The Future of Urban Planning: Interactive 3-D Visualization
In many cases, the software used by urban planners and architects is nearly as complex as urban planning itself—especially for owners and operators of the project, who may not have design backgrounds. However, unlike the old, manual method of sorting though multiple layouts and blueprints, today’s 3-D software ensures urban planners’ visions are construction-ready and complete with highly detailed data.
The issue then becomes one of collaboration. With the exception of SketchUp, urban planning software can be expensive and hard to use, making it tough for architects, urban planners and the rest of the project’s team to share data. While these parties work together, sharing the same vision is difficult, and some important data points often get lost along the way.
For owners and other stakeholders, it can be difficult enough to visualize a project’s many layers without having to learn and install complicated software—especially for those halfway across the world who do not have a strong design background. Additionally, the popularity of smaller screens, such as those on smart phones and tablets, as communications tools makes it even more crucial for all parties to be able to visualize, coordinate and verify complex data.
3-D Visualization and City Planning Comprehension
When Google Earth was released in 2005, it forever changed how people envisioned the world, or just explored it from their computers. Whether it was discovering unknown craters in the Sahara or searching for Atlantis in the Mediterranean, Google Earth transformed the relationship people have with the planet, its design and the possibilities for future environments.
Google Earth also made it possible for people to explore the “built environment” in a new way, although the original 3-D buildings represented were only skin deep. It wasn’t until Google Earth implemented 3-D gaming graphics technology and crowdsourced 3-D building models, made with automated processes such as SketchUp, that a virtual world mirroring our existing natural and built environments took hold.
These virtual environments on Google Earth are now taking intricate detail to the next level by allowing users to explore and interact with internal 3-D environments and their components. Whether it was originally intended or not, this is the future of urban planning and building creation. And, it presents a way for true collaboration to take place within the architecture, construction and engineering industries.
One day, users of Google Earth or other such technology will be able to click on a building and see much more than landmark information, they will be able to virtually enter and explore public spaces. Museums, airports, malls and historic buildings will be able to share their spaces publically so people can plan their visit or just tour virtually. There will also be an instant market for inexpensive mobile apps for these virtual tourists or serve as a marketing tool for real visits.
Collaboration and Interactive 3-D Technology
Today, cloud computing coupled with gaming technology is allowing urban planning professionals to interact with their team and develop more cohesive projects. Using gaming technology to create realistic, highly detailed 3-D infrastructures is now possible, without having to learn complicated new software. Moreover, through cloud computing these 3-D infrastructures, including all their rich data, can be shared in a secure real-time environment. And, anyone on the team—special skills or not—is able to view it.
This inexpensive, easy-to-use technology also allows for a better understanding of the environment being transformed, including its terrain, architecture and textures. Understanding the nature of the environment is enabling people to create more sustainable infrastructures by facilitating collaboration between all involved parties, making it possible for team members to catch problems early in the design process, meet deadlines and save money.
Once an infrastructure is complete, this same technology can be used to manage and maintain it, which provides valuable information for real estate, additional urban planning and emergency services.
New technology is removing the complexity out of urban planning and making it easy for true collaboration to take place. Pretty soon, the public will be visiting these new infrastructures virtually and experience every detail—right down to the last chair or flowerpot.