Posts tagged with "Technology":

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AN recaps the inaugural Tech+ expo in New York

"If you took GPS out of people's phones now, they would die." That was the bold claim Google's Aaron Luber made at the inaugural Tech+ expo today. Hyperbole? Maybe, but Luber made the point of how dependent we are on technology to navigate the built environment. Moreover, how else does technology impact our surroundings?  Presented by The Architect's Newspaper, the inaugural Tech+ expo saw 500 architects, designers, and tech experts head to Metropolitan West to get the low-down on how technology is shaping the built environment. The day was shaped by industry professionals discussing and showcasing technology that is developing a role within the design process of numerous firms and enhancing client-architecture relationships. Luber estimated that by 2018 almost all Android-based cell phones will be running software called "Tango." This software, he explained, when used with another software package called "Trimble," allows GPS to work in-sync with programs such as AutoCAD to allow clients to view their projects live on-site. Luber called this a "visual positioning service," which, for all intents and purposes, was an augmented reality machine. As for virtual reality, however, a host of VR firms, including Iris VR, Insite, and NVIDIA was present at Tech+ with their stalls showcasing their latest products. VR has, for a while now, been used to enhance the client-architect relationship through walk-throughs and other demonstrations. Despite confessing to being trained in "analog fashion," Keynote speaker Hao Ko of Gensler said: "Maybe the days of drawing plans and sections are gone now, we don't need 2D drawings anymore." Technology, he went on, has enabled us to present more coherent representations to clients. Before architects had to make physical models to enhance the experience, and these models were made at larger and larger scales—something Eero Saarinen was very familiar with, as Ko displayed a picture of the Finnish-American architect's legs sticking out of a model of the TWA terminal. Plans and models, though, can work together too. Graphisoft demonstrated how its software amalgamates section and plan drawings into 3D models, allowing both architects and clients to read what they see at the same time. Using ArchiCAD and exporting to Graphisoft, architects can also share 3D models with those using iPhone's too. Likewise, LERA demonstrated that tuning off layers can reveal construction sequences, among other things. What to take from all this? Ko summed the event up in his keynote: "To make the most of the future, we have to live in it," he said, before going on to describe the NVIDIA California office complex designed by Gensler. "Technology does not wait, and neither should architects."
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Bradley Cantrell chosen as Chair of Landscape Architecture at UVA School of Architecture

The University of Virginia has announced the appointment of Bradley Cantrell as the new Chair of Landscape Architecture at the School of Architecture. Cantrell is currently an associate professor of Landscape Architectural Technology at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) and director of their Master in Landscape Architecture Program. The Architect’s Newspaper met with Cantrell in April of last year to discuss his groundbreaking work in the fields of landscape architecture, ecological analysis, technology, and artificial intelligence. In that interview, Cantrell describes his work as "cyborg ecologies" that focus on blurring the lines between natural and man-made systems. “I think a lot of people have issues with the idea that we’re actually extending even more control over the landscape,” said Cantrell. “I think there is a fear of that we’re constantly in discussion about how we relinquish control. I think it’s an open question.” He believes that the integration of technology and nature should be seen as a powerful and positive synthesis and something to be celebrated, as opposed to an “us versus them” duality between man and nature. Cantrell discusses the power of technology that is not only designed to serve mankind, but can also be used to serve the natural environment. In our interview, he explained: “I think this idea that there are competing goals and that humanity might not always be at the center of all of those goals—that takes somewhat of an enlightened viewpoint, but it also is one that is necessary for us to have.” Cantrell will step into his new role at the University of Virginia on June 25, 2017.
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Disney Research team creates a room of wireless electrical supply

Imagine a world where you no longer have to fight for a plug to charge your phone. Imagine just walking into a room for endless battery life. Well, a team at Disney Research has managed to create just that: a room that can wirelessly power ten objects at once without a single plug or cord. The “room-scale ubiquitous wireless power delivery system," as they call it, can put almost 1,900 watts of power into the room at a time. The catch is that the room must be designed and built specifically to accommodate the system. The prototype room built by the Disney team is made entirely out of aluminum panels with a copper pipe situated in the middle of the room as part of the power-delivery system. The system is fairly simple: a signal generator sits outside the room and sends out a 1.32MHz signal that connects to a ring of 15 capacitors mounted on a copper pipe at the center of the room. This creates quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), as Disney calls it (almost as easy to say as Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious). Once everything is turned on and contained in the aluminum-clad room, a uniform magnetic field is created and can be “tapped into” to for power. As of right now, there are still a few concerns. For starters, a human can’t stand within 46 centimeters of the copper pole or they will exceed the specific absorption rate (SAR) the human body can withstand without harm. Possible solutions include an automatic shut off for the system if someone comes too close or just putting a wall around the pole. But who would put a column in the middle of the room? There is also an issue with pumping power into the room if there aren’t enough objects in the room to absorb it. Because of the enclosure, the unabsorbed power stays in the room, which could become dangerous if it built up past the acceptable SAR limits. The good news is that the system can be scaled up or down to create charging stations or cabinets, and the hope is that someday the system won’t require a specially-made room to function. For now, I would keep that wall charger handy. To read more about the science behind the system click here.
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New app is your geological tour guide wherever you go

