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

 

 

 

 

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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).



The Architecture of Healing: The Making of the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Space in Second Life

Read the full post here: http://www.archvirtual.com/?p=3230

If only I had a Linden for every time a client asked for a meeting space or auditorium in their new sim…  The grid is saturated with auditoriums, and these vast, elaborate and often prim-intensive spaces could almost always be put to better use.  So when the ‘cats’ (founders of Startled Cat) originally described their need for a conversation space, I quietly took notes, listening carefully as they articulated their needs – waiting for a pause in the conversation to push back a little.

But as they described the project in greater detail, I realized this one was different.  This space would soon be hosting some of the deepest and potentially life-changing conversations on the grid, and the architecture of this space would need to play an integral role in organizing, nurturing and encouraging a variety of emotionally powerful experiences.   The space would be used by Intersections International to host a Second Life version of their Veteran-Civilian Dialogues (VCD), which brings together veterans and civilians in facilitated conversations around the impact of war upon both groups.  The dialogues are designed to help bridge the gap to civilian life for returning soldiers, and have proven to be life altering for those who attend.


I had just attended a presentation by the Dalai Lama here in Madison, which was hosted by The Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.  Part of the discussion, and one of the recent interests of the Center itself as it completed a new research space, involved the role and science of architecture in shaping experience, so I was especially excited to explore ways in which some of these principles might also apply to virtual modalities.  This project would be a perfect place to start.

The initial design briefing called for a central gathering space, with smaller break-out spaces surrounding it, and the first round of design concepts proposed a wide variety of styles and configurations in mini-model format.  I often find it beneficial to propose even the most far-fetched concepts, which can sometimes lead to surprising or unexpected directions (some of the really ‘out there’ concepts aren’t shown here).  In this case, the team unanimously gravitated toward the circular scheme – feeling that it was probably the most apt metaphor, concentrating the energy toward a central space with translucent spires ascending above it.

During our initial design reviews with the client and end-users of the space, a fascinating and somewhat surprising bit of feedback was brought up.  It was suggested that many veterans prefer secure spaces, and the openness of this design might actually be quite unsettling and uncomfortable for them.

One example someone shared was the fact that many veterans prefer to sit with their backs to the wall so they can more easily survey their environment.  While it might be easy to dismiss the idea that such a strong physical reaction to architectural space might also apply in a virtual environment, it has long been known that people really do experience a strong connection, or sense of ’embodiment’ in their avatar to a certain extent.  One example often cited is the fact that if a virtual object is thrown at your avatar, many people will physically flinch in the real world – even though the virtual object could obviously do them no harm.  This mind-avatar connection is precisely what gives the virtual experience a significant advantage over other online meeting tools and social media, by providing a strong sense of presence and immersion within a space.  This is exactly why a  VCD in Second Life could become a truly meaningful experience to those who participate – the virtual world captures the sense of community and togetherness within a space that no other online medium could come close to replicating.

As developers working with virtual worlds, we’re constantly touting the importance of the design and architecture of virtual spaces, and how it can be used to shape and encourage meaningful experiences and achieving functional goals.  Yet, in this case, I had completely underestimated just how important the virtual space could really be, and with their feedback in mind, we re-examined the design concepts.

We revised and modified the design to make it feel more secure by enclosing some spaces, first by raising concrete walls around the outer circle but we soon realized that we had actually gone too far and had created an environment that was too confining and enclosed – to the extent that it could actually make the civilians participating in the dialogue uncomfortable.  We continued to fine-tune the design until we arrived at a concept that seemed to work well, then started massing it out at full scale.

As the space took shape, the clients and end-users visited and provided feedback along the way.  At times, we were able to transform the space on-the-fly to test various ideas as we brainstormed together.  It was an incredible experience to be able to literally prototype the client’s ideas at the very moment they were describing it – translating ideas into form in realtime.   This is one of the most potent advantages of the virtual design process that trumps traditional architectural design development, but I digress.

