One of the most hyped stories in the world of technology is the development of powerful, affordable virtual reality headsets for the commercial market. For architects, the ability to immerse yourself in an imaginary world is an enticing prospect, for both professional and recreational uses – but at $200 and upwards for what is still a product under development, devices like Oculus Rift are not for the faint-hearted.
But now Google, ever the ambassador for the more fiscally-cautious tech junkie, has a solution that won’t break the bank. Their contribution to the emerging virtual reality market is “Google Cardboard,” which creates a simple headset from an Android-powered smartphone and – you guessed it – some cardboard. Read on to find out how it works.
A+u magazine was recently granted an exclusive interview with the co-founders of Flux, the Google[x] startup whose mission is to harness data to automate architectural and urban design. The discussion is one of 14 essays and interviews from leading urban technologists in the current November issue, Data-Driven Cities.
“We began our exploration with the premise that buildings and the sustainability of our modern lifestyle are deeply intertwined. In addition, buildings – more specifically, housing – is an issue of human dignity. We wanted to find ways to apply Google-scale thinking to tackle these important issues,” says co-founder Nicholas Chim in the interview.
Read on after the break for a+u magazine’s full interview with Flux co-founders, Nicholas Chim and Michelle Kaufmann. And check out the November issue of a+u magazine, available in digital and print editions, which features new essays by Carlo Ratti (MIT), Dan Hill (City of Sound), Alastair Parvin (Wikihouse) and more.
The Alvar Aalto Foundation has begun a collaborative project with Google to make Aalto buildings even more accessible to the public. Using Google’s revolutionary Street View navigation tool, along with its virtual Cultural Institute, the project offers a look inside some of Aalto’s most iconic works of architecture. Learn more about this initiative and see the virtual journey for yourself after the break.
Trimble Buildings Group have recently released SketchUp 2014, the latest version of its 3D modelling platform for architects, engineers, design and construction professionals. With “more than 30 million unique activations in the past year”, SketchUp is claimed to be the most widely used 3D modeling software in the world today. The latest incarnation of the simple tool features a new 3D Warehouse and some interesting integrations into the world of Building Information Modelling (BIM).
“Some days it feels like Google is taking over the world.” In an article for The Verge Sean Hollister investigates how Google now represents one tenth of Mountain View, the city which hosts the company’s Californian headquarters. Having one of the world’s largest tech companies on their doorstep is a cause of concern for residents, some of whom are now referring to their home as Googleville. Having just bought the lease for a former military airport some city council members are seeing the expansionist move as a step too far – read the article in full here.
Johnny Lee, a project leader in the Advanced Technology and Projects group at Google, wants our phones to experience the world more like we do: “we are physical beings that live in a 3D world, yet mobile devices today assume that the physical world ends at the boundaries of the screen”, he says – which is why his team has been working on Project Tango, a mobile phone which uses movement and depth sensors to build a 3D model of the space around it.
Project Tango brings a whole new dimension (the third one) to what we could potentially do with our phones: imagine creating a 30 second model to take away from a site visit, for example, or using augmented reality to show a design or an installation in situ, navigable in real time. Currently, Google is in the process of distributing 200 prototypes to app developers, who will hopefully help it realize this tremendous potential.
Learn more about “Build With Chrome,” after the break..
In a brilliant article for Der Spiegel, “The New Monuments to Digital Domination,” writer Thomas Schulz not only rounds up our reigning tech giants’ oddly-shaped offices – from Apple’s “spaceship” to Amazon’s “biodomes” - but also pinpoints what they have in common: horizontality. And why? Because an “open creative playground” without boundaries (like floors or walls) is “the perfect ideas factory: the ideal spatial environment for optimally productive digital workers who continuously churn out world-changing innovations.” And while this means that privacy has gone out these workspaces’ proverbial windows, Schulz isn’t too surprised – after all, “people have no right to a private life in the digital age.” Check out this must-read article here.
UPDATE: The SF Gate reports that the architects of the Google Barge have now been revealed to be San Francisco-based firm Gensler and New York-based LOT-EK, a firm with experience adapting shipping containers for retail design.
A mysterious construction project in the San Francisco Bay has been making waves for the past couple of weeks. Moored off Treasure Island, locals apparently refer to it as ‘the secret project’ – and, until now, that’s about as much as was known about it.
Despite months of rumors and complete radio silence from Google, spokespeople have finally released a statement on the project, stating: “Google Barge … A floating data center? A wild party boat? A barge housing the last remaining dinosaur? Sadly, none of the above. Although it’s still early days and things may change, we’re exploring using the barge as an interactive space where people can learn about new technology.”
While it’s a shame about the dinosaur, Google’s expansion into technology retail is possibly even more intriguing, as it’s entirely new turf for the company: retail design.
More info and an artist’s rendering of what the barge could look like, after the break…
When Google Glass launched, we wondered how this wearable augmented reality device could add a whole other dimension to the consumption of architectural publications, by bringing the experience of space, matter, and light to our screens.
In our field, the experience is very important, and it is a dimension that hasn’t been able to be reproduced in its entirety through traditional media (plans, 2D or even 3D models). Attempts to make immersive panoramas or to embrace video have expanded the potential for representation, but not in a significant way. And this is why travel is a vital asset for the architect.
Imagine finally experiencing the approach to the Parthenon like Le Corbusier did almost a century ago. Imagine a tour broadcast by the architects of a project themselves, with the possibility for instant reader feedback in order to discuss a particular moment inside the building.
