Introducing the ArchTech Engine: Transforming buildings, cities and geography into realtime 3D environments

[Intro video]  I am very excited to announce the launch of our new ArchTech Engine, a technology that transforms buildings, cities and geography into realtime 3D environments that are easily accessible, and can be embedded on your website, or deployed to a tablet.

Read the full post HERE

These interactive models can be geo-referenced to real-world coordinates, dynamically linked to databases, and layered with interactive content.

Transform your architectural drawings and 3D models of almost any format (including CAD and BIM) into information-rich applications that are perfect for architectural visualization, and city planning, as well as learning environments, military simulations, historical recreations, training environments and more. Students can interact within a more memorable learning environment, and achieve much greater retention over reading a textbook. All within a web browser or tablet.

Your application can be customized to suit your project’s specific needs. Make it multiplayer with voice and video communication or a single player experience and add non-player characters or an entire crowd of people to bring it to life.

To learn more about Arch Tech Engine, or to get started on your own project, visit Arch Tech Engine is built on the Unity3D, and was developed in partnership between Arch Virtual and Tipodean Technologies.

Read the full post HERE

Architectural Innovation in Immersive Virtual Worlds

This blog has moved – read the full post HERE.  

What a year so far!  Lots of great Unity3D and jibe projects, a pair of OpenSim builds, and even some Unreal and Web Alive work.  This year has been all about platform diversification, and some of the biggest and technologically innovative builds I’ve had the pleasure of working on.

Yet it seems somehow fitting that the ‘dream come true’ project brought me full circle back to Second Life, with a project for a Fortune 500 firm to design and prototype the  firm’s physical retail spaces.  This project truly raised the bar for architectural brainstorming and collaboration around physical architecture and the built environment.  Jena Ball (Startled Cat) and Jeffrey Philips (OVO Innovation) touch on some features of the project, and the advantages of innovation and collaboration in their paper,  “Immersive Virtual Worlds as Innovation Platforms:

The full white paper describes the concept in greater detail.  Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“More recently, the authors of this paper worked with a Fortune 500 firm to design, prototype and model both the look and feel of the firm’s physical retail spaces and the experiences the firm wanted customers to have in retail establishments.  To accomplish this task we immersed the team – clients and consultants – in Second Life, building new retail establishments and interacting with those retail spaces using avatars.  We believed thatworking as avatars in an infinitely malleable 3D environment would not only spark their creativity and encourage experimentation, but be quicker and more cost effective than trying to do the same work in a sterile conference room.

“As we developed the retail spaces, their avatars moved through the spaces, recommending changes and generating ideas on the fly in a setting where rapid prototyping was exceptionally simple.

“Working with trained innovation facilitators and a “real” world architect specializing in virtual world development the firm’s participants generated more ideas, a much larger range of ideas, in far less time, at a fraction of the cost than in previous attempts.  We were also able to create a significant number and wide variety of prototypes for consideration.  The immediate feedback and ability to modify the prototypes in real time while participants watched and commented significantly increased the speed and effectiveness of the prototyping as well. We easily tested dozens of ideas based on the architecture, technology, allotted space, traffic flow, the needs of customers, and the skills of the firm’s retail personnel.  It is important to note that all of this work was done with a team whose members were distributed all across the US and never met face to face. All interaction and prototyping was conducted in Second Life.”

“Immersive technologies force innovators into new experiences and environments. These in turn provide new and/or alternative perspectives, and have the potential to spawn new ways of thinking.”

“Virtual worlds allow rapid, iterative prototyping in three dimensions with little cost.  Architects, for example, can quickly and easily create mini or even full-scale models of homes to show to their clients.  Likewise, it is quick and easy to make adjustments based on client feedback in real time as it is given.  This kind of iterative prototyping not only speeds up the development process, but encourages idea generation and out-of-the-box thinking as well.  Rapid, iterative prototyping is so natural in these spaces that you’d think the virtual worlds were designed for this purpose alone” (bold emphasis mine).

Virtual Worlds and the Built Environment – White Paper published by Daden Limited

Check out this article HERE.

