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Gamification: The Future Interface of Architectural Design

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Yesterday at SIGGRAPH 2014, Autodesk held its Exhibitor Sessions that included an introduction to Maya and 3ds Max 2015 along with some behind-the-scenes demonstrations. One of the more interesting sessions was entitled, "Gamifying Design Data." Lead by 3ds Product Manager Joel Pennigton and Product Manager for Video Solutions Group, Eddie Perlberg, the session looked at both the history and future of architectural design. More specifically, how the future of architectural design will likely incorporate the interactivity that gaming currently provides. Pennington and Perlberg made the observation that it's only been within the last 20 years that the industry has been able to take advantage of computers in its presentation of designs. Computers allow us to move around our designs, whether its moving inside a proposed coffee cup design or flying around a 100 floor skyscraper. However, these computer model presentations are in a sense just as "static" as their predecessors because they don't allow the types of viewer interactions that video games provide. What is needed is the gamification of design. autodesk Autodesk's acquisition of the game engine, Bitsquid, earlier this summer suggests the company recognizes this playability trend for the future of design presentation. According to Pennington and Perlberg, this acquisition was based in part on the observation that the lines between design and gaming technology are becoming increasingly blurred. This is similar to the blurring of the lines between cinema and games. While CAD designers are increasingly looking for ways to bring interactivity to their design presentations, Autodesk is looking to create new tools that push the limits of real-time 3D visualization by leveraging game engine technology like Bitsquid. To accomplish the goal the gamification of design, software should allow three important pillars: freedom, interactivity, and portability. One of the benefits of games is, according to Pennington and Perlberg, that they create a "timeline-less environments." In a game world, time doesn't really exist, objects continue to move despite the absence of time. Rather, games work by creating "triggers" that set in motion a series of events. For example, if you walk over a gold coin, this will probably trigger a "pick up" command. The coin then gets collected by your character. 3D visualization of a room "Now, let's take a design from Autodesk Revit and bring it into an environment like that," stated Perlberg. These same types of triggers could be used in a program like Revit. For example, as your perspective got close enough to, say, a piece of shrubbery, a trigger would open a front door. This interactivity would allow clients the freedom of movement and exploration of space that gamers enjoy all the time. The point is that the design of a space could be fully fleshed out and "experienced" virtually before construction even began. In the future, you might have families "living" (or maybe  "playing") within a virtual home to test out how suitable the design would be. "What we're really looking for is the ability and freedom for a prospective client to move through their building exactly as they would after the project is done being built," stated Perlberg. Another important aspect of Autodesk's vision for interactive design is the idea of portability. With the types of interactive design tools, you would want design decisions to be easily transferable between portable devices. You don't want yourself or your design to be locked into a desktop. Portability would, in a sense, allow the same types of real world freedom Autodesk is looking for in virtual ones. Here is some of the exchange within the Q&A session that followed the presentation:
  • Q: Beyond the game engine, how can we extract the data the game engine is processing to know things like velocities, air flows, etc. (stuff that CAD designers need to know)?
  • A: The way we're looking at that is to start to include solutions that Autodesk already has to incorporate that data into the game engine so it's real data
  • Q: Not everyone can put data/information into the cloud. How will this work offline?
  • A: Geometry optimization in the cloud doesn't necessarily mean the optimization is done in the cloud. But more that the service is there in the cloud available to you. But the desktop is still a very important part and won't be going away.
  • Q: Is Maya also a software capable of doing this? Or will it only be 3ds Max, Inventor, Revit
  • A: The titles we share in the presentation are the software more focused on "design". Other titles, like Maya, are more entertainment. So they're certainly not the only software. For example, AutoCAD would be in there. But we just focused mostly on showcasing the design.