The 3D visualizationand rendering industry is often at the forefront of software technologyinnovation. As the processing power of computers and server farms continue toget more powerful and efficient, the capabilities of rendering artists,architects, and designers to produce images, videos, and interactive multimediaexperiences grows. The goal is to find the sweet spot between efficiency andresults that bring people who might not be as spatially inclined into the workin new, interesting, and easy to understand ways.
That’s why renderingartists are always looking for new ways to cultivate that experience. Whetherit’s by still image, video, or something completely new, innovations insoftware and computer technology propel experiential visualization to newheights. Here are 10 such innovations that are turning the design industry onit’s perfectly proportioned head.
VR is happening. It’shappening in a big way. When two of the most massive and influential techcompanies in the world (cough Facebook cough Google) are putting massiveamounts of resources behind a piece of tech, you can rest assured it is aboutto find itself planted firmly in the mainstream. 5 years from now, virtualreality headsets could be as common a household device as your run of the milltoaster.
I won’t get into manyof the metaphysical debates that have surfaced recently arguing the potentialdanger of living a bit too close to the digital fantasy world. But, I will sayvirtual reality is about to change the design and construction industries in asignificant way. Rendering artists are already using this technology to tailormake pre-rendered experiences that allow clients and investors to literallystep into the design work. This conceptual framework will lead to new ways inwhich we can interact with architecture before a single shovel is put into theground.
Taking it evenfurther, there is potential for virtual reality to make its way to the jobsite, where contractors and project managers can do a virtual walkthrough ofthe building, identifying potential problem areas well before they might comeup during construction. VR is here, and its surface is just beginning to bescratched.
Real Time Rendering(or RTR) is nothing new. The video game industry uses the technology to quicklyrender their games in real time as the player (or user) moves their characterthrough an environment. Imagine a meeting where you hand your client an XBoxcontroller, and they proceed to play out the building they are paying millionsof dollars for. Now imagine them leaving the board room with a smile biggerthan the one they had when Santa brought them an Oscar Meyer weenie whistle.
Rendering artists arestarting to use this technology in creating canned virtual experiences that letpeople inhabit an unbuilt work of art or architecture. When combining thistechnology with VR, one can see how powerful and important bringing this levelof 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 hastaken so long to migrate into the construction industry. As the tech getsbetter, and more affordable, expect to see many more of these type ofexperiences popping up among some of the bigger design firms.
Again, cloudcomputing is nothing new. However, the technology has only recently becomeavailable enough to be used by individuals and freelancers looking to boost thefidelity of their work. In the good old days (i.e. 10 years ago), if you werekeen on producing a high-quality rendered image of your design, you wererelegated to setting up your scene the night before, hitting “render” with asilent prayer, and hope your computer didn’t decide to kick the bucket duringthe night. It was anyone’s guess what you might find on your computer the nextmorning, but it was almost never exactly what you expected.
Now, even if youdon’t have a server farm lingering in your studio apartment closet, you canoutsource that power with one of many online cloud computing services. Just besure to include this cost in your fee, as it isn’t exactly cheap to use someoneelse’s server for your rendering needs.
Time to take asubstantial leap off the outer fringes of science fiction. Oh, and while you’reat it, go ahead and forget everything you know about the way computerscurrently operate. All those ones and zeros and bits and bytes? Yeah, forgetabout 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. Aquantum bit can have many potential states, or what them science people callsuperpositions of states.
Still with me?
So what happens whena single bit of data occupying the same amount of ‘space’ has the capability ofshowing up in many superpositions of state? You have a really fast freakingcomputer, that would be able to process data and computations exponentially fasterthan we are currently capable of producing.
The only caveat - andit’s a big one - we haven’t quite figured out how to recreate these quantumsuperpositions. Well, that’s not entirely true. As recently as this year,scientists have carried out experiments where quantum computations were createdon a very small number of quantum bits. Needless to say, the tech is many yearsaway from being commonly used. But, that doesn’t mean rendering artistsshouldn’t be taking notes.
3D Visualizationinnovation isn’t strictly confined within the virtual or digital realms. Sincearchitects could pick up an exact-o knife and a 3 foot t-square, architectshave been building models. Before computers were powerful enough, and thesoftware approachable enough, building physical models was the best, andoftentimes only way for designers and architects to give their clients aneasy-to-understand visual representation of the status of their design. Andwhile faster (and cheaper) methods have taken some emphasis away from pouringresources into physical models, their importance and impact remains.
Innovation in 3Dprinting technology has broken down some of the walls preventing more designersfrom reverting back to the days of the physical model. 3D printers are becomingcheaper and easier to use as the software used to interface them has finally caughtup to the rest of the 3D imaging world. Now, not only to architects use 3Dprinters as a means to create presentation-level models, they are using them asa design tool. Printing out several iterations of design models give thearchitect a new perspective on something they’ve only seen represented on acomputer screen. It leads to better designs, and better communication betweenclient and designer.
So, what’s next?There’s bound to be a new piece of software, or a cutting edge bit oftechnology just around the corner that could fundamentally change the 3Drendering and visualization industry. The closer we can bring people to a oneto one experience in terms of a representation to an actual building, thebetter chance designers have of realizing their brain children. So often thedesign intent gets lost throughout the process of permitting, coordination, andvalue engineering. If we can do a better job of planting that seed in the mindsof the check signers, the clearer path we have towards constructing betterbuildings.