Understanding Future Environments

In the context of urban redesign and public participation, this ESRC-funded research project is investigating whether active exploration of a desktop virtual model of an urban environment leads to better understanding and perception than passive observation of a walkthrough of that same model.

Traditionally, architects and designers have presented their design concepts in 2D scale plan or sketch form, which many laypeople find difficult to understand. Growth in 3D modelling, however, means that fly or walkthroughs of future environments are becoming more popular with both designers and clients. Taking this as our starting point, this project asks what advantages, if any, arise from giving people the opportunity to control their own viewpoint and navigation of a 3D model of the built environment.

Using a 3D computer model of a cityscape imported into a games engine (Unreal Runtime), we have created two versions of a desktop virtual environment that can be explored using keyboard and mouse. Subjects in our experiment are being asked to visit three sites within each of the models, with a view to selecting their favourite version. Half of our subjects watch predetermined walkthroughs of the two versions, while the other half actively navigate around the versions. Subjects also all complete a number of rating scales and take part in a semi-structured interview regarding their experiences.


Paper published at Automation in Construction

Paper presented at IV06