The ARCH


Worlds merging: A video response from X3D

A few weeks ago, I posted a video showing how my Revit model was imported into realxtend by Visibuild.  It generated lots of interest and traffic, suggesting to me that model interoperability is an important priority for lots of us.

Shortly after posting that my friend Damon Hernandez, always a spirited supporter of X3D, asked if I would send him that same Revit model so he could demonstrate the capabilities of X3D.  The closest I had ever come to seeing some of the more current X3D applications in action is while exploring Vivaty or ExitReality, and I was excited to see what he could do with it.  24 hours later, he sent me this video showing that same model in several X3D based environments.  What an impressive and entirely convincing demonstration!  I had no idea X3D had come so far.

This is by no means an exhaustive demonstration of everything X3D can do, and is only intended to serve as an introduction.  But what I find most compelling is the fact that this model can retain its metadata, and theoretically retain its BIM data.  If we were to develop a fully interactive model of a building, visitors could drill through this metadata, clicking any material or product in the home and discovering specific information about each building component.  I’m told it could even be useful as a CAM model, whereby manufacturers could interpret this data and use robots to assemble the home in real life.

So, here I have a seemingly limitless range of opportunities at my fingertips, yet this model – even if it were fully textured and polished – would not be useful to me in real-life practice.  The design is far from final, and we are still ironing out several key features such as the living room ceiling, the front entry, and the fireplace/hearth.  If I’m working with X3D, I have the option of either 1.) waiting until the model is final before sending it to be imported  2.)  send several batches of different design ideas and have them all imported  3.) become an X3D geek, and figure out how to import it myself, so I can do so on-the-fly as we develop new ideas.

No matter how I approach it, it isn’t useful to me as a schematic design tool – nor is it necessarily intended, or ready to be used that way (yet).  So, we really are comparing apples to oranges.  It isn’t that one platform is necessarily better than another, but that they each hold value in different phases of the design process.  As you could see in the realxtend demo included in my first post, I was able to simply exclude parts of the design weren’t finalized yet, then use the in-world modeling tools to mock up several options to share with our clients.  Those elements can be edited in realtime, while the client is present – and we can cycle through lots of different material and color options.

When my model was first imported into Visibuild, it looked exactly like it does on this video – raw and unedited.  But the difference is that with Visibuild, I was personally able to log in and continue designing and testing new ideas.  Using prims to build really does feel like sketching to me, only better, and within the context of my Revit model that contained room sizes and plan layout that had already been approved.  I can also build the entourage myself, exactly the way I want it.  I can import 3D Warehouse models if I want, or from any range of stock 3D entourage resources available.  The key is that I can easily do it myself, and the learning curve is nowhere as steep as it would be if I wanted to do the same in X3D.

That doesn’t take anything away from X3D as an incredibly powerful technology.  In fact, it could be that it’s far too powerful for what I primarily use virtual worlds for.  As an open standard  ‘simulation level’ technology, its actually reaching down to enable multi-user and simple representation of geometry.  Its power lies in the ability to eventually attain things like simulation-level physics, and retention of  metadata.  This is surely the new frontier for architecture and virtual environments.  Once we achieve seamless interoperability of geometry, our next major priority will be seamless data interoperability so our ‘smart’ BIM models don’t have to become ‘dumb’ each time they enter or leave a virtual environment.

Until then, it seems there might be an opportunity for collaboration here.  I know nothing about the core technology at work behind all of this, but I do know that one of these world is currently best for pre-design and design development, and the other is better for final design visualization and post-design.  Could they ever meet half way?  Will X3D eventually include in-world modeling and collaboration tools?  Will realxtend models someday become simulation level technology and retain metadata?  If geometry and data become fluidly interoperable, will it even matter?

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More from the AIA about virtual worlds

Last week, I wrote about MellaniuM’s use of the Unreal engine in architectural visualization.  Yesterday, the American Insitute of Architect’s newsletter AIArchitect covers another story about virtual worlds, this time about HKS‘s decision to license the most recent release of the same engine – Unreal Engine 3, by Epic Games Inc.  Read the whole story here: http://info.aia.org/aiarchitect/thisweek09/0306/0306p_hks.cfm

It seems we have 2 vectors emerging.  On the one hand we have a kind of grassroots utilization of free virtual world platforms like Second Life and opensim that are leading with affordances for user-generated-content (UGC).  On the other end of the spectrum, we have high-end platforms like  HKS’s ARCHengine that are off the charts in expense and complexity.  What both vectors share in common is a ‘Do It Yourself’ (DIY) approach to design visualization.   Imagine it, architects spending 6 or7 digit figures to license a video game engine…

Speaking of DIY and UGC, I’ve been wondering lately…  Is Second Life to architecture what blogs are to publishing?



AIA (American Institute of Architects) Chapter Endorses Second Life Design Competition

From Dakota Dreamscape:

Welcome to the Dakota Skies Cultural Center ~~Chaplet Design Competition

Theme: A Spiritual Respite

Chaplet Exhibition:
Will open approximately  15 December 2008 and run thru 15 January 2009 on the grounds of the Dakota Skies Cultural Center

  • The number of entries chosen for the Chaplet Exhibition will depend on the total entries and the overall quality of submissions
  • Winning entries will go on permanent display at DSCC (Region: Dakota Ranch)

Prize Awards
Depending on the number of winning entries, Merit Awards will be given at $1000L and one Honor Award will be given at $5000L.

Deadline to Enter:
15 November 2008

  • Submit by dropping 1 (complete) Entry/object into inventory of Dakota Dreamscape

Prim Limit:
75 prims. Scripts must be pre-approved

Size limit:
No greater than    X: 6m   Y: 9m  Z: 5m

  • shape is optional provided it is within overall size limits
  • must be large enough for 1-2 normal size avatars to easily walk around inside

Submissions must:

  • be submitted in one unit which will rez complete when set on ground. No additional assembly
  • allow full permissions
  • must have at least 2 places to sit
  • must allow a place for a piece of art created by Chapl Paisley. She will place a piece of art or sculpture appropriate for each winning entry.

Embargo:
Submitters agree that no copy or version of submission ( from the design and building process ) will appear in any other venue or public place through the end of the exhibition.   Embargo Release: 20 January 2009

Jurors:

  • Dakota Dreamscape
  • Chapl Paisley
  • Jurors reserve the right to reject any entries not reflecting the theme or out-of-compliance with any of the criteria expressed or implied.

Endorsement:

This Design Competition is endorsed by AIA North Dakota (American Institute of Architects North Dakota Chapter)