The ARCH


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 www.archtechengine.com Arch Tech Engine is built on the Unity3D, and was developed in partnership between Arch Virtual and Tipodean Technologies.

Read the full post HERE



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

This site has moved to archvirtual.com Find this article here: http://archvirtual.com/?p=3275

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

www.archvirtual.com



$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!



Tips for Establishing a Presence in Second Life
November 13, 2008, 2:48 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

As I roam the virtual frontier, I’m occasionally asked for advice about establishing a presence in Second Life, and I share the same bits of advice time and again. I thought I would share a summary of these points here for any readers considering the same, and invite comments, corrections or additions to the list from those with more experience.

Here are some general tips to get you started:

  • [updated addition, per colleague inquiries] – Start with Second Life. It is, by far, the most advanced virtual world platform that offers in-world building tools for user generated content. In my opinion, this feature is where the true game changing new frontier of virtual worlds lies, and what makes Second Life so unique among competitors – which don’t even come close. Plus, Second Life is still where the strongest community lives, and that means a lot. I realize many of us are patiently awaiting a stable version of OpenSim – and many are already working there. But I think we all recognize that it has a long way to go before it can become as stable as Second Life.  I think that will be the case for at least another year or two. By then, I would like to believe Second Life will be that much farther ahead. In sum, get a good start in Second Life before considering any alternatives.
  • Start small, with a few others in your organization who are also interested in exploring Second Life. Don’t waste your energy trying to convince people who aren’t interested! I consistently witness that some people ‘get it’ and some people not only don’t get it, but are seemingly opposed to it. There doesn’t seem to be much of a middle ground between these two polar extremes, and its best to focus on working (at first) with those who appreciate it at first glance or after a brief introduction. Demonstrate the value to the others by proving success with a small group before trying to expand support.
  • You don’t have to spend a lot of money! Enjoy the fact that its free! Use the sandboxes (we just opened a new one, HERE!) to learn the ropes, and get to know others
  • Read the blogs! There is a great list HERE.
  • Don’t use Second Life as a business collaboration tool for mission critical work! Focus on what Second Life is already good at; not as a replacement for other tools, but a means of augmenting those tools. If you reach a point where you really want to push the Second Life interface to a new level for business collaboration, consider Linden Lab’s and Rivers Run Red’s new Immersive Workspaces solution
  • Get to know the Second Life community – join groups, attend meetings, read blogs. Use the ‘search’ function to look for keywords for topics you’re interested in. Because everyone accessing Second Life is able to be in immediate contact with each other, you can meet some of the highest caliber individuals you’ll ever meet. The opportunities for networking and cross-disciplinary innovation increase exponentially if you reach outside the bounds of your own immediate plot of land!
  • Participate in the community, if you have time. Help organize meetings, set up your own group if you don’t find the one you’re looking for
  • Start an internal skunk-works group for anyone interested at your organizaton. Again, approach it as an experimental application, not as a replacement for your existing communication tools, but as a means of augmenting those tools
  • Use any/all of the great collaboration tools already available, at very low cost – use http://www.slexchange.com or http://www.onrez.com
  • Rent a small plot of land for a more permanent location, as needed – populate it with content you and you colleagues build, or prefab buildings you can purchase at the links listed above
  • Gradually prove the value of Second Life to your colleagues over time – share screenshots, machinima and appropriate links to resource materials to prove the value of Second Life to your colleagues over time. Record machinima and transcripts of your meetings, and post them to an internal location for them to review. It helps to show those who aren’t involved what they can expect to experience if they decide to join in the action. Machinima and screenshots help perforate the perceived boundary between real and virtual space
  • Use Second Life to engage long distance or remote workers. This is a great way to provide the perception of everyone working together in the same ‘place’. I’ve written more about that here, here and here.
  • When you do get a budget, you don’t necessarily need to spend it by hiring a ‘solution provider’ to build a bunch of stuff. Instead, try establishing some guidelines and let others in your organization generate most of the content, or obtain content created by the community. Just about everything you can imagine is already available at a very modest expense.
  • Instead of hiring a content creator, invest in the advice of a consultant who can provide ongoing and regular guidance to your team, be available to answer questions, teach newbies, give building classes, etc.
  • If you have specific buildings that need to be custom built by a content creator, use Second Life’s directory of ‘Solution Providers‘ to find the right team for your projects. The vast majority of my own clients found my listing within this directory, where you can find the right group for your project.
  • Don’t try to control the project too much! I really don’t think unique dress codes or strict rules governing behavior in SL is necessary on a formal level. It seems logical that if you’re representing a professional organization, your avatar should have an outward facing profile that reflects the same professional standards as that organization.