Daden Limited‘s new white paper, ‘Virtual Worlds and the Built Environment’ (download here) provides an insightful overview of several Second Life case studies relating to architecture, engineering and construction industry projects, along with descriptions of  what make virtual worlds a useful tool for AEC industry projects.
“Whilst the hype (and marketing interest) around virtualworlds has faded, the technology is increasingly being used in areas such as training & education,collaboration and data visualisation. This paper explores the on-going use, and future opportunity, of virtual worlds to help model the built environment, and as a result to use the virtual world to build a better physical world.”
A few points of interest include their overview of differences between SL and traditional AEC tools:
There are a number of key differences here in comparison to more traditional Architecture, Engineering and Construction (AEC) visualisation tools.
Principally that:
  • The user is embodied in the world as an avatar, rather than having just a “camera” view
  • The avatar/user can go where they like, and interact with the build
  • The environment is multi-user, so users  can interact with other users
  • The environment is rendered in real-time, so although visual quality may not be as high, the environment can be far more dynamic and flexible, and renders instantly rather than needing an over-night render-farm.

I also appreciate their list of advantages of using virtual worlds in AEC fields:

The advantages of virtual worlds such as Second Life include:

• The ability to make changes instantly, in-world

• The ability to support multiple users in the same space – typically 50-100 (but of course you can always clone spaces)

• The ability to make things interactive – even linking computers to real computer applications, and signs to real signage systems

• The ability to not only integrate building environmental and performance data, but also to visualise it in new and effective ways

• The ability for users to peel-back layers of a building to see structural and service components

• The ability for users to annotate the space, feeding back comments which can be automatically collated

• The ability to track users through the building, and their interactions with its systems

• The ability to let users choose between configurations and vote on them

• The ability to support “live use” of the building, eg for entertainment or training

• The ability to clone the building to create multiple copies to explore what-ifs

• The ability to use the same platform to support virtual meetings, conferences, training, collaboration etc

• Dynamic rendering which enables the instant changes and multi-user deployment

Extranet Evolution has a great write-up (link) about this paper as well.   Consequently, Paul Wilkinson’s twitter feed is also a must-follow resource for anyone interested in construction collaboration technologies (and more!) – follow him @EEPaul

This site has moved to

Check out this article HERE.

Special issue of ITcon dedicated to the use of virtual world technology in architecture, engineering and construction

This site has moved to Find this article here:

If there was ever any doubt that virtual worlds have a place in architectural practice and education, this month’s special issue of  ITcon presents a staggering amount of content that is sure to help promote the use of virtual worlds and game engines within AEC industries and beyond.

The Journal of Information Technology in Construction (ITcon) is a peer-reviewed scholarly publication recently published a special issue dedicated to the use of virtual world technology in architecture, civil engineering and facility management.

“Virtual worlds, which are similar to the computer games with which they share technology, take their participants called residents to new places beyond the physical and geographic limitations of the real world.  Residents become producers of content in the virtual world, designing and  developing the environment around their own interests. This  virtual world technology can  offer significant benefits  for AEC disciplines from 3D walkthroughs, interactive visualization, through virtual collaboration, design and planning to education, and training. The special issue is aimed to provide insights into the use of virtual world technology in AEC and includes seven papers with authors representing institutions in Australia, Canada, Finland, New Zealand, UK, and the USA.”

The papers are all free to review, published with open access distributed under creative commons license, so be sure to check out this incredible resource.

Here are a few snippets taken from their summaries – just to provide a sampling of what you can expect to find in this issue:

“This paper investigates the innovative use of emerging multiuser virtual world technologies for supporting human-human collaboration and human-computer co-creativity in design.” (link)

“This  paper presents  the concept of  Building  interactive  Modeling (BiM) which complements the capabilities of BIM with social interaction to enhance collaborative information and knowledge sharing. Role-playing scenarios developed in Second Life demonstrate specific opportunities of BiM.” (link)

“…study of design collaboration in the CyberGRID (Cyber-enabled Global Research Infrastructure for Design), a virtual collaborative space developed in Second Life to support design work in global virtual networks. (link)

“This paper will bring evidence to bear that suggests the value in using Virtual Environments (VE’s) is in their potential to facilitate collaboration …  scrutinize design and construction in the VE Second Life.”  (link)

“The paper presents potential utilization of Second Life© (SL) in enhancing learning/training construction project management.”  (link)

“The research potential of Second Life in construction: the whole life cycle costing example.” (link)

This site has moved to

$900 million facility prototyped in Second Life now under construction

Cross posted from The ARCH Network main site!

These are the latest construction progress photos I could find of new Palomar West Medical Campus in San Diego, which is currently under construction – scheduled to open in 2011.  When the virtual architectural simulation was completed in early 2008, it attracted the attention of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Forbes, as the largest and most comprehensive architectural prototypes of a construction-bound project ever built in Second Life (aLoft and Dedato’s build were big too, but Palomar is much bigger- weighing in at 775,000 square feet).  The virtual prototype was used by Cisco to showcase the facility’s communications features through immersive simulations in Second Life, and was built by Millions of Us.

