Using Virtual Reality Systems to Improve Architecture Design

Motion data captured from our Kinect system allows architects to have a clearer understanding of user needs, especially for underserved groups such as disabled patrons (image from UDBS site)
During my senior year I was involved in the first prototype of the CMU School of Architecture’s ADAPTIVE KITCHEN project. This was a partnernship between the Urban Design Build Studio and a collection of reality computing students. From the UDBS site: 
“The ADAPTIVE KITCHEN seeks to serve those with lower limb loss, visual impairment, and limited mobility, which are some of the most prominent injuries among veterans. As a working laboratory exploring the potentials of reality computing and emerging technologies in the design of human-centered environments, the NavADAPT LAB was developed to iteratively prototype and test components of adaptive and augmented spaces for application into the ADAPTIVE Kitchen.”
My core contributions were twofold:
  • Implementing the Kinect motion capture system to create heatmaps of user activity within a space
  • An augmented reality tool to allow architects and urban planners to explore neighborhoods and structures using Google’s Project Tango environment

Motion Capture System:
Activity heatmap generation examples can be seen above. We conducted a series of studies where users were instructed to complete tasks in our kitchen prototype under different conditions.

Tango Tablet for Virtual Exploration
One of the generated pointclouds from Autodesk

One of our collaborators was Autodesk, who donated their time and instruments to help us generate extremely detailed point clouds of our target neighborhood and buildings within our target area. Using a Project Tango (RIP) tablet, I prototyped a tool that allows architects, city planners, and any other city planners to have a virtual walk through of any pre-mapped location. I was also able to extract the building renderings my architect colleagues were designing and add them into the mapped neighborhood so they could “experience” the impact their proposals would have on the neighborhood.

The final prototype in use!