I’ve also observed three common mistakes or misconceptions that are worth mentioning.

  • First, is what I’ve called ‘the fear of being a newbie‘ – and being afraid to try anything or make mistakes. I already wrote about that on Clear Ink’s blog.
  • On the other end of the spectrum are those who want to do way too much, too soon. It is incredibly important to have realistic expectations, and to understand what can, and cannot be done in Second Life.
  • Finally, I’ve noticed lots of potential clients who are ready to hire a content creator, and have a budget – but struggle to even operate their avatar. I’ve made a point of avoiding projects altogether under these circumstances, and instead sharing some resources and links that will help them get up to speed before investing in a build. So often, people are excited and motivated by an article they read somewhere, and see Second Life exclusively as a marketing tool – or an opportunity for some PR. Second Life can certainly be great for both marketing and PR, but it has to be done properly, and will never succeed as an exclusive goal. These should only be bi-products of a more comprehensive multi-faceted strategy.

That’s all I can think of. What did I miss? What did I get wrong?



Tutorial: How to Replicate a Real Life Building in Second Life [updated]

For more information, visit the ARCH Network.

One of the most frequently requested services I receive as a freelance builder and consultant in Second Life is to replicate real-life buildings. While I’ve written a lot (here, and here) about the potential for a new (non-replica) language of purely virtual architecture, based on the inherent characteristics of the virtual environment, I strongly believe there is a potent value in the replication of physical architecture as a point of reference, a springboard for further development, or simply a kind of iconic 3D logo for organizations entering virtual worlds.

During a replication project I recently completed, I documented my process step by step, in order to create a tutorial. I had planned to integrate this with screenshots, a wiki and, of course, machinima – Torley Linden style, but I haven’t been able to find the time to do it right. In the meantime, I thought this text-only version might have value to anyone attempting this process. Please keep in mind that there are many, many, many ways to do this. What I’m describing here is simply the process I’ve gotten used to. I’m sure there are better, more efficient ways of doing this, so I plan on adding what I’ve started to the SLfoundations.org wiki Chip Poutine set up last year as soon as they are back online (apparently they’re moving their datacenters atm), so you’ll be able to post your ideas, experiences and improvements to this process. Perhaps someone else will take up the screenshots/machinima elements to make this tutorial more effective?

I will also include a spoonful of shameless self-promotion… If you would rather hire someone else to replicate a building for you, or need any virtual design/build services (and you have a reasonable budget for professional service), please don’t hesitate to ask for help!

Step 1: Importing the Plans

You’ll want to start with, whenever possible, a simple plan graphic with enough detail to build from, without being too cluttered with construction information. If you have the CAD files and know how to use AutoCAD or some similar software, you can turn off most of the dimensional and label layers so you’re left with only the information you need. Everyone has a different method, but I typically use the Export as EPS (make sure the whole drawing is zoom-extents on your screen when you export. Then open the EPS file in Photoshop at about 500 dpi or more. Duplicate the background layer, then add a ‘Stroke’ modifier to the new layer. Make it 1 pixel wide and black. Make a new blank layer, fill it solid with a white paint bucket and merge the stroke layer down so the stroke is rasterized. You should then have a fairly workable plan graphic. You can experiment with import dpi – if its a huge plan, you might need it to be bigger than 500 for the right amount of detail to show up. You also might need more than 1 pixel wide stroke for the lines to show up properly.

This may sound strange, but sometimes you can even use the Fire Escape Route Plan diagrams found in many public building corridors. They’re often very accurate, and simplified to include only the elements you really need to recreate the building.

Open the file in Photoshop (all descriptive terms will assume Photoshop CS3 since it’s all i know! Feel free to augment this tutorial for other applications!)

Make the ‘canvas size’ ( Edit > Canvas Size ) of the image square. Be sure the ‘Relative’ option is un-checked so it doesn’t stretch the image. For example, if it’s currently 10 x 25, change the canvas size to 25×25. This will add blank space on the sides, and retain the proportions of the image.

Optional step: Use a ‘magic wand’ tool to select the outer blank space of the plan. Then, invert your selection (Select > Inverse ) so only the plan is selected. Then, press ‘Q’ or Enter Quick Mask mode. Save the file as Targa (tga) at 32 bits/pixel with Compress unchecked.

