prims that can ‘cast shadows,’ but it will surely get lonely in there. I’d be constantly checking my mini-map for green dots, and missing out on all the great stuff Second Life has to offer as a place, and not just a tool. When its time for a break, I can teleport back to SL, and enjoy the best of both worlds.

The combination of features I think are requisite for a virtual world explosion in professional practice are a tricky, yet inseparable kit of parts. For this reason, I don’t have a lot of faith in the other platforms aimed at surpassing Second Life. Just importing 3D models, or better graphics alone are nothing without a rich and diverse community.

Even if you include model-imports and community, what about object permissions? For 3D collaboration to work, you need a fairly robust permissions strategy, and a lot of the new platforms currently overlook this feature completely. I think most of us completely underestimate the genius and power of the prim system and in-world building tools. In fact, by the time you carefully prepare a 3D model with enough detail to look passable up-close in a virtual environment, you end up spending a comparable amount of time on it as you would if you had built it with prims in the first place. Furthermore, once you import it – its essentially frozen, since you can’t modify any part of it without re-rendering it and re-importing it. It would be a disaster for virtual collaboration if we lost that ability.

The community is equally critical. Even if, for example, Autodesk were to introduce avatars into Revit, they couldn’t possibly deliver as diverse of a community of non-architects. If you aren’t convinced that a public, global and diverse community is important in the future of architectural practice, keep an eye on Studio Wikitecture. That’s just the beginning.

I could be wrong, but when I add it all up, I still haven’t seen another emerging platform that includes both in-world building tools (with permissions system) as well as 3D importing, alongside an incredibly robust community and economy. Even if there were a potential competitor, they are nowhere near as far along as Second Life at solving the plethora of challenges and nuances of successfully running a virtual world (which happens to be yet another area I think many of us totally misunderstand and underestimate). By the time a competitor catches up with where SL is now, SL will be that much farther ahead.

In conclusion, I’m confident that Second Life is still a very safe and smart investment of time and money. I’ll admit to knowing very little about the back-end underlying this technology, which is why this post could be all full of baloney. But from what I can tell, the combined trajectories of Second Life and OpenSIM are a winning combination, and hold the underpinnings of what I think will be the next major technological evolution in the design and creation of the real-life built-environment.

Keep an eye on Ugotrade for further reviews of OpenSIM (including this post), and be sure to check out realxtend’s site for a description of their upcoming event in Second Life where you can learn more about the current technology, and their plans for the future.



3D Wiki, Demo and Tour Tomorrow (2/8) at 10:30 AM SL-time

Join us tomorrow for a demo of the 3D Wiki (the Wiki-Tree), and a review of the designs submitted so far for the OAN Challenge we’re working on for Wikitecture 3.0. The competition deadline is February 29, so there is still time to provide your input!  You don’t have to be an architect!

Here’s the SLurl. See you there!



Phew… Finally, the Official Kick-Off Meeting for Wikitecture 3.0!

Can mass collaboration and collective intelligence improve the quality of architecture and urban planning?

studio-wikitecture-web-site-introregistration3.jpg

We are happy to announce that, Studio Wikitecture will continue to try to tease out this question, via it’s 3rd Wikitecture experiment kicking off officially on Nov. 7th. To accommodate those in different time zones, there will be two different times: Wednesday, Nov. 7th @ 9:00am and 6:30pm PST/SLT.

The project on which this experiment will center around will be the competition recently announced by the Open Architecture Network. Competition sites range from a medical facility in rural Nepal, a media lab and library in the slums of Nairobi, or a fair trade chocolate factory in Ecuadorian Amazon.
Since the OAN is an “open-source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design”, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity to submit an entry for this competition that is, in turn, designed and composed in the same collaborative and open-source fashion.

We would be happy for you to join the next experiment and help us design this collaborative competition entry. You don’t need any experience in architecture, engineering or construction to participate. We actually believe the more diverse the pool of contributors, the better. You will need, if you don’t already, a Second Life account. Registering is easy.

Once you have downloaded the Second Life application, registered an account and log in, press the ’search’ key on the bottom of your screen. Look for the group ‘Studio Wikitecture’ and click ‘join.’ Enrollment is open to all.

After you have joined, click the following link for a ‘teleport’ to the Wikitecture 3.0 Parcel (link), which was generously donated by arcspace.com. Once there, ‘touch’ the base of the ‘wiki-tree’ interface, which looks like the following:…

wiki-tree-trunk-low-res.jpg

to get the password for the website. (not operational, until nov. 7th)

For the login: use your full ‘Second Life’ name.

If you have an problems, don’t hesitate to IM either Keystone Bouchard or Theory Shaw in-world and we’ll come by and help you.

A Brief Overview of the evolving technology behind Wikitecture 1.0, 2.0, and 3.0

We are not only excited about the project, but the new website and in-world interface (not operational, until nov. 7th) that will allow everyone to better communicate and collaborate with each other over the duration of the project’s two month time frame. Allow with the following description, this video, provides a nice overview of the technology behind Wikitecture 3.0 as well.

Over the last year, we have been using the virtual world of Second Life as a platform for conducting ‘Wikitecture’ experiments to work out the procedures and protocols necessary to harness a group’s collective intelligence in designing architecture. We have already conducted 2 experiments within Second Life to explore this idea of ‘open source architecture’. The videos of their final form can be found here: 1.0 & 2.0. The following gives a brief overview of the evolving functionality behind Wikitecture 1.0, 2.0, & 3.0.

1.0

Wikitecture 1.0 was not really a true Wiki in the sense that contributors could not modify or delete the contributions of others. What resulted, although interesting in its own right, was an amalgamation of ‘stuff’ with not no overall coherency or unity – a result we expected.

