CoolTechStuff: Artificial Reality

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LarryMortimer, AIA

What if you could go to an empty site and have your new design superimposed as a 3D hologram so you, your client, the builder or anyone else could walk around and through it? Well the tools to allow you to do that will soon be available.

A recent article in Wired magazine identified three types of artificial reality: Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). In VR the user is transported to an entirely new location and the real surroundings are completely blocked out. In AR a layer of digital content is superimposed over the real world but the user still sees the real world. For our purposes MR is essentially the same as AR.t

Science Fiction fans will know that the concepts of VR and AR have been around for decades. Neal Stephenson’s classic (1992) sci-fi novel Snow Crash portrays a world where AR is the norm. We are now coming to an age where computers are small and powerful enough to make artificial reality possible and we have the peripherals and software to drive them.t2
I recently visited the Seattle Art Museum and was introduced to my first real experience with AR. The museum employed a program called Layar to provide information about images in an exhibit. Once installed on your smart phone, Layar scans your view and provides any AR information that might be available such as text, images, audio, or videos. This means that you are constantly looking at your smart phone, so if you had a wearable device like Google Glass, it would become much more usable.t3

While Google Glass was only sold as a prototype (2013-2015), Google is still working on the product. Currently there are at least seven VR headsets and nine AR headsets available now or sometime soon. The most exciting of the AR offerings is Microsoft’s Holo Lens, which not only projects a 3D holographic image but also recognizes hand gestures to manipulate that image.

This is just the beginning of the development of tools we will use for visualization, design manipulation, communication, marketing and more.

For more information see:t4

If you only look at one of these sites, look at the Trimble video in this one (if architecture were only this easy):



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