Google is about to release a new version of their device, and we had the chance to use it while walking around the PUC Design School by Sebastian Irarrazaval. Here’s a short video of what we recorded with the device; just imagine how this very same video would be when Google Glass overlays the physical, built world you’re experiencing with virtual information from around the web.
And stay tuned for more videos!!
Google’s secret development department, Google X (responsible for Google’s very cool, although non-core initiatives, such as Google Glass and driverless cars) is reportedly working on a new technology that could transform the construction industry – as well as architecture itself. It goes by the name of “Genie.”
According to Globes, a report from Genie’s development team, addressed to Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, describes the invention as a cloud-based collaboration platform with “planning applications to help architects and engineers in the design process, especially for skyscrapers and large buildings. The platform includes planning tools of expert architects and engineers and advance analytics and simulation tools.”
The report also emphasized Genie’s potential to transform the conservative construction industry, one of the most profitable and the most wasteful, by making it more efficient and environmentally friendly at the level of design, construction, and maintenance. The report suggests the invention could save 30-50% in construction costs and 30-50% of the time spent between planning and market; moreover, it could generate $120 billion a year.
NASA, in cooperation with TIME and Google, has unveiled startling timelapse images of Earth from orbit collected by NASA’s Landsat program since 1984. This program, created not for spycraft but for monitoring the way in which humans are rapidly altering the surface of the planet, consists of eight satellites that have collected millions of pictures in the course of two generations. When sifted through, cleaned up and stitched together, these pictures come together to create a high-definition slideshow that reveals some of the drastic changes our planet is undergoing – most notably through widespread urbanization.
And this week’s “punniest” title award goes to Fast Company (there was no contest, really). Beside the pun, of course, the article itself is pretty cool, outlining how Google Street View has followed-up on their latest intrepid capture of the Burj Khalifa with the 1889 classic: the Eiffel Tower. Read the article here and check out the fun video above!
“Most social movements become social moments when they appear in a public square,” says Seyla Benhabib, a professor of Political Science at Yale University, in the video above. “These are informal spaces of deliberation and communication.”
Occupy Wall Street, which took over New York‘s Zuccotti Park, is just one example of this phenomenon. As we’ve reported, the social movements that spread through Turkey like wildfire took physical form in Istanbul’s historic Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Only a few days ago, protests took similar shape in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as citizens protested a raise in bus fares as well as many other social issues. There are countless other examples throughout history of people utilizing public space as a vehicle for self expression and social change, but what’s different about today’s social movements is that they also occupy cyberspace – heavily.
A few days ago, Google+ released the short video above about these digital spaces, what they call the “virtual public square”. Of course, the physical places that people use to express themselves are certainly no less important; however, it is interesting to consider the vital role social media and virtual communication now play in the unraveling of political events.
More after the break.
Jane Jacobs revered the West Village. It was a bustling neighborhood enlivened by its social, spatial, and functional diversity. It had different building types and functions, which meant that people were always in places for different purposes; it had short blocks, which have the greatest variety of foot traffic. It had plenty of old buildings with low rent which “permit individualized and creative uses;” and, most importantly, it had all different kinds of people. As a result, West Villagers could establish casual and informal relationships with people that they might not have had the opportunity to otherwise.
Without these necessary characteristics, Jacobs felt “there is no public acquaintanceship, no foundation of public trust, no cross-connections with the necessary people – and no practice or ease in applying the most ordinary techniques of city public life at lowly levels.”
By simply changing a few words, it’s not hard to imagine Jacobs’ writing describing offices instead of cities. Buildings are different internal spaces, like individual offices or gathering spaces; desks are homes; sidewalks are hallways or circulation space; etc.
If the office is a small microcosmic city, then suburbia is the cubicle-strewn office, and Google might be the West Village. And ‘people analytics,’ the statistical and spatial analysis of interpersonal interaction, is the office’s urban planning.
To find out what creative work environments can learn from the composition of cities, keep reading after the break…
Just to be clear.. this was after all our April Fools ;)
We know a good idea when we see it. That’s why as soon as we heard about Google Nose we decided to call our friends at Google and work something out between us. Google has the power to bring you the scent of food, animals, and all sort of things. But what about buildings? That’s where we come in.
You won’t have to travel to Sydney to smell the Opera House. Or fly thousands of miles to Pisa to catch the smell of “leaning”. Starting today, you will be able to smell every building in the world from your computer. So far, we’ve been trying Google Nose with the following:
- High Line Park on a rainy day (smells like wetness)
- Any of our AD Classics (smell old)
- Kumutoto Toilets (smells like crustaceans… what were you thinking?)
- Burj Khalifa (smells like gold)
- Barbie Shanghai Store (smells like cotton candy)
We only have one problem. There are probably dozens… or even hundreds of buildings worldwide! So we do need your help. Prepare your noses and get out there. Smell those buildings and share your scents with us in the comments. We will do our best to replicate the smells and share them with the world.
One thing Google has become known for is their spectacular work environments. From playful employee lounges to environmentally sensitive design, the multifaceted internet giant has successfully transformed hundreds of existing spaces from around the globe into casual work environments that spawn innovation, optimizes efficiency, and boasts employee satisfaction. Much like many other California-based corporations, Google has been toying with the idea of building their own office space from scratch. Well, this dream will soon be realized, as the company has teamed up with Seattle-based NBBJ to expand their current, 65-building “Googleplex” in Mountain View, California. By 2015, Google plans to construct a 1.1-million-square-foot complex known as “Bay View” on a neighboring 42-acre site.
More on Bay View after the break…