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Virtual Hands of the Architect

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This Drawing is one of my pieces for my MASTERS OF ARCHITECTURE / GRAD SCHOOL THESIS 

Virtual Hands of the Architect (VHOTA) Drawing
is divided into 6 parts, indicating my idea of 6 “phases” of VR design related to architecture. They are divided by the Architect head wearing the VR goggle and the 6 white cables. All 6 portions are drawn on one giant sheet mounted on a square drafting board, with the bottom pencil ledge having a couple of items on it, from left to right, the older drawing tools, to the latest. The sharpened drawing rock, a pencil, a triangle, a compass, a mouse, a USB stick, a drawing tablet, a tablet pen, a virtual reality goggle, a 3D wand/pen/controller, and a Milkcrate – symbolizing Don technology of what comes out of this thesis. I also colored the physical world darker blues and grays, the VR projections a lighter cyan, and VR device goggles and sensor auras pink.


1 – Designing before VR

2A – Designing in VR/AR as a designer

2B – Designing/Experiencing AR collaboratively without leaving VR

3A – Public Viewing Testing

3B – AR Construction site

3C – Virtual World



(1) – Designing before VR


The left portion of the drawing shows what Architects (and designers) did before VR. It includes a draftsman (draughtsman) on a drafting table with his tools shown flying around him. Let’s call him the Architect. Next is the use of CAD (computer aided drawing/drafting/design), the architect (now with tied up hair) with a laptop and pixels and crosshairs flying around as well. Next is the architect (with even shorter hair) working on a drawing tablet screen: combining the comfort and familiarity of a pen but with the speed and digital advantages of a digital canvas and file. The last one is the architect using VR to view a drawing in virtual reality (also drawn for the viewer to see). He is also depicted using a hand-motion detector so he can also see his hand in VR. An exploded view of a typical modern virtual reality goggle is also drawn.


If I were to expound on this portion, it will need a more detailed evolution of drawing, including drawing on site (ancient architecture) and unto parchment with scaled drawings. The evolution of drawing and drawing tools, I believe is on a logarithmic scale (as with all other technologies). With Virtual Reality as a very key catalyst for this – as it introduces a different perspective into 3D models and movement. VR improved a lot in the past year and is steadily growing. By the time this thesis starts and until I submit it, the technology has already evolved rapidly that a continuation / amendments might be needed immediately after.



(2A) – Designing in VR/AR as a designer


The top middle portion of the drawing shows an architect viewing a room in VR and drawing in it. (There is a drawing mistake here, because I added another character drawing – but I was supposed to introduce collaborative drawing in 2B). An architect (with even less hair now than before)is drawing an arched classical ceiling in VR while being inside a Square and flat industrial room. He is shown to be plugged into a computer, standing, and holding 2 hand drawing devices – left hand holding a VR palette and the right hand drawing a pipe path as it is digitized unto the VR ceiling. The VR/AR just overlays on top of the physical room.


VR has been used to view architecture for years but it has only started to be used WHILE editing / drawing. When I wrote my Statement of Intent (to enter architecture grad school) – the original draft for The Virtual Hands of the Architect, this was the case. VR was young and only a lens to look at architecture and 3D models, a viewing tool, not as a drawing tool. It recently evolved from that because of the introduction of input devices like Hand gesture motion tracking, 3D wands and pens, etc.



 (2B) – Designing/Experiencing AR collaboratively without leaving VR


The bottom middle portion of the drawing shows the architect (now with no hair) lying on the floor. He is shown with a collaborator who is holding the other end of the virtual measuring tape. Unlike the formal format of 2A, they are much more relaxed here and are not working separate design functions but 2 users can help each other on more complicated functions (maybe that measure tool is longer than depicted). They are in a room that seems to be disintegrating – with ceilings replaces by leaves, walls that turn into clouds, and floors that fall into the void.


Unlike 2A where The VR/AR just overlays on top of the physical room, I depict VR/AR here to be able to adapt and alter the visual based of the physical world. With technologies such as front facing cameras and the chaperone system (where you can still see outlines of the physical environment while in VR), it won’t be long until this information can be manipulated in real time – and seamlessly. Besides the shift from just virtual reality to augmented reality, another important part is the collaborative design. A feature not common a year ago, now developers have created systems where 2 users can manipulate objects in the same space. Right now it is as simple as shape making and moving – eventually, I can see the possible functions getting more complex.