In Second Life, import the plan. (File > Upload Image). It will cost you a wopping 10 Lindens.

Rez a Huge Prim. Depending on the size of the building, I recommend either a 100x100x.01 or a 20x20x.01 (If you don’t have Huge Prims aka Megaprims, you can buy them at SLExchange or OnRez or any number of in-world stores).

In your edit window (Tools > Select Tool > Edit) , check ‘Select Texture’. Click the top face of your Huge Prim. Back in the edit window, click the little square image just above the word ‘Texture’ and browse to find the image you uploaded.

Rez a regular cube prim. If you want to build your replica at 1.5 times real life scale (highly recommended for proper avatar navigation, etc… just trust me on this, do NOT build it exactly to scale or your build will be just about useless… if anything, you’ll want to build it bigger – some even recommend 2x real life scale, but I usually go with 1.5x)

Change that cube prim’s dimensions to 1.5×1.5 (or 2×2 if you want to replicate it at 2x RL scale). Find an exterior or entry door on your plan. Move the 1.5×1.5 prim near that door.

Select that plan texture on the huge prim again and use change the ‘Repeats per Face’ numbers until the door width matches your 1.5×1.5 prim. Most entry doors in real life are about 1 meter wide – give or take a little. So, by making the door in that texture the same size as your 1.5×1.5 meter prim, the rest of your building will end up at about 1.5x real life scale.

If you’re lucky enough to have elevation drawings or section drawings, import those the same way and place them in their proper locations relative to the plan. The same goes for second and third floors, etc.

To import second and third floors, it often helps to go back to your first floor graphic and add the new plans as additional layers to that drawing. Delete the outer blank spaces of the new plans, and align them with the first floor. This way, you can copy your original Huge Prim straight up (z-axis only), add the new texture and it will be already set with the exact same proportions, in the exact X,Y coordinates, and Repeats per Face settings, etc.

If you don’t have elevation drawings, you can take an exterior photograph and use a polygon lasso to copy a typical ‘bay’ of the exterior. Then paste it into a new file and edit>transform>distort it until it is orthogonal (horizontally and vertically straight). Then, paste and copy that bay to make several identical bays to create the whole elevation. Try to match the proportions of this flat elevation with what it looks like on the photograph. When you’re done, edit the Canvas Size so the image is square. Import the image into SL. Map it to Huge Prim – most likely a 20x20x.01 will be most useful, but for very small builds, a regular 10×10 might be big enough.

Line up the elevation image with the floor plan. Again, use the ‘Repeats per Face’ fields to get it to match the scale. However, try not to distort it too much – you want it to look as close as possible to the proportions of the actual building.

At this point, you should be in good shape to start building. The first thing I do is look for elements of the building that are repetitive. For example, most buildings will be built on a ‘bay’ module. Typically I like to build one of these bays, from the ground to the top floor – including all windows and materials.

To make prim-efficient windows, you might consider using the .tga or Targa file format – using the masking/alpha layers in Photoshop in order to create a single texture including the frame, mullions, and some glass reflectivity. This might be excessive, but sometimes I try to find an image of what the scenery looks like opposite the building I’m replicating. I then put that image over the window texture and fade it back to reduced opacity. Then, I use a ‘feathered’ selection oval to grab just a tiny bit of that background image in my targa file. If you select too much, or too close to the window frame, you can always do a non-feathered selection around the frame just to clean it up and get it out of the alpha selection. With some trial and error, you should be able to create a window that looks clear, but has a slight (and accurate) reflection.

Back to the repetitive bay element… I then ‘link’ this bay when its finished (ctrl-L), making sure to select an outer edge as the parent prim (the one that glows yellow once the link is established – last prim selected). Then, I check the ‘Copy Selection’ box, and click the outer face of the bay to create the next bay (if none of the edges work well for Copy Selection, you can always make an invisible flat prim and use that as the copy selection face, then delete it after – but you’ll have to be careful, because this can sometimes leave a little sliver between the two).

At this point, replication of real life buildings becomes quite improvizational. You’ll need to make decisions that are specific to your project as to how it would be best replicated. Sometimes there will be parts of the building that won’t necessarily have value in the replication that you can decide to leave off or simplify. I also don’t recommend building every single interior wall as it is in real-life, unless the building is to be used for orientation or training. It is generally (although not always) unreasonable to expect a virtual replica of a building will function the same way the real-life building does.