Ever looked out of a plane window and wondered what you were looking at? For those who, like me, stare vaguely out at the vast sandy expanses of nothing, or the meaningless mountains below, help is here.
For the app's creator, flying provides the opportunity to see "planetary scale processes and the ways humans live around them." To locate areas of interest, the app cross-references the user's location with stored geologic maps from; fossil locations from and as well as geo-referenced Wikipedia articles. Naturally, not all this information cannot all be stored at one time, so Flyover Country analyzes flight paths keyed into it. This allows it to cache (temporarily store) any relevant data that will be required, pointing out any significant locations based on where you are. Frequent journeys can be saved if necessary, for if you fall asleep on that outbound flight. Additionally, when not offline, the app factors in speed, location and direction of travel to predict what is coming up on your journey and notify you accordingly. Called "Navigation mode," this feature locks the screen to your position and orients the map using your phone's inbuilt accelerometer and compass. On iTunes, the description also notes how "'car/foot'" mode "provides a narrower but more detailed geologic map with detailed unit descriptions and metadata" compared to the wider strip of data found on plane mode. Now his app has found success, Loeffler says he wants to include an augmented reality aspect into the design. This would work in the same way night sky sky apps do (Google's Sky Map is a good example) just inverted, looking at the ground instead. One tip when using the app: make sure your phone has access to a power source when in use. The app is not a major battery drainer, but, for airplane mode, battery consumption is increased due to the use of GPS. So now, if you're dying to strike up conversation with the poor person sitting next to you, you can at least make a quip about how the desert you're flying over was once  tainted with blood in the Crimean War or how that this forest was once home to Pterodactyl's .  
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Dewalt unveils their own construction site friendly smartphone

After making sturdy smartphones cases, Dewalt has unveiled their very own smartphone: the Dewalt MD501, Android-tailored and designed to be at home on the construction battlefield.

Naturally, the phone is designed to withstand conditions that other smartphones cannot, though one would expect this given the $544 price tag. Able to survive 6.5 foot drop onto concrete, the handset can also fully function in temperatures ranging from -4 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Dewalt also claims that their phone is "impervious to dust and particles" and can be submerged in 6.5 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

The phone also packs a 13 Megapixel rear camera complimented by a 5 megapixel on on the front and 16GB of internal memory to store pretty much all the photos you'll take. This can be upgraded further via the inclusion of a microSD card slot.

As is the usual gripe of modern smartphones, the battery can provide up to eight hours of talk time while also being able to be charged wirelessly (with QI technology). Bluetooth integration and an amplified loudspeaker essentially means users can chuck their phone down near to a QI charging base and still be able to hear instructions coming their way from the phone.*

The lack of wires will be good news to many within the building and construction industry, as will the inclusion of a touch screen that can be used with gloves and G-sensor, gyroscope, pressure, magnetic, light and range sensors.

*Note this is not officially recommended.

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Will the rise of self-driving vehicles signal the death of the traffic light?