2.0

In the 2nd experiment, we asked contributing members to enable full-permissions on every object they added. This new protocol enabled designers to add/modify/delete each other’s designs. In addition, we set up a Flickr Account that allowed contributors to upload descriptive snapshots of their designs and leave feedback as well. With Wikitecture 2.0, we also introduced an archiving system, where members, through community consensus, were able to roll-back the ‘live’ design to previously saved iterations. Although this system was still rudimentary, the resultant design was far more unified and coherent than Wikitecture 1.0.

3.0

For our 3rd experiment, however, we have continued to try and improve upon this underlying technology. In teaming up with i3D inc., experts in creating virtual applications that cross the 2D/3D divide, we have developed both an in-world interface (’wiki-tree’) and external website that continually communicate with each other. From the in-world perspective, contributors are able to archive their particular design into an abstract ‘leaf’ within a 3-dimensional ‘tree canopy’. As this canopy grows, the branching network of ‘leaves’ communicates to other designers, how related all the different designs are to each other.

leaf canopy

image of the ‘leaf canopy’. Although not always the case, the general rule will typically apply: one ‘archive leaf’ = one design iteration = one contributor.

In addition, to fully communicate their vision and rationale behind their designs, this interface will allow contributors to take snapshots of their designs and, combined with descriptive commentary, upload them to the external website.

Since there will be multiple designs iterations within the ‘tree canopy’ and only a limited amount of land, the ‘wiki-tree’ interface, by touching the leaves, will allow members to ‘rez’ out the designs, one by one, onto the viewing parcel. Once rezzed out, viewers are then able to immerse themselves, 3-dimensional, in the design. In addition, to augment the experience of actually occupying the space, the three screens in the viewing kiosk near the ‘wiki-tree’ will allow users to cycle through the snapshots and comments associated with the active design on the viewing parcel as well. This viewing kiosk will become especially helpful for those who want to communicate their designs informally with a smaller group of individuals.

The ‘wiki-tree’ allows the community, in turn, to vote and comment on their fellow contributor’s designs.

Other than cycling and rezzing out the individual designs from the ‘archiving leaves’, The website component will allow users all the same functionality as the in-world interface. In other words, through the website, members can vote and add comments, as well as upload images they would like to associate with their saved designs.

What if this collaboratively designed entry actually wins this OAN competition? How will the reward money actually be divvied up amongst the contributors? If you worked on the last Wikitecture experiment, we will be using the same system whereby we ask all the contributors to assess what percentage they feel they have contributed to the design as well as what percentage they feel others have contributed. The general idea being, that when everyone’s assessment of each other is averaged out, however subjective it may be, a pretty fair judgment is made to how much (compensation, ownership, IP rights, etc) should be dolled out to each contributor. If, in the event, Studio Wikitecture’s entry wins the competition, we will distribute the winnings in this manner.

Although this system of assessment is not perfect, we feel it’s a start. This is one component of the experiment we feel will need to be massaged here and there as we go forward and would love your input to help improve it. Throughout the next two months of designing and assessing, if you have an idea on how to improve either this contribution assessment procedure, or any other functionality for that matter, please let us know. We have set up a forum for such discussion: Feedback & F.A.Q.

Although, this collaborative platform is light years beyond what was used for the 2nd experiment, please be aware that it’s still somewhere between alpha and the prepubescence beta stage of development—we will most likely encounter our fair share of bugs.

Although running at a base level right now, certain features will not be available until Nov. 7th.



Collaborative City Planning, Urban Design and Architecture in Second Life – Machinima

Here are two demonstrations of collaboration in Second Life. The first shows how city planners, urban designers or members of the community might use virtual worlds to describe, discuss and even co-create design concepts. The second shows how multiple contributors can work together simultaneously on an architectural design concept.

Of course, it is evident that something is missing in this collaborative process. It is not yet ‘wiki’, insofar as people cannot return to previous iterations, or evaluate the effectiveness of other contributions. Conflicts of opinion cannot be easily resolved, and input from the other contributors must be synchronous. What this means is if all of the contributors are not on site at all times, the design can take on a completely different direction based on extensive work by a single designer without group consensus. Furthermore, there is no easy way to resort to a previous iteration should such a conflict of opinion occur. Commenting on the success or failure of another designer’s contribution is left to synchronous chat, with no easy way to discern the opinion of the entire group at any time.

If we really want collaboration in virtual worlds to be more wiki-like, we will need tools. We hope the ‘Wikitecture Tree’ will help us take steps toward realizing an ‘Open Source Architecture’ and will be launching it soon to help the Studio Wikitecture group take on the Open Architecture Challenge.

Here’s a brief clip showing one part of the Wikitecture Tree, namely the ‘leaves’. The leaf color is based on its popularity, where orange leaves are least popular, green leaves are more popular, and a ‘trunk’ being the current community favorite – based on an integrated vote tallying system. When a new iteration is submitted to the tree, it automatically creates a new leaf. Contributors will be able to cycle through, vote and comment on each design as they rez on an adjacent platform. A better explanation is on the SW blog HERE.

Join the Studio Wikitecture group in SL to partipate in the next experiment!  Everyone is welcome.



Collaborative Building in ‘Half-Life 2’
July 16, 2007, 5:14 pm
Filed under: collaborative design, virtual architecture

Check out the story at Clickable Culture.

First, you need a ‘Physics Gun’, then you need a ‘Tool Gun’.  Sounds like they’ve done a nice job of keeping the toolbox contextual! =)