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A client recently inquired about Pulse Design Group’s 3D printing capabilities. The client develops specialized healthcare centers throughout the country and was looking for a way to demonstrate final building prototypes.

The design industry relies on our ability to communicate design intent. Architects must know how to effectively listen in order to understand the needs, goals, and desires of the proposed project. We take this information and use it to develop 2D drawings and renderings to communicate our understanding of their original project requests. The problem is that we are trying to communicate a complex, 3D, conceptual world using two-dimensional tools. Renderings have limitations because they convey a single point of view represented on a two-dimensional surface. Unless the client has considerable experience reading design documents, there are multiple opportunities for misunderstandings in this process. After further conversation with the client, I realized his 3D modeling request was to solve the communication gap between the design team and potential clients.

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Models are typically monochromatic, fragile, not easily modified, and lack detail. The building prototype requested by this client was over 22,000 square feet. If this model was to have the desired communicative value, it would need to be 12” x 18” which is difficult to carry and transport.

The 3D printing concept has evolved into augmented reality that users can experience on tablets and phones. These demonstrations are typically a bird’s eye view and allow you to “spin” the model to change your point of view. The same technology could be utilized to create something similar and allow seamless change in scale, thereby allowing the user to see all the detail and finishes as they would in the final building. A tablet (iPad/Android) or phone would serve as a “window” into the virtual model allowing unprecedented detail and movement through the prototype. The Pulse Design Group virtual/augmented development team was challenged to provide a solution. 

Andrew London, Augmented Reality Specialist at Pulse Design Group, instantly understood the value in being able to not only see a detailed augmented reality model on a tablet/phone/headset, but to scale and interact with a simulated environment. Our team has previous experience with "ARCore" for Android devices and "ARKit" for Apple devices so we knew of a functional tool to perform the desired request. We chose to utilize the latest augmented reality functionality in Unreal Engine 4.19. In the application, you can place a virtual model on a real world surface (floor, table, etc). Fine details down to the finishes and textures can be included to allow the user to virtually experience the finished product prior to construction. Additionally, we incorporated a scaling function that allows the user to see the more traditional, smaller model from a top-down perspective. For future versions, users will be able to choose materials, measure distances, and interact with virtual objects. 

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Real-time rendering and immersive technologies are revolutionizing the way that we design, build, and showcase environments. Contact our team if you are interested in learning more about how virtual and augmented reality tools can be used to visualize, communicate, and design a proposed environment.