After completing the exterior, and interior, the finishing touches of landscaping and entourage can really make a huge difference. Adding such things as sidewalks, streets, park benches, streetlamps, etc. add a nice finishing touch.

There is a lot more to it, but I hope this tutorial will help you get started!

Please feel free to contact me anytime at 608-219-9318, or jbrouchoud@gmail.com

Thanks!

Jon Brouchoud / Keystone Bouchard

[update:  you might also consider importing your full-scale architecture models into realxtend, as demonstrated here: https://archsl.wordpress.com/2009/03/02/the-future-is-here-full-scale-architectural-model-from-revit-imported-into-a-virtual-world/ ]



Can Virtual Collaboration Win the Open Architecture Challenge? Wikitecture 3.0 is ON it!

There’s still plenty of time to join the team! You don’t need any architectural experience, just a willingness to collaborate, learn and help people in the world who need it most.

You can find a transcript of our first Wikitecture 3.0 project discussion HERE.

During Tuesday’s 9am meeting (the time of which was determined by group vote), the community decided to enter a brief R&D phase, and will be spending the next week gathering information about each of the 3 challenges to determine which we will pursue. We are also trying to find potential collaborators in SL or in RL with expertise, or may have lived or currently live near any of these real-life regions to join the team. Perhaps there are nearby universities in these regions we could collaborate with? Are there any unique features of these challenges that lend themselves more or less to a Wikitecture or Second Life build? Scale? Materials? Site?
We’re seeking answers to these questions, and will paste our findings in the new Wikitecture Wiki HERE. If you have any ideas or thoughts on this project, feel free to post them on the wiki!

KK Jewell of arcspace has offered to allow the experiment to be built on the new arcspace island! This is a very generous offer, and we are very grateful! Thanks KK!

Stay tuned for info, date and time for our next gathering, and IM Keystone Bouchard or Theory Shaw in Second Life if you have any questions, or wish to join the team!



Welcome to Wikitecture 3.0! By the Community, for the Community

Read the full release here.

Would you like to participate in the AMD Open Architecture Challenge on a global team of qualified and talented architects, designers and engineers? Studio Wikitecture invites you to just that.

In keeping with the spirit of the Open Architecture Network’s goal of ‘improving the living standards through collaborative design,’ we will be employing the next generation Wikitecture process in order to more fully enable true 3D collaboration by community members from around the world. In much the same way Wikipedia enables multiple contributors to collaborate on content creation, the Wikitecture process gives community members an opportunity to share ideas, edit the contributions of others, and to vote on the success or failure of proposed modifications.

Through a series of ongoing experiments during the past several months, the Wikitecture process has been evolving based on community participation and feedback. With this input, Theory Shaw has developed the ‘Wikitecture Tree’ concept, and we’ve hired the clever folks at i3Dnow to build it for us, which will include both inworld and web-based functionality. We hope to roll out this new platform just in time to get started on a collaborative Wikitecture competition entry for the AMD Open Architecture challenge.

The Wikitecture process currently uses the free to use, free to access virtual reality platform of Second Life to enable multiple contributors to share ideas and collaborate on design concepts.

If you are interested in participating, you’ll need to do the following:

1.) Download and install the Second Life client at SecondLife.com

2.) Complete the orientation course to help familiarize yourself with navigation, etc.

3.) Click on the ‘Search’ button on the bottom of your screen. With the ‘All’ tab highlighted, search for either ‘Keystone Bouchard’ or ”Theory Shaw’ – the organizers of the Wikitecture project. Click on their name, and you’ll see an ‘Instant Message’ button in their profile. Send either of us a message, and we will get back to you shortly with more details on how you can join the community.

4.) By clicking on the ‘Map’ button and searching for Architecture Island, you will be able to teleport directly into the site location, and migth even run into other members of the in-world community who can help with any questions you may have.

Our official launch meeting will be September 25th – the event time will be determined by community consensus. Please send your vote to Keystone Bouchard in-world, or to jbrouchoud@gmail.com

We hope to see you there!

To join our project page on OAN, visit HERE.

To learn more about the evolution of the Wikitecture concept, visit Studio Wikitecture

To learn more about the architecture and design community in Second Life, visit The Arch blog

To see a video of Cameron Sinclair’s event in Second Life, featuring the Open Architecture Network’s Porchdog design, visit This YouTube site

To see the construction of the Porchdog in Second Life, visit: This YouTube site