February 26, 2011

Video + Game

Last week Greg Tran and I exhibited work from our independent study project in the lobby of the GSD.  Our independent study was looking into new modes of design representation, with specific focus on augmented reality video and video game engines.

With geometry donated by several MArchI first year students, we demonstrated the capacities of both technologies in architectural applications.

Current computational tools produce a disembodied representation of three dimensional space on two dimensional surfaces. These representations and modes of design production lack tangible spatial scalar context, and fail to emphasize processional or experiential qualities from an embedded perspective. New developments in video and mixed reality visualization allow designers to engage in an embodied understanding of design spaces, and offer a link between intuitive experience and digital worlds.

As the technology of design representation advances, we must focus not only on enhanced visuals, but on the new subjectivities that those technologies promote. Composite video and mixed reality visualization are one facet of a second wave of digital representation tools. Spatial interface devices (such as the Wii, Kinect, and iPhone) comprise another facet with a great deal of potential. However they have yet to purposefully engage the built environment. As architects and designers of space, we must utilize these technologies in order to project their potential as experiential modes of design.

Traditionally limited to the entertainment industry, video games are expanding beyond their traditional role as entertainment into other industries.  "Serious Games" are video games used as problem solving tools, training simulators, and research collaboration facilitators in a growing number of fields including defense, education, science, health care, management, politics engineering and design.  Within the context of design, these games have enormous potential as tools for visualization, communication, iterative design development and collaborative design.

As a design tool, first-person perspective games overcome the disadvantages of contemporary 3d modeling software.  Specifically, current modeling software fails to give the operator an embodied sense of scale, speed, distance, atmosphere, gravity or sequence (each being a fundamental aspect/effect of architecture).  This is produced by infinite zoom, instantaneous movement, wireframe transparency within a gravity/friction/environment-less condition.  This working environment favors the analytical at the expense of the experiential / spatial.

The promise of game engine technology is to be able to simultaneously deliver both the experiential dimension and analytical dimension while iteratively developing a design.  Furthermore, from the perspective of non-designers, games offer a highly intuitive mode of communicating design intent that is much more accessible than traditional two-dimensional modes of representation.