The dawn of self driving cars promises to be an exciting new era for transport. However, what exactly lies ahead is still up for debate. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETHZ), and the Italian National Research Council (CNR) have outlined how traffic signals could be rendered obsolete if automated vehicles get their way. The development is known as "slot-based intersections," and if realized, would significantly reduce queuing, delays, and pollution. If evidence from any science fiction movie is anything to go by, it's that humans have very little trust in automated technology. It's easy to picture: panic as your self-driving car appears to be careering into another, only to miss by a a tiny margin, all perfectly predicted by an automated system of course. That may be an exaggeration, but Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of the MIT Senseable City Lab and his team have produced a model that shows cars zipping through a four-way intersection both without stopping or slowing down and remaining unscathed. “Traffic intersections are particularly complex spaces, because you have two flows of traffic competing for the same piece of real estate,” he said in a press release regarding the study, published in detail here. “But a slot-based system moves the focus from the traffic level to the vehicle level. Ultimately, it’s a much more efficient system, because vehicles will get to an intersection exactly when there is a slot available to them.” Trust in such a system would have to be high. Communication between cars would have to be flawless and safety measures for failure would also have to be in place. That said, if implemented, the system would speed up journey time and also reduce pollution by cutting down on the time spent idle at traffic signals. Of course, signal-less interchanges already exist, they're called roundabouts. But the possibility for human error (and hence collisions) still exists in the roundabout, along with the need to give way to others.
"Slot-based intersections are similar to slot-based management systems used for air-traffic control," say the team. "Upon approaching an intersection, a vehicle automatically contacts a traffic management system to request access. Each self-driving vehicle is then assigned an individualized time or “slot” to enter the intersection." Speed limits could also change. If a perfect system can plot every movement, why not travel at the fastest, yet safest, possible speed? This is just one of the questions arising as self-driving cars become more and more likely to enter our lives. Would car lanes also be made thinner? Vehicles won't be making mistakes so why not cram as many in as we can and maximize efficiency? In terms of having a central traffic organizing system, getting different car manufacturers to be completely open with each other is another major bridge that would need to be crossed. And as for the more pressing issue of automated vehicles' interaction with humans, MIT's Senseable City Lab responds by saying: "slot-based intersections are flexible and can easily accommodate pedestrian and bicycle crossing with vehicular traffic."
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You can now explore the Guggenhiem museum using Google Street View technology

If you can't make it to Frank Lloyd Wright's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, fear not: Google Street View has a solution. Though not quite as fulfilling as visiting in person, their self-guided virtual tour offers insight into the museum's iconic architecture while letting you view some of its exhibitions and artworks. This isn't the first time Google Street View's engineers have added masterpieces 0f art and architecture. In fact, as a member of the Google Cultural Institute, the Guggenheim is one of almost 750 museums and collections available to explore online. Google also offers walkthroughs of famous world wonders such as the Taj Mahal. With the Guggenheim museum, online tourists can view 120 pieces of artwork on display and travel up and down the building's famed spiral ramps. Attempting to keep the virtual tour as realistic as possible, Google only allows you to click one step forward at a time, though it's also possible to jump from floor to floor. Because of Wright's layout of the museum, it wasn't easy for Google to create its virtual walkthrough. Drones, tripods, and Street View “trolleys” captured a patchwork of images to create 360-degree views. The experience is best accessed via the Google Cultural Center (available here) rather than entering from Google Street View (as shown in the image). Selecting the latter leaves you stuck halfway up the Museum. Exhibitions from the Guggenheim Foundation currently available online are No Country: Contemporary Art For South and Southeast Asia and Storylines: Contemporary Art at the Guggenheim. For architecture enthusiasts, Google is exhibiting Photography and Modern Architecture in Brazil at its online cultural center, available here.
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Six design lauded for ideas to reclad Manhattan’s MetLife Building with an energy-efficient facade

Manhattan's MetLife building celebrated its 53rd birthday on Monday. The tower has become engrained into Manhattan's urban fabric, but it has also become an incredibly inefficient in how it uses energy, and a recent competition tasked designers with fixing the problem by applying a new building facade. Metals in Construction magazine has unveiled six winners of its “Reimagine a New York City Icon” competition after its jury couldn't select just one winner. Tasked with developing an "innovative and energy-efficient redesign of the façade of 200 Park Avenue," the winning teams split the $15,000 prize. The brief stipulated that designers come up with a "highly efficient envelope with the lightness and transparency sought by today’s office workforce—while preserving and enhancing the aesthetic of the building’s heritage." Prizes were given at a conference at the Times Center in New York City, preceded by talks on sustainability and retrofit facades which included panel discussion. The winning submissions are: Panam Under Glass (PDF) According to competition organizers: "Adapting the tapered form of the tower as a geometric module/motif creates a non-directional pattern across the surface of the tower – in keeping with early models and renderings which emphasized the form over the surface. Applied in a larger scale to the tower allows for maximum daylighting while the denser, smaller scale at the podium creates a more monolithic reading much closer to pedestrian level." Performance-Based Preservation (PDF) According to competition organizers: "By preserving and overcladding - instead of demolishing and recladding - our proposal reduces the building’s environmental impact by 42% over the next 50 years... On the north and south, we add a new unitized curtainwall outboard of the concrete that uses emerging materials to generate energy while dynamically controlling solar heat gain and glare. On the east and west, we bring the new envelope inboard of the concrete to highlight the materiality and plasticity of the existing skin." Thermalswitch Facade (PDF) According to competition organizers: "The Thermalswitch facade looks at hybridizing the overcladding and double skin techniques to create a unitized frame which mounts directly over the existing precast panels. The Metlife facade is constructed of a primary precast panel with integrated fins on both sides that alternates every other bay. Between these primary panels, secondary infills are set at the spandrel conditions." Harnessing Urban Energies (PDF) According to competition organizers: "In our submission for the Metals in Architecture competition, we have lowered the present annual energy consumption of the building by 80 percent, and by 74 percent as compared to the median New York City office building." Vertimeme (PDF) According to competition organizers: "Macro geometry of the curtain wall unit creates a self shading effect to reduce undesirable direct light and heat gain. The angle of the glazing is tuned to reflect solar insolation, optimize views from the building and reflect the image of the city back to the streetscape. Pre-assembled unitized aluminum curtain wall frame and assembly, stainless steel mullions, caps and grills." Farm Follows Function (PDF) Submitted as a graphic novel, "Farm Follows Function" sees Walter Gropius say "This will surely be my Finest work: A masterpiece - my crowning achievement! A multifunctional complex set in the middle of america’s metropolis..." His work is then dramatically transformed into a living tower-block farm. One passer by is shown to be saying "This elevated park is a real oasis of calm in the hubbub of midtown! with a market and even outdoor seating! awesome!"  
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No two walks under this responsive installation in a bridge above the High Line will ever be the same

