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Executive Summary, architecture

A Virtual World allows for the creation of a photo realistic replica of future design elements embedded in the existing environment they are planned or proposed for. The (potential) customer can experience a design or number of design options, embedded between neighbouring buildings. This provides an innovative, additional platform for architects and designers to present their vision. While 3 Dimensional Virtual Worlds are an established technology, recent innovations like Virtual Reality headsets expand the potential of this platform.

Since the visual impact is incredibly important every design proposal comes with artist impressions, sketches and/or rendered models. A Virtual World where these buildings are placed in their actual environment as illustrated below offers an additional venue to present the design (options) to potential clients. Click on the image to swap between a view of the (then) current GCU campus and a proposed expansion (that never was realised).

Glasgow Caledonian University Campus

An picture speaks a thousand words so click to cycle through the images below to get an idea of how intricate and detailed this environment can be. It includes a range for the times of day, which can be set so you can see how a design looks at sunset, at midnight, etc. These factors and others like cloud density allow the proposed design and it's surroundings to be presented in various environmental situations. The viewer can move around in this environment and control the angle and position.

Because the environment is a full fledged 3 Dimensional one the design can be shown from all angles and vantage points. Neighbours or city councils and other decision makers can immediately see how a design would impact their view or sky-line.

These visuals can be shown on contemporary laptops and desktops or using a data projector but Virtual Reality viewers like Oculus Rift etc will in the future allow for a truly immersive experience, using the very same platform.

Virtual Reality Design

A proposed design can be situated in this environment but, equally important, design alternatives can be presented and even be interactive. Click to cycle through some images that show the effect of material choices on a very basic design. The last image shows the range of options available in this example and that can (but don't need to be) provided to the potential client to choose from. In the same way physical design options (roof, balcony, number of floors etc etc, the entire range) can be implemented, presented and made available as interactive choices. Changes or options don't need additional renders or artist impressions but are visible at the click of a button. Obviously these images in themselves provide an excellent (addition to) artist impressions or model renders.

Virtual Reality Design

The visualisation of proposed designs is not limited to the exterior. Interiors can be created as well and this includes therefore the view. As shown below the interior can be highly detailed. Exterior light will cast shadows and interior lights are operated by scripted time of day events. This allows for an accurate presentation of the design during various times of the day, from the outside as well as the inside and from existing buildings as the proposed design. Again, an important visual to present a vision to neighbours and decision makers. Click to cycle through the images.

Virtual Reality Interior Design

Virtual Worlds & - Reality for Architecture, Elevator Pitch.

In short: The visual impact and thus presentation of proposed designs is a massively important factor in the decision about which bid will be successful. Virtual Worlds and in particular Virtual Reality can provide an additional platform for architects to inform and impress their potential clients and a range of parties involved in the decision making process. With trained representatives navigating through the environment on behalf of the potential client, who is either watching a display from a data projector or equipped with a headset. Much like a roller coaster ride is experienced without active interaction by the user. This technology, providing the images on this site, is existing and proven over a number of years. Virtual Worlds are reaching the 'Plateau of Productivity'.

The technology for Virtual Reality on the other hand is new and has only just reached consumer domain. Everybody should be wary of Gartner's Hype cycle and the 'Peak of Inflated Expectations'. But the technology most likely won't fade away . It's adaptation and implementation will rise. The software used for these examples caters for both versions.

Virtual Worlds, like this demo, can be connected with each other in a grid. This means designs in and for various geographical locations can be connected and together form a corporate portfolio. This portfolio can be publicly accessible or private or a combination of these two into a 'walled garden'. This also means that for instance presented designs could be public but designs that are still work in progress are private. These can however still be shared within the company, if required based on access control, so that certain employees can collaborate on them, no matter where in the physical world they reside.

Finally, considering the fact this would be an additional means to present a design, the risks of early adaptation are minimal while it's impact may be significant. All software is Free and Open Source. The only thing you pay for is knowledge. Which makes this surprisingly light on the budget.

Here's a animated GIF, crunched in resolution, frame rate & optimised of an extremely short walk. Still 28Mb so please be patient and give it time for all frames to load. This is the type of thing you'd see from a data projector. Don't click it, the image cycle script only works on .jpg

Animated GIF

Portfolio: Mission Hall

Daniel Farren, DAKK Contracts Ltd: "Ferdinand delivered a magnificent and incredibly flexible way to present my ideas to the City Council which has substantially contributed to my bid being successful."

My most recent project was a visualisation of a proposal to renovate the ruined Mission Hall in Glasgow, a listed building for which many requirements need to be met. Amongst those the need for the building exterior to be restored in it's original state. The proposal was successful and renovation has commenced. For reference I've included a few pictures on which the visualisation was based. This building replica didn't need an environment.
Reference on request. Click on the image to cycle

Mission Hall Visualisation

Click on the image to cycle
Mission Hall Visualisation

Technical Summary

  1. All software used for this environment, both server and viewer, is free and open source. Even the software used for the content creation is free and open source. This means there are no license fees associated with these environments or it's content. What you pay for is knowledge. Once created this environment can be copied and used by as many people as is desired.
  2. The server (software that can be compared to Apache) can run in different ways, from different sources:
    1. It can run from a USB stick. The viewer can run from that same USB stick. This means you've got a virtual world server in your pocket. The definition of Portable Virtual World.
    2. It can run in stand alone mode from the hard drive of an off-the-shelf laptop or desktop. There are no high-end hardware requirements but a decent graphics card does improve the visual performance.
    3. It can run as a server within a LAN (corporate use) or publicly accessible - about which more later. Public spaces are not yet the scope.
    4. Installation and configuration requires technical knowledge, operation does not, depending on the viewer, and can easily be taught within a day.
  3. The software is in relatively early stages of development and while it has been improving over time the core functionality has been reliable for over 5 years. Even if development would stop tomorrow the existing distribution will allow for continued use without problems.

Gartner Hype Cycle

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