Today I had the pleasure of speaking to Be2Camp Working Buildings in London, courtesy of Martin Brown @fairsnape, an inspiring green building expert. Here’s a recap of my session “Dream App or Disaster for Cities??” Here is my slide show; it’s also on slideshare. http://bit.ly/1OARTB
Augmented reality (AR) will change the way that people use cities, and consequently the way that we build cities and buildings.
Vernor Vinge in Rainbows End explored 2025 San Diego where architecture became primitive Quonset huts that were experienced through AR as elaborate neo-classical monuments. An extreme outcome, no doubt some buildings may be stripped of quality materials, replaced by digitized imagery. Uses of AR in buildings and cities are emerging; it’s time for building pro’s to get immersed in the conversation.
While AR can be defined narrowly as layers of information over the real world, that view is from the information technology perspective. Building professionals can better use AR if we see it as the link between objects and people, a way of “enlivening” buildings and cities. In effect, AR gives buildings a voice. Furthermore, we extend ourselves into the environment with AR. (see McCullough diagram, Slide 38).
In short, AR wakes up buildings to everyone in the way that they have always been in the foreground for AEC pro’s. Suddenly everyone knows history, data, uses of different places, the information that was previously in the realm of experts or locals. And it puts the people who use buildings and cities into the foreground for those of us who merely see the multitude of technical issues.
Slide 19. AR has the potential to:
Make invisible things visible. Data, people, history, stories about a place can be tagged to it and then can be manipulated to find aggregated patterns such as in maps.
AR gives power to people and paradoxically takes it away. We gain information and are drowned by it, so trusted voices and analysis become even more critical. Plus we lose control of privacy, such as in the case of London surveillance cameras.
The more virtual becomes real, the less difference there is between virtual and real. If we think virtual has the same qualities as real space, we will substitute them without thinking. Right now, we are most aware of augmentation technology because it is so awkward and novel. However, in the future, they will become invisible. We will in effect internalize it.
Slide 46, 48. Three consequences that will change the way that we build cities are sensors, co-creating, and virtual/real choices.
Sensors. Data from fixed sensors and from people will inform us regarding patterns of behavior, energy, etc. Will we monitor our neighbor’s green choices? Will some uses be higher taxed, like a luxury tax? Green building in particular will benefit from augmented reality, because sustainability data will become social.
Co-creating. Preliminary plans will be shared by city planning departments for review. Rather than appearing in person at long, difficult meetings, people will be able to participate in city planning from the comfort of their home. Multiple suggestions may flood development decisions. If people know how much a development will cost in terms of public infrastructure, will we veto it? AEC professionals will have new skills and responsibilities.
Virtual/Real Trade-offs. Stronger virtual connections make mobility optional instead of necessary. Particularly as commutes are cumbersome and expensive, travel will be by choice rather than by mandate for work. The experience becomes paramount.
Since we build cities based on plans about 10-20 years ahead, we need to stay involved in how augmented reality influences behavior and how people view cities. Some cities will grasp the opportunities and shape AR while others will be left behind.
The first part (slides 4-19) of the presentation defines AR, the second part (20-41) gives visual examples, and the third part (42-49) addresses consequences for cities, particularly for AEC professionals. Let me know if you want more explanation or have ideas about my approach.
Thanks to Martin and his colleagues for hosting this fantastic un-conference, the second in London on sustainable building. It was a delight to be a part of it. I will be writing more about AR and love to hear what people are thinking about it or using it.