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.



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



$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.



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:  http://www.innovationmanagement.se/2011/05/26/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).



Encore! Machinima and Screenshots of the 48 hour Architectural Jazz Jam
January 15, 2011, 3:39 am
Filed under: second life | Tags: , ,

All it takes is a catalyst.   For the past 48 hours, this empty parcel came to life with a group of designers, architects and artists from around the world, who imprinted this build with their creativity – riffing and building on what others had created, and adding their own voice.

To see the machinima and screenshots, visit the post on our main site here: http://archvirtual.com/?p=3092



Barack Obama’s ‘Kansas to Cairo’ vision being realized in Second Life

Cross-posted from the ARCH Network main site!

During President Obama’s historic speech at Cairo University in Egypt last June, he describe a vision to, “invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo.”

If you’ve spent any time in a virtual world at all, you know that the ‘online network’ Obama described doesn’t need to be created, it already exists.  Students don’t merely use it to ‘communicate,’ as they would in a phone call or web conference, they are able to discover new cultures, make new friends, learn, and collaborate on a very deep level inside of an immersive environment where geography is completely irrelevant.

Visionaries like Dr. Amr Attia from Cairo’s Ain Shams University and California-based architect David Denton, have volunteered countless hours to organize this project, with modest support pledged from the United States Department of State to realize Obama’s ‘Kansas to Cairo’ vision – a project they first discussed at a panel hosted by the State Department last June (read more about this architectural panel held in Second Life on america.govor watch video coverage here).

Using Second Life, architecture students in Egypt and the U.S. are working together side by side, collaborating on design concepts inside the realtime, 3D, virtual world – even though they are physically located on opposite sides of the planet.  In the screenshot below, I am interviewing some of the students from Cairo, who proudly opened a variety of 3D models they had been working on, one after another, right before my eyes.  As we walked together through their design ideas, I realized that this moment was Saturday for me, Sunday for them, and we were 6,200 miles apart – yet sharing the same space, at the same time.  I felt sure that I was witnessing a phenomenon with world changing potential, and the students certainly agree.

One of the Egyptian architecture students, Mohammed Ahmed Alfiky, had this to say about it:

“This Second Life project is helping me make direct contact with other students of a different culture, a different architectural school and different way of thinking.  It will inspire me to make more effective designs, and critique my work from a different point of view.”

The U.S. Department of State has offered funding to bring several of the Egyptian students to the U.S. – a prospect that obviously has the students very excited.

During several visits to their space in Second Life, I have had the good fortune of talking with some incredibly bright and enthusiastic students from both Egypt and the U.S.   It is difficult to describe just how excited they are about this project – so I’ll borrow quotes directly from them so they can say it in their own words:

“Imagine all of this put together …. collaboration and group work on an international scale, dealing with a whole different culture , language and view of life.  Over and above getting to master the use of the virtual world as a tool to make your fantasies become a reality… I think this is what the Kansas to Cairo project offers us new ideas, new tools, and a better percetion of life and of future work in architecure and urban planning.” – Hebatullah Aly Ghali

“After working with 3DS Max for 5yrs , I found Second Life to be an easy new tool for architecture visualization, where I can represent myself, my work, my culture and my country.  In education, it helps anybody learn –  anytime, anywhere.  In general, Second Life is drawing a new future for exchanging, learning, collaborating, working and connecting people of all ages.”   – Sayed Abdul Mohsen

“I think Second Life is a great public participation tool as it is easy that anyone can use it .” -Amr Mohamed Abdelaal

“I think that Second Life is a platform for collaboration that breaks down cultural barriers and designing in it is a constructive path to narrow the division between eastern and western societies.” – Salma Muhammad.

Where other architectural educators await a safety net of case studies before they begin exploring virtual worlds in architectural education, here we can see pioneers at work in this space – demonstrating that there really is nothing to wait for.

As we witness a project that has achieved President Obama’s vision verbatim, it seems clear to me that this project deserves every bit of the same support and attention given to the multitude of other million-dollar programs described in similar speeches – yet the support has been relatively minimal thus far, amounting to travel stipends for a few students.  When I interviewed architect David Denton about the project, he expressed similar concerns.

“I’m enormously appreciative of the support that has been pledged, but I feel very strongly that this is a program that is of tremendous benefit, and that more resources should be made available to create an expanded ongoing program that would include many universities, in both the United States and in other countries around the world.”

I agree, and I can’t imagine why a project with so much potential wouldn’t be able to secure greater support.  David adds,

“I’m hoping to drum up support to get that funding increased.  Surely the Obama administration can find a way to be more supportive financially with the project that was announced in a major international speech in Cairo by the President.”

With no other visible projects on the table to carry Obama’s promise forward, I’m hopeful that they will be able to find the support they need to successfully complete this project, and send a message that this wasn’t an empty promise.  Even though this project has only just begun, it is easy to tell that it is already changing the lives and opening doors for many of the students involved with the project.  Virtual worlds offer a tremendous opportunity for cross-cultural, international collaboration between schools of architecture, and this program is definitely worth far greater support than it has achieved so far.

Obama concluded his famous Cairo speech with this thought that I think is particularly relevant here.

“I want to particularly say, to young people of every faith and every country: YOU of all people have the ability to re-imagine the world; to remake this world”.

Visit their virtual studio in Second Life sometime, and see a group of passionate students doing just that.

Cross-posted from the ARCH Network main site!