One of the VCD facilitators mentioned the importance of orchestrating procession, where participants would walk together on a path leading to the conversation space, and how important this can be for framing and setting the stage for the dialogue.   As he spoke, we opened one of the sides of the central space and prototyped a meandering pathway and walked along it together to try it out.  With some additional tweaks, we had the processional pathway complete.

As brainstorming continued, Jenaia Morane (one of the ‘cats’), wondered what it would be like if we elevated the entire conversation space so that it would look out over the water.  Within seconds we tested the idea, and immediately agreed that it worked really well and also enabled us to frame views of the surrounding landscape.  The processional path now ascended to the central space, giving it a sense of hierarchy and subtle grandeur.

Jenaia and the rest of the team at Startled Cat polished up, landscaped, textured and detailed the build in time for the first Veteran-Civilian Dialogue.  The event was captured incredibly well in the following machinima, including the procession to the conversation space, and the role of the virtual architecture in helping to choreograph and reinforce that experience.

“You are about to enter a sacred space, where the conversations will be focused on one of the most difficult and disturbing of human creations – war.”

The Second Life version of the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue was mentioned in this New York Times article, which also describes the VCD  experience.  I think this photo, featured later the same week in the New York Times ‘Week in Pictures’ captures the spirit of the VCD quite well.

Robert Chase, the Executive Director of Intersections International recently wrote about the Second Life experience:

“The implications for our Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project are profound. In Second Life, traumatic brain injury and horrific disfigurement caused by war can be eclipsed by exchanges between young, strong, attractive avatars in the metaverse. Skills of engagement and confidence in one’s core strengths can be kindled in Second Life and transferred back into “first life.” Introverts can become part of the conversation; extroverts can seek solace in the silence of observation.”

To learn more about the project, check out this Monday’s Metanomics broadcast, where host Dusan Writer welcomes Intersections International to Metanomics for a discussion of virtual dialogues, spirituality and human connection in the ‘age of the machine’.



20 minute study model in Second Life (video)
February 28, 2011, 1:30 pm
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As the pendulum swings back into Second Life for some exciting new consulting projects, I’m reminded just how fun it is to build with prims and how much potential virtual environments hold for architectural practice and collaboration.  You can quite literally *feel* the space as it takes shape, understanding and perceiving it  in a way that no other medium affords.  It’s somehow subtle and elegant in the way the virtual design experience retains the serendipity and chance of crude cardboard study modeling yet enables just enough of the precision of a 3D modeling application – but not so rigid and exact as to zap the design flow of its creative energy.

Read the rest of the story on our main site at http://www.archvirtual.com

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Virtual Architecture 101: Design Fundamentals, Processes and Strategies for Virtual Worlds

Virtual Architecture 101 (SLurl) is a free, interactive, self guided, educational installation in Second Life, designed to provide visitors with a sampling of architectural fundamentals, design processes, strategies and best practices for creating effective virtual world projects.  The installation also includes case studies and offers specific tips, tricks and techniques covering a wide range of virtual world development topics.  It is not intended to be an all-inclusive resource, but to simply provide a sample overview of design basics and strategies.   If you want brush up on some fundamentals, or if you are planning to develop a project in a virtual world, this installation is designed to serve as a starting point and a place to gather ideas and inspiration for making your project a success.

Read the full post on our main site here: http://archvirtual.com/?p=3201

As a design consultant working in virtual worlds for several years, there are quite a few core design habits, techniques and strategies that I keep coming back to.  Since Second Life and OpenSim are primarily user-generated worlds, and not every project has a budget for custom development services, I thought it might be useful to share some of what I’ve learned in a virtual installation in hopes that it might be useful to anyone starting their own projects or building content in a virtual world.  In the weeks ahead, I hope to add several new stations and replace a large portion of the text with more experience-based 3D props, but in the meantime I will post the text portion of the installation as a downloadable pdf to accompany the exhibit in the weeks ahead.
The installation can be accessed by visiting Architecture Island in Second Life here: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Architecture%20Island/97/132/1173
If you have any questions, suggestions, or need assistance developing your own  please send them to info@archvirtual.com