SAN FRANCISCO–Architects of the future might one day take home buyers into a demo room with a 150-degree curved screen, hand them a pair of 3D glasses, then take them on a walk through their new home–virtually. The architect might set up a three-dimensional, hologram image of the home or even print out a physical model of the neighborhood.
Those were some of the scenarios presented at the future of design exhibits on display at Wired magazine’s NextFest here last weekend.
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Barco Simulation and Digital Artforms collaborated to showcase the BR Center for virtual reality, which consists of a 150-degree rigid, cylindrical projection screen that immerses viewers in a three-dimensional, computer-generated world. A Digital Artforms software engineer showed viewers how architects or engineers could use the screen along with the company’s software to immerse themselves inside a building they were designing.
The software, InDex, enables industrial designers, architects, filmmakers and game designers to reach into a scene and directly manipulate digital objects, tools and space itself. The software program will be sold as a plug-in to existing architectural and engineering software applications, according to Kenneth Hunter, director of sales and marketing for Barco.
“This type of solution allows you to interact with an image in a way PCs alone can’t,” he said.
Architects or building companies could use the technology to perform walk-throughs of buildings and home designs, he said. The application already is being used in automotive design and oil and gas exploration.
The screen technology allows people to become a part of the problem they are trying to solve, Hunter explained.
The software application works with or without the curved screen and 3D glasses and will be for sale this summer for $12,000.
Also on display was a three-dimensional printer that prints physical models of objects using a plaster-based powder. The printer from Z Corp. was being used in conjunction with the Barco and Digital Artforms technologies to show how a prototype of a new design could be transformed from a screen image to a physical model in less than an hour.
The printer takes about an hour per vertical inch to print, said Greg McAuliffe from Z Corp. It costs about $10 per cubic inch to print an object.
“It uses HP inkjet printer technology,” McAuliffe said. “And prints in either black and white or color.”
Gaming designers can use the printer to create three-dimensional characters they can use to put themselves inside a game to see what works with the design. Architectural firms also can use it to print models of buildings.
A futuristic technology that would wrap homes in a plastic-like blanket debuted at NextFest. SmartWrap is a high-tech film that wraps around buildings to increase energy efficiency. The wrap can be used to display information in lieu of, say, a neon sign on the side of a building.
Philadelphia-based architects Kieran Timberlake Associates invented the wrap, which is made of a thin polymer-based compound. The final product is a flexible building material that can change color and appearance, control interior climates and carry electricity. The owners can control the functions by computer either on-site or remotely.
Zebra Imaging also presented a 3D imaging technology that could be useful to architects and builders. The technology creates a hologram of three-dimensional images that reflect a natural perspective change when the viewer moves in any direction.
The hologram is printed on a flat platform. Each pixel on the platform has about one million images on it, according to Patrick Harris, director of Zebra Imaging’s manufacturing sector.
The developers of the 3D imaging technology hope to push the design further to create a platform that could be reused with new data once the end-user is finished with the first image, Harris said. Possible applications for the digital holography include seismic data visualization, terrain mapping, medical imaging, design, modeling and marketing.
“Instead of clay, companies can just transform data onto the printer,” Harris said.
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