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

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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).



Construction of Hurricane Katrina relief project ‘The Porchdog,’ prototyped in Second Life, now complete

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This site has moved to www.archvirtual.com

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Here are several before and after images of the ‘Porchdog’ residence, prototyped in Second Life by the Architecture in Virtual Worlds community.  We built a virtual replica of this original design by Marlon Blackwell Architects, which was published to Open Architecture Network under Creative Commons licensing for an event with Architecture for Humanity founder Cameron Sinclair’s appearance in Second Life.

Second Life prototype and real world construction

During the presentation, Cameron Sinclair described the project:

“The idea is, can we work collaboratively online, in places like Second Life, to respond to issues like Hurricane Katrina.”

He also described some background behind the project:

“…we starting in 1999 basically using email and a web page – and as we’ve progressed and as technology has progress, we’ve embraced new technologies.”

Hurrican Katrina relief - construction

As the fidelity of virtual worlds continues to improve, online virtual environments like Second Life are now capable of producing much higher quality prototypes than ever before.  With realtime shadows, and the ability to import existing 3D architectural models just around the corner, we can expect that quality to improve dramatically in the months and years ahead.

posted on Open Architecture Network

Below is a machinima clip I made of the virtual replication process:

Here’s a machinima by Kiwini Oe, showing a discussion between Cameron Sinclair of Architecture for Humanity and John Gage of Sun Microsystems:

For more information about this project, visit the project’s page on the Open Architecture Network here: http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/projects/232?ob_bw=0

NAME: The Biloxi Model Home Program
PROJECT LEAD: Architecture for Humanity
LOCATION: Biloxi, Mississippi, United States
START DATE: December 02, 2005
CURRENT PHASE: In construction
COST: $138000 USD (Estimated)
SIZE: 1500 sq. ft
BUILDING TYPE: Residential – Single Family

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com



Construction of aLoft’s flagship hotels, first prototyped in Second Life, now complete

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com

prototype now built in the real world

The headline-grabbing aLoft Hotel project, first prototyped in Second Life before construction started, can now be visited in the real world (and has been open for quite some time now).  Starwood Hotels was the first to take their hotel’s architectural concept into the virtual world via Electric Sheep, and even used the virtual prototype to invite feedback they eventually used to modify the design construction started in real life.

Business Week (among others) covered the project, and had this to say about it,

For Starwood, opening aloft inSecond Life is a way to test-market the hotel’s design and rapidly prototype the evolving concept. For instance, staffers will observe how people move through the space, what areas and types of furniture they gravitate towards, and what they ignore…. The project is also an effort to tap consumers for ideas. “

Second Life prototype of real world architecture

“This is the first time the company has created a complete mock hotel—digital or physical—to serve as “a laboratory,” says Starwood Vice-President Brian McGuinness, adding that they’re already building a second physical prototype for an extended-stay hotel under the Westin label in the same White Plains warehouse.

“This is unusual for the industry. Hotel prototypes usually don’t amount to more than a single-room model that might be shown at a trade show. But the company says that both prototypes made financial sense.”

As you can see, it can be difficult to determine which shots were taken of the real world building, and which were from Second Life.  Just imagine the possibilities for architectural prototyping that will become possible with mesh imports in Second Life, or importing models into gaming platforms like Unity.

This time-lapse machinima shows the creation of the project in Second Life:

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com



Real life construction completed on innovative homes prototyped in Second Life

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com

The Alley Flat Initiative - prototype real life design in Second Life virtual world

If you have any interest or curiosity whatsoever about using Second Life or any other online, 3D, collaborative virtual environment for architectural prototyping or education, this is a must read success story.

Construction has completed on designs first prototyped in Second Life by students at the University of Austin School of Architecture.  The prototypes were the result of a collaboration between Professor Sergio Palleroni’s students and the students of Dr. Leslie Jarmon’s “Communicating Across the Disciplines” graduate course.   Sadly, Dr. Jarmon, who was responsible for orchestrating the virtual presence for the entire University of Texas system, passed away last year.

Second Life prototype of real world design

Professor Palleroni first described his vision for using Second Life in architectural education during a talk with Autodesk VP Phil Bernstein in an event held in Second Life in late 2007. He had this to say to his students,

“I want ideas (from my students) on how we’re going to use this new Second Life to actually expand our exchange in our community.  Becuase, I thought, ‘my God, what a tool – I was so ignorant.’   I was thinking, if I can get people connected,  there might be opportunities for these clients that we’re serving, to actually participate in forums here, where I could get some world class people here, and in Second Life we would all be inhabiting the same realm, I think its fantastic.”

Construction completed on homes prototyped in virtual reality

2 years later, the project became a virtual reality in Second Life, with several Alley Flats homes prototyped.  Upon launching the project, and using it to engage community members, students were equally enthusiastic,

“There’s something extremely ‘right’ about having Alley Flats in Second Life, since Alley Flats is about building community through great design, and the clever use of technology, and that’s what Second Life is all about.  I think we’ve achieved something special, and I really hope that it will live long beyond today, and be useful for many communities all around the world.”

“This will bring people together from from different disciplines, and one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned from this project was how relevant Second Life is in both commercial and non-profit markets, and I think its going to be the next huge thing in the industry.”

A Phd student in molecular biology added this,

“Working with this class was a wonderful experience, very different from working in a lab.  It was enjoyable to work across disciplines, and working on this project has provided many opportunities to engage and adapt my communication skills, and because of this, I have gained new perspectives on diversity and teamwork.”

During the launch, Sergio added some insightful remarks,

“I never thought that I would be building in a virtual world, and though I was skeptical, I’m now beginning to become a believer.  I think that at the heart of this, and what unites the real and the virtual world, is the idea that we all share aspirations and ideals that we cannot make possible within any other construct, and so the fact that we are able to, here in Second Life, see how  a city can begin go change, and we can actually show people.. and its fantastic, because we can begin to let people understand what the future might look like.  So I would almost propose that Second Life is not some unreal realm, but in some ways is the future, or a projection of where we’re heading, and a way to dream about the future.”

Dr. Jarmon said,

“Since we started working on this project, so many people have said ‘can we get one, can you build this for us?

Someone asked the students what it was like working in a virtual world.  Here’s what they had to say about it:

“We didn’t know what the possibilities of Second Life were, but now we’re standing here, its just amazing – its not something anyone in the group could have imagined, so I think working in a virtual world like this shows us that the possibilities are endless.”

“I thought Second Life, at first, was going to be difficult, but I learned to use it as an adjunct to our ‘normal’ communication.  You can’t just show up in a virtual world and expect to get work done.  You need to have an agenda and things to do, just like in the real world.”

“I’m a much better salsa dancer in Second Life than I am in the real world – which counts for something. (laughter)”

Sergio added to the student’s comments by saying,

“I can imagine in Second Life we’re going to be able to push this all much more, and actually model, what kind of city can we get form this.  I actually see this as a tremendous opportunity, and the kind of space that we all share – so I think we’re going to start using (Second Life) right away.”

Dr. Jarmon concluded with a wish for an ongoing collaboration,

“You know, you teach a class, and your grad students want to keep working after the semester is over – c’mon, that just doesn’t happen very often, so we hope this will continue, Sergio, because this is just a marvelous team.”

Read the whole story, and more about architecture in virtual worlds at The ARCH Network http://www.archvirtual.com