Sometimes a tweet is all it takes to grab my attention, particularly when the link provided takes me to something intriguingly interactive. I got a message from Tomas Skovgaard (@EndlessCities on Twitter) telling me about a prototype interactive 3D environment that could be used to help communicate new building designs.
Copenhagen, Denmark-based company Utopian CityScape (@UCSMicro) has developed an intuitive 3D visualisation and communication tool, RealSite, for architects, clients, developers and others involved in construction and architecture. I followed the link, downloaded the Unity Web Player plug-in to my browser and after waiting a few seconds for the buildings and greenery to load, I could begin to walk my avatar into a building (using arrow keys) and look around (left-click and move mouse). A really nice touch is the ability to alter the scale: in effect to turn the avatar into a giant or super-giant and get elevated and then super-elevated views of the building and its surroundings (and take some giant steps across the campus).
Tomas said the platform has been used for several large development projects in Denmark. Pilot projects include two new buildings on the campus of the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), imported from BIM (mostly from Revit or Microstation, using .fbx or Collada formats), and – in my opinion – I got a much better impression of them from being able to explore them in my own time using RealSite than simply viewing the video (below). As a browser-based client visualisation tool, placing buildings in the context of their local environment, it therefore clearly has great potential.
The platform is still in development (Tomas says “we are very keen to hear from potential partners who can help improve this product”), so its collaborative capabilities are coming. It would be useful, for example, if users were able to make comments or to apply mark-ups in some equally intuitive way (for example, StickyWorld, developed by one of my former clients, Slider Studio, allowed users to create electronic sticky-notes containing their feedback – post). When I explored the RealSite platform, there was a ‘draw’ tool but, strangely, it was just used to add stairs.