(3A) – Public Viewing Testing


The upper right portion of the drawing shows a Public Viewing and testing. Much like software, I can see architecture being released with pre-alphas and beta versions, before the final version is released. Here, the architect is shown sitting with a cup of coffee at a sidewalk café table, operating from a laptop and pointing at an AR version of a building on the proposed site. Above the scene, there is a satellite in high orbit. This shows how a global positioning system (GPS) will be integrated into geo-locating and positioning these digital architecture into the world. The architect’s computer, the AR building, the satellite and the bystanders’ AR devices are all connected into one big network. In this depiction, AR goggles and glasses are commonplace just like we have today’s camera-phones and music headsets. We can see one user on the right not paying attention to the building, but he still wears the device – an indication that one day, people will be comfortable with the device whether they’re in an active use of it or merely wearing it to use for later. Next is a woman passerby who has access to her own control panel via her device. The public is allowed to set different colors/themes to this building. And next is a man who is voting on designs.


I see publicly viewed AR models being useful marketing tools. The public being able to choose colors– so they can alter it to what they like – and digital data is easily collected like a poll and can easily inform the architect of the popular opinion – if he chooses to please the public more than himself or the client instead of following with whatever original design. The public being able to vote on designs would be another function should multiple proposals are given for the same site. It would be as simple as flipping the TV / Radio channel and you would see a different visual. Each person can flip it as they wish and they can see it change on their own point of view. I imagine some of these models can be public for a few hours, (a new public square statue) to even a few weeks so that the public can truly experience and really choose what they really enjoy (a whole sidewalk renovation for instance).



(3B) – AR Construction site


The middle right portion of the drawing shows the architect with an engineer looking over a high tech drawing table at a construction site. This drawing table can give and receive VR/AR data. As they interact with the plans, bigger cursors representing what they’re aiming at on the paper appear on site, just below the hill. There is an existing building (the dullest blue/gray), a building under construction (foundations dug, shape in AR), and a future planned phase (bright outline / highlight). There is the usual construction equipment and vehicles around like trucks, containers, and cranes but a new addition is the laser tower. Unlike in 3A’s satellite GPS technology, local construction sites could sometimes only need a localized solution. Laser tower is the construction site scale version of the typical room sensors you’d find in single user commercial virtual reality goggle kit. However, instead of scanning a room, it scans (and projects unto) a construction site. This projection would be a smart AR digital model that is linked to the architect, the engineer, the drawing tables, computers, and all construction workers of the project on site.


Augmented Reality has been used in entertainment, education, etc. I can see its use in construction. Where a 2D printed drawing of a detail can sometimes be misinterpreted, a 3D holographic animation of how to build a detail can clarify things up. Adding the advantage of a floating grid, digital warning signs, and easy testing of certain things can save the project both time and ultimately, money, so that more effort can be spent on designing even better, not just looking for more ways to streamline things to make them cheaper.



(3C) – Virtual World


The bottom right portion of the drawing shows what I see as the Virtual World. Our Imaginations can be said to be a virtual world. The Internet is another virtual world. The overlay of digital models and images on our physical world is another virtual / augmented, or combined world. First we see a head figure with long hair and a mask and eyes popping out of its sockets and breaking the virtual reality goggle – my symbolism of us breaking the barrier of what the eyes see and what the goggles see. The head overlooks a street with many characters – all with VR/AR goggles. There is a girl shopping with AR waypoint arrows on the ground below her. A relaxing boy sitting on a window drawing an awning above him. A girl drawing a window above a destroyed corner of a building. A boy sitting on a staircase talking to an AR girl – is she AI? Or is she a hologram of a friend on a phone call from somewhere else? There is an AR globe projected in the street, seen by all. It has advertisements. A young man is spray painting graffiti without actually causing fumes or physical vandalism on that wall. Another is sitting taking photos using AR with an interface of a traditional DSLR camera but the advantages of not having to carry one. Lastly, there is a man looking at the viewer of this drawing.


This stage of the role of Virtual Reality in architecture and design deals with the more figurative. We start to question - if the simulation is strong enough, does it need to be built? Or is the digital presence as strong as a physical one and it can stay in the digital realm? I read (source) somewhere before that there is something interesting going on, where Uber, a large ride hailing company owns no vehicles, Airbnb, a rental service, owns no real estate, Facebook, a large social media website, creates no content. Architecture has always relied on – Architecture, the physical built object that is the building. It is interesting to wonder what place Virtual architecture would take in the grander scheme. 

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jamjamz999's avatar

Absolutely incredible