Augmented Reality (AR) used in architecture and design

Augmented reality (AR) apps like Layar are not enough – soon we might see it used while designing interiors and buildings.

The possibility of how AR can be used in architecture and design can be seen in two recent examples: videos by Keiichi Matsuda, designer and film-maker, and Greg Tran, Harvard Graduate School of Design student.

Matsuda’s Augmented City: 3D was a film created for his final year Masters in Architecture. While Matsuda said the video was produced over the course of a few months, it is part of a larger, ongoing independent research project called Augmented (hyper)Reality.

It includes another film, Domestic Robocop, a written thesis, and a third film is currently in development.

“I only started working with film a few years ago, but I found that it quickly became a really useful and quick way to explain ideas and concepts that would not be as effective in more traditional media,” he said.

“It allowed me to question the current boundaries of the architectural profession, while applying the same skill set to problems that are not currently seen as architectural problems, such as interaction design. Augmented (hyper)Reality is the culmination of my interest in urbanism, media and technology, so its great to be able to realise my concerns in a form that lots of people can access and talk about,” added Matsuda.

The project Mediating Mediums, created by Tran, recently won a thesis prize; it looks at how things would work if people created spaces based on AR.

“I wanted to choose a thesis topic that was larger than a single building or design idea.  A thesis should be able to inspire new possibilities and take advantage of the speculative liberties you still have while you’re in school,” said Tran.

“Although I didn’t know a lot about it before, I saw that there could be huge potential for AR and architecture to work in tandem and it ended up being a really fun process of discovery,” he added.

The video was created from February-May 2011, but Tran said the ideas contained in his project were developing over the course of a year.

Both Tran and Matsuda loosely agree on whether AR is the future of architecture and design.

Matsuda said the restrictive aspect of professions will become less useful as new technologies develop. “AR is spatial and experiential, but also temporal and interactive, so the future discipline of ‘information architecture’ is probably a new hybrid somewhere between architecture, film-making and game design,” he said.

Tran said he thinks it’s feasible for AR to be a part of architecture and added it would be disappointing if they are at odds with each other.

“The difficulty is that architects would need to wait for the technology to evolve a lot, and I think the early iterations of AR/architecture will probably be a bit of a stretch,” he said.

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