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5 Innovations in 3D Visualization Technology

As technology progresses, so does the ability of designers and rendering artists to bring people into their designs. Here are 5 such technological innovations.

The 3D visualization and rendering industry is often at the forefront of software technology innovation. As the processing power of computers and server farms continue to get more powerful and efficient, the capabilities of rendering artists, architects, and designers to produce images, videos, and interactive multimedia experiences grows. The goal is to find the sweet spot between efficiency and results that bring people who might not be as spatially inclined into the work in new, interesting, and easy to understand ways.

That’s why rendering artists are always looking for new ways to cultivate that experience. Whether it’s by still image, video, or something completely new, innovations in software and computer technology propel experiential visualization to new heights. Here are 10 such innovations that are turning the design industry on it’s perfectly proportioned head.

1 | Virtual Reality

VR is happening. It’s happening in a big way. When two of the most massive and influential tech companies in the world (cough Facebook cough Google) are putting massive amounts of resources behind a piece of tech, you can rest assured it is about to find itself planted firmly in the mainstream. 5 years from now, virtual reality headsets could be as common a household device as your run of the mill toaster.

I won’t get into many of the metaphysical debates that have surfaced recently arguing the potential danger of living a bit too close to the digital fantasy world. But, I will say virtual reality is about to change the design and construction industries in a significant way. Rendering artists are already using this technology to tailor make pre-rendered experiences that allow clients and investors to literally step into the design work. This conceptual framework will lead to new ways in which we can interact with architecture before a single shovel is put into the ground.

Taking it even further, there is potential for virtual reality to make its way to the job site, where contractors and project managers can do a virtual walkthrough of the building, identifying potential problem areas well before they might come up during construction. VR is here, and its surface is just beginning to be scratched.

2 | Real Time Rendering

Real Time Rendering (or RTR) is nothing new. The video game industry uses the technology to quickly render their games in real time as the player (or user) moves their character through an environment. Imagine a meeting where you hand your client an XBox controller, and they proceed to play out the building they are paying millions of dollars for. Now imagine them leaving the board room with a smile bigger than the one they had when Santa brought them an Oscar Meyer weenie whistle.

Rendering artists are starting to use this technology in creating canned virtual experiences that let people inhabit an unbuilt work of art or architecture. When combining this technology with VR, one can see how powerful and important bringing this level of immersion can be. The only problem is the sky-high development costs. Building a video game ain’t cheap, and it’s the sole reason this technology has taken so long to migrate into the construction industry. As the tech gets better, and more affordable, expect to see many more of these type of experiences popping up among some of the bigger design firms.

3 | Cloud Computing

Again, cloud computing is nothing new. However, the technology has only recently become available enough to be used by individuals and freelancers looking to boost the fidelity of their work. In the good old days (i.e. 10 years ago), if you were keen on producing a high-quality rendered image of your design, you were relegated to setting up your scene the night before, hitting “render” with a silent prayer, and hope your computer didn’t decide to kick the bucket during the night. It was anyone’s guess what you might find on your computer the next morning, but it was almost never exactly what you expected.

Now, even if you don’t have a server farm lingering in your studio apartment closet, you can outsource that power with one of many online cloud computing services. Just be sure to include this cost in your fee, as it isn’t exactly cheap to use someone else’s server for your rendering needs.

4 | Quantum Computing

Time to take a substantial leap off the outer fringes of science fiction. Oh, and while you’re at it, go ahead and forget everything you know about the way computers currently operate. All those ones and zeros and bits and bytes? Yeah, forget about those. In theory, quantum computing works on the principle that a ‘quantum bit’ is not limited to being only defined by a one or a zero. A quantum bit can have many potential states, or what them science people call superpositions of states.

Still with me?

So what happens when a single bit of data occupying the same amount of ‘space’ has the capability of showing up in many superpositions of state? You have a really fast freaking computer, that would be able to process data and computations exponentially faster than we are currently capable of producing.

The only caveat - and it’s a big one - we haven’t quite figured out how to recreate these quantum superpositions. Well, that’s not entirely true. As recently as this year, scientists have carried out experiments where quantum computations were created on a very small number of quantum bits. Needless to say, the tech is many years away from being commonly used. But, that doesn’t mean rendering artists shouldn’t be taking notes.

5 | 3D Printing

3D Visualization innovation isn’t strictly confined within the virtual or digital realms. Since architects could pick up an exact-o knife and a 3 foot t-square, architects have been building models. Before computers were powerful enough, and the software approachable enough, building physical models was the best, and oftentimes only way for designers and architects to give their clients an easy-to-understand visual representation of the status of their design. And while faster (and cheaper) methods have taken some emphasis away from pouring resources into physical models, their importance and impact remains.

Innovation in 3D printing technology has broken down some of the walls preventing more designers from reverting back to the days of the physical model. 3D printers are becoming cheaper and easier to use as the software used to interface them has finally caught up to the rest of the 3D imaging world. Now, not only to architects use 3D printers as a means to create presentation-level models, they are using them as a design tool. Printing out several iterations of design models give the architect a new perspective on something they’ve only seen represented on a computer screen. It leads to better designs, and better communication between client and designer.

So, what’s next? There’s bound to be a new piece of software, or a cutting edge bit of technology just around the corner that could fundamentally change the 3D rendering and visualization industry. The closer we can bring people to a one to one experience in terms of a representation to an actual building, the better chance designers have of realizing their brain children. So often the design intent gets lost throughout the process of permitting, coordination, and value engineering. If we can do a better job of planting that seed in the minds of the check signers, the clearer path we have towards constructing better buildings.

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