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Games People Play Engage Skills AEC Firms Now Seek

Games People Play Engage
Skills AEC Firms Now Seek

by ROB McMANAMY, with Liz Kaydanovsky | Aug 27, 2015

Provided you're not hearing electronic gunfire coming from the den, you may not want to be so quick to kick Junior or Princess off the computer next time you think they've spent too much time gaming. After all, the next Bjarke Ingels or Jeanne Gang may be behind that pitter-patter on the keyboard or game controller. 

"How many people here have played Minecraft or have kids who have played it?" asked presenter Kevin Bredeson, Director of Virtual Construction for Pepper Construction. He posed that question last week to the SRO crowd on hand at BuiltWorlds for Engage: Games, AEC and The Next Generation. The question drew a sea of hands from the audience and widened Bredeson's eyes about the popularity of the digital building block game. "That's your answer right there to how games will draw kids into our industry," he said.

Still, before the evening turned to hands-on virtual demos, Bredeson and fellow speaker George Matos, principal of BlueMarble 3D, spent most of the first half of the event talking about the adult population already in the AEC industry. Every week, they noted, there seems to be greater use of gaming tech for everything from enhanced immersive marketing for target clients to the sharing of ongoing project data within the building team to expose potential clashes and possible safety concerns before they become real problems. So, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) systems now stand poised to become increasingly common and useful tools.

"You have to be careful to do it right the first time," cautioned Matos, who is also CTO of Chipman Design Architecture, which owns Blue Marble 3D. "If you don't manage the VR experience the right way and that potential client actually gets sick, well, then you've lost them."

Blue Marble is one of the few 3D rendering firms in the world other than super-computing centers with large GPU imaging capabilities, noted Matos. Marketing can be immersive now, so the experience must be managed, he said.

Blue Marble is one of the few 3D rendering firms in the world other than super-computing centers with large GPU imaging capabilities, noted Matos. Marketing can be immersive now, so the experience must be managed, he said.

"Would_you_like_ to_ play_ a_ game?" Bredeson's lively historical review included reference to "War Games", the 1983 film that starred Matthew Broderick (pre-Ferris Buehler) as a teen gamer/hacker who almost starts World War III.

"Would_you_like_ to_ play_ a_ game?" Bredeson's lively historical review included reference to "War Games", the 1983 film that starred Matthew Broderick (pre-Ferris Buehler) as a teen gamer/hacker who almost starts World War III.

Many Clients and most kids today are used to being "engaged" by gaming technology, said Bredeson, who led a short history lesson that dated from Pong to Halo, stopping in between at notable milestones like Snake, Oregon Trail, and the ever-so-popular Nintendo 64. Believable, 360° imagery that today marries reality with fantasy has come a long way since the black & white 2D images from the 1970’s. 

For its part, Blue Marble offers the latest in 3D rendering animation. Here are the benefits cited:

  1. Globalization. Reach clients anywhere, anytime. Using the “Cloud” as its stage, it’s never been easier to globally share construction ideas and plans;
  2. Time & Money. These two resources are always limited; however, VR is more efficient now (and therefore more affordable) than ever before.  
  3. Flexibility. Design is a process and virtual mockups allow the designer to experiment with a multitude of ideas.

At its facility in DesPlaines IL, Blue Marble 3D uses a cube system (4 wall cube with 3 walls and a floor). Clients use a headset and can walk into their own virtual reality. They witness their design come to life right then and there. The result looks and feels so life-like, in fact, that Matos challenged us to identify "the real picture v. the render" in his presentation. Four out of five times, we all guessed wrong.

My turn! Above, photos of our fun Aug. 20 event, which ended with the ever-popular VR demos!

The ongoing courtship of technology and AEC is one of the most powerful out there, mirroring the broader innovation ongoing in every facet of life. What may the future hold? Beyond our classic understanding of design and construction, think about how we may soon build our own virtual homes, or at least lead the interior and exterior design process. (Talk about 'too many cooks'!) Already, virtual books have leapt from the pages and screens of Harry Potter into reality. So everyone from medical schools to auto mechanics are using virtual imagery now to teach the next generation of valve surgeons for both hearts and engines. 

And just think of the reach: virtually everyone has a gaming set…

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