Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Emerging 3D Technologies

Interactive Holographic-Stereograms may become an important mode of 3D visualisation during the 'teenies'. The technology to produce the 3D geometry from 2D information exists in all the tools discussed in this research, but there are practical problems in projecting holograms, because they “must be exposed with laser light in vibration free environments” (Friedhoff & Benzon). Stereoscopic virtual 3D models, which are viewed in “true” 3D, are another potential visualisation media. There is ongoing research into realising the usability and potential for technology, with Eon Reality Inc. at the forefront, currently developing new “exciting Stereoscopic Displays” (sic) (Anon 2006a). An innovation that may find its way onto the construction site is the artificial reality helmet, which merges 3D visualisations into the real visualised environment to create ‘augmented simulations’, a mixture of a digital model and reality.

A few years ago, The Times reported the development of a ‘bionic eye’, known as the ‘Argus II’ artificial retina, that had been developed to enable people who had gone blind through certain conditions, could regain partial sight by way of a retinal implant. Currently the resolution is poor (about 20 pixels) and only serves to differentiate light from dark, but there is no reason why this will not improve rapidly to resemble something at least equivalent to a CCTV picture. Beyond this, the concept of an “organic” microchip, which grows intelligently over time is also being talked about, but is far from realisation.

A particular area for immediate development in the AEC industry is the integration of 3D models into complex information platforms. Current research is geared to finding an efficient way to overcome interoperability issues between different existing component systems. “There is a need for a system that can provide not only the realistic 3D element, but also the capability for real time analysis providing real time feedback” (Franklin et al. 2006). Formative systems have been used as urban planning tools, and the synergy between VR and GIS applications has shown particular promise. These tools are especially suited for consultation regarding ‘emergency’ planning, urban regeneration, and even land remediation options, for any given site. The real time aspect of these tools facilitates the discussion of ‘what if’ scenarios (Moesman et al. 2004). The UCLA Urban Simulation Team’s map of LA was the first complete 3D city model that could be navigated freely. Subsequently, video games such as ‘The Getaway’, where an entire 3D street-map of central London was modelled, have emulated this (see below). Models such as these also have the potential to provide educational visits to a virtual locale (Sherman & Craig 2003). Urban modelling is now burgeoning, and with projects such as Google-Earth, is set to continue to increase dramatically in scale and complexity.

Urban Geometry Developed for ‘The Getaway’.

Games engines, such as those used in The Getaway, are likely to be increasingly used in urban planning, and other industrial applications, to enhance simulation performance. There is also, of course, enormous potential for VR technology in the entertainment industry. Developments such as the ‘total immersion videogame’, featured in TV’s ‘Red Dwarf’, have been predicted ever since the concept of real time VR was realised. There already exist semi-immersive, albeit fairly crude, sports video-games where VR props can be used to participate on-screen.

The application of 3D simulations to architectural and construction projects has been shown to aid design analysis, customer interaction and collaboration. Despite this, 3D technology remains on the periphery of applicable technologies for many within the AEC industry. Over the coming years, with the predicted technological advances, and the development of more practical, user-friendly systems, 3D simulations have the potential to become a prolific 21st century solution to a range of 20th century problems, in the AEC industry and beyond.

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