Using Advanced Approaches in Urban Design Researches: A Mutation from 3D Digital Models to Virtual Reality

Using Advanced Approaches in Urban Design Researches: A Mutation from 3D Digital Models to Virtual Reality

Amir Shakibamanesh (Tehran Art University, Iran) and Mahshid Ghorbanian (Tehran Art University, Iran)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8379-2.ch024
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A lot of scientific studies have investigated virtual reality, the technological phenomenon of the modern world. However, there is no comprehensive study about the practical use of this technology in the urban design field. The aim of this chapter is to investigate this subject. The first step is to outline the 3D digital models discussed as a context for the formation of virtual reality. Then summarizing experts view in the field of virtual reality technology; the study presents components, conditions and requirements necessary to create a virtual environment in its real scientific sense. Since the chapter aims at utilizing virtual reality in the context of urban design studies, it focuses on virtual reality applications in urban design projects, and advantages and limitations of this technique in this area. Finally, at the end of this chapter most common devices needed for equipping a VR Lab and experiencing the sense of presence in virtual environment have been studied in three main categories including non-immersive, immersive, and full-immersive.
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From 3D Physical Models To Computer 3D Digital Models

The four traditional visualization tools that are used most often in public participation planning are from the simplest to the most complex: pen-and-paper sketching, paper maps, photographs, and physical models. Each of these traditional tools can be extended with a more sophisticated computerized counterpart. For example, electronic sketch boards have enhanced the capabilities of pen and paper; Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have revolutionized the use of paper maps; computer imaging technology multiplies the usefulness of photographs; and 3D modeling, urban simulation, and virtual reality transform the use of simple physical models. Two types of communication media, hypermedia and the Internet, are placed perpendicular to all the other tools in the diagram, as they may encompass a variety of individual tools. Different tools such as GIS, drawings, photographs, and virtual reality may all be used with the Internet (Figure 1) (Al-Kodmany, 2002, p. 190)

Figure 1.

Progression of Visualization Tools from Traditional to Computerized/ Contemporary .(© 2014 “Kheir Al-Kodmany. Used with permission.).

(Note: CAM= computer-aided mapping; MIMS = Mapping Information Management Systems)

Three different tools, or types of software, are now available for creating 3D representations of real or planned designs: 3D digital modeling, virtual reality and urban simulation (Al-Kodmany, 2002, p. 196). Although 3D digital modeling, virtual reality, and urban simulation are related, they have some differences. 3D digital modeling, which allows users to view (but not to interact with) 3D models on-screen, is the simplest of the three technologies. Virtual reality and urban simulation are closely related technologies that allow users to interact (virtually) with environments and situations before these environments and situations are implemented in the real world. Whereas the virtual reality presents a dynamic virtual environment, urban simulation goes on to provide additional dynamic virtual processes with which the user can interact with the virtual models (Al-Kodmany, 2002, p. 197). Urban simulations make it possible to visualize the anticipated results of changing in different factors of the project. In this chapter virtual reality, with the capability of creating artificial worlds, will be discussed.


Using 3D Digital Models In Urban Design

Although 3D digital models have been used to support urban design for many years, they have not become ubiquitous. 3D modeling from two aspects can be perused: first, the roles and types for which models were designed, and second, the key techniques used to implement and deliver various visualization styles (Al- Douri, 2006, p. 58).

Key Terms in this Chapter

VRML: VRML defines a set of objects and functions for modeling simple 3D graphics. These are known as nodes, which are arranged in hierarchies called scene graphs. There is a top-down arrangement in which nodes that are described earlier in a scene affect later ones, but this can be limited by the use of separator nodes. The aim of VRML is to bring to the Internet the advantages of 3D spaces, known in VRML as worlds whether they compromise environments or single objects. These are built to be shared between widely distributed users. A VRML file is an ASCII file with the suffix .WRL (Web Rule Language), which is interpreted by the browser, for example CosmoplayerTM or CortonaTM, and converted into a 3D display of the described world.

Immersion: The first steps towards VR involved building digital simulations as close as possible to single users, ‘immersing’ them within the environment in such a way that they were connected directly, through peripheral devices such as headsets, data-gloves and the like. Indeed immersion into virtual reality is a perception of being physically present in a non-physical world. The perception is created by surrounding the user of the VR system in images, sound or other stimuli that provide an engrossing total environment.

Avatar: When experiencing a space with other human participants, it is often important to be able to sense their presence in the world-where they are located, which way they are looking/pointing, and what they are saying. The Hindi word avatar (which means the worldly incarnation of a deity) is used to denote the concept of representing users in a virtual world. Avatars which are usually scaled to the 3-d scene are more commonly used to represent many users in remote contexts whereas in immersive VR, the emphasis is on the representation of single users in human form which is closely matched to eye, hand and other body parts.

Virtual Reality (VR): It can be defined as a medium composed of interactive computer simulations that sense the participant's position and actions and replace or augment the feedback to one or more senses, giving the feeling of being mentally immersed or present in the simulation (a virtual world). In virtual environments, participants are immersed and surrounded by information, which is to scale and, which is 3 dimensional. The interface is very intuitive to use for exploring virtual environments because it is tightly coupled to the way people explore real environments. Because of the specific attributes of virtual interfaces, people develop a sense of actually being somehow present inside the model. And with this sense of presence, viewers could potentially, for the first time, perceive the modeled spaces as they would the real spaces.

Hypermedia: Hypermedia, or multimedia, is a new computerized environment that integrates multiple “media” or tools on a stand-alone PC.

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