If you know of any more recent construction photos, please let me know!

How to Set Up a Virtual Project Space for your Architecture or AEC-Related Projects
April 23, 2009, 3:33 am
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Cross-post from The ARCH Network (subscribe already, will ya? ;-))

Virtual Project Spaces enable you to explore design on a whole new level. These multi-user, online, collaborative environments offer a unique blend of features that cannot be found in any other application. Just like websites, Project Spaces are hosted on servers, and you (and anyone you invite to join you!) can access these worlds by using a free browser, or ‘viewer’ designed specifically for running 3D environments on your computer.

Project Space hosting works just like web hosting, but there are 3 main decisions to make. What size? Which platform, and Public of Private?

Public or Private?

  • Private: You can choose to host a full-size Project Space and have it remain totally private, accessible only by you and people you provide passwords to.
  • Public: Or, you can rent a smaller parcel within the public AEC Project Spaces community, where you will have neighbors working on their own AEC-related projects.

Which Platform?

We currently offer 2 primary kinds of Virtual Project Spaces – one is powered by Second Life, the other is powered by Visibuild. On the surface, the two platforms look and function very similarly, but there are key differences to consider before ordering your Project Space. Here’s how they compare:

Project Spaces powered by Visibuild:

  • Import full 3D models from external apps like Revit, 3DS, ArchiCAD – any industry-standard application.
  • Primarily AEC community. While wider diversity will soon be accessible to Visibuild users, it will primarily be a place where you can network with other AEC professionals. For example, if you’re a student, you will soon be able to network with professionals. If you’re a professional, you’ll be able to network with potential clients, product vendors and more. As the community grows, so too will the opportunities for networking and collaboration.
  • Ability to backup your work to your own hard drive.
  • Privacy – if you need to keep your project top secret, your Project Space can be hosted in a private and secure region.
  • No prim size restrictions (objects can be stretched and built as large as needed)
  • More prims per square meter rented. Visibuild offers the ability to have many more prims installed on a site.
  • Cost considerably less.

Project Spaces powered by Second Life:

  • Diversity and size of the community. These spaces will work well for you if you want to share your work with lots of people from a wide variety of disciplines.
  • Thorough documentation and support. Because it has been around longer, there is a larger pool of resources available both in-world and on the web.
  • Does not allow import of full models from external 3D apps like Revit, 3DS, ArchiCAD, etc.
  • Less control over your content. It cannot easily be exported, and your content remains under the control/ownership of Second Life servers.
  • Primitive object (prim) size limitation. When using the in-world modeling tools, objects cannot be stretched larger than 10 meters in any direction. To make larger objects, multiple prims are required.
  • Fewer prims per square meter of space rented. This is a limitation Second Life places on the number of objects you can have installed on a site at one time.

After you’ve chosen the size, platform and placed your order, you will be given a landmark to your Project Space location. Assuming you already have an account, and have downloaded and installed the platform of your choice, you can log in and visit your new Project Space. You can either use the simple in-world building tools within the ‘edit’ menu, or if you’ve chosen to work on the Visibuild platform, you can learn how to import your 3D models (tutorials coming soon!).

If you need some training, or would like to attend a workshop, visit this page to learn more. Here are some images to give you a sense of the Project Space sizes.


4,000 square meter parcel:

  • Project Space powered by Second Life = $25/month
  • Project Space powered by Visibuild = $19/month


8,100 square meter parcel:

  • Project Space powered by Second Life = $50/month
  • Project Space powered by Visibuild = $37/month


16,300 square meter parcel:

  • Project Space powered by Second Life = $100/month
  • Project Space powered by Visibuild = $75/month


32,768 square meter parcel:

  • Project Space powered by Second Life = $200/month
  • Project Space powered by Visibuild = $150/month

65,537 square meter parcel (full region):

  • Architecture Island powered by Second Life = $400/month
  • Architecture Island powered by Visibuild = $300/month

To get started, click HERE or send an e-mail to describing the parcel size and platform you wish to secure, and we will get back to you within 24 hours. If you’re not sure, please don’t hesitate to call or e-mail, and we will guide you through the decisions to be sure you’re set up with just the right parcel size and platform.

  • SL: Keystone Bouchard
  • 608-219-9318
  • Skype: keystone1111
  • Twitter: ARCHNetwork
  • LinkedIn: Jon Brouchoud