The High Line in New York is spinning off art projects on all sides. For those seeking an immersive architectural walk, tailored to the conditions of their surroundings, a non-discrete bridge in Chelsea may be the answer. It may be only a small-scale intervention, but a public bridge running next to the High Line now houses a scintillating display of interior lighting. During the day and from an external perspective, the bridge appears mundane, dated even, and of no particular interest. Step inside however, and the bridge comes to life. Taking responsive architecture to the extreme, the 70-by-10-foot installation called Prismatic_NYC utilizes 66 individual prisms, each individually powered by a brushless motor. Subsequently 40,000 integrated LED’s beam across the bridge in a wave-like form. Prismatic_NYC is the work of Hyphen-Labs working alongside IA Interior Architects installed an array of rotating light prisms within the structure. The light show isn’t static either. Using online weather sources, the display responds to changes in the local climate awarding each user a unique experience. A staggering amount data is accumulated to achieve this. Cloud cover, wind speed, humidity, and the accumulation or intensity of precipitation, frequency, speed, and position of the "light-wave," to name a few, go into the installation's lightscape. To amplify the experience further, the designers behind Prismatic_NYC stated that "temperature changes generate a noise function that develops the sculptures color and light behavior." And in order to be in tune with seasonal/holiday moods, a built-in calendar checks for seasons and holidays, sunrises and sunsets, tidal movements, and lunar and celestial events. In theory, no walk through the bridge should ever be the same on different occasions. As a result, the fully enclosed bridge hence connects travellers to the conditions outside while providing them with shelter. One can easily imagine hearing the rain from inside, or seeing the sun set and being exposed to the structures interpretations. "Prismatic allows us to meditate on the beauty of light, geometry, and waveforms.  Each side distinguishable from the other as they absorb, reflect, and generate light," said Hyphen-Labs on its website. "Harmonious luminescent rotations broadcast oscillating waves that spread out through the space and constantly reflecting our changing environment." "The design of the tapered prisms went through various iterations. Generative and parametric design approaches ensured the optimization of the visual experience," the designers continued. "The prisms’ physical components, fabrication, applet, website, and experience are of custom design, using the highest quality materials to ensure maximum performance for the next five years."
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French proposal to pave roads with solar panels could provide power for 5 million people

French authorities have announced that it plans to lay over 600 miles of solar roads within five years. Research from a five year study in collaboration with highway company COLAS indicates that the roads could provide power to up to 5 million people, or 8 percent of France's population. However, some claim that the French government is merely subsidising French companies and not following the best road for alternative energy solutions. Project "Wattway," as it is being called, was launched last October with the French Agency of Environment and Energy Management stating that just over 13 feet (4m) of solar road (215 square feet to be precise) could meet the energy demands (except heating) of one home. On that basis, 5,000 residents could draw on their energy supplies from as little as 0.62 miles of solar road. Five years of research deduced that French roads are only occupied by vehicles "10 percent of the time" and that the solution could pave the way for solving future energy demands. Looking at the specs, the surface uses polycrystalline silicon cells, which are "encapsulated in a substrate," forming high yield solar panels. Only 0.28 inches (7mm) thin, the panels have an extremely high strength-to-weight ratio which allows them to deal with the weight of pretty much all motor-vehicles. For those thinking that driving on solar panels has the potential to be hazardous, fear not. Snowplow tests have been passed and the panels com equipped with all-weather skid-resistant coating. “These extremely fragile photovoltaic cells are coated in a multilayer substrate composed of resins and polymers, translucent enough to allow sunlight to pass through, and resistant enough to withstand truck traffic,” said COLAS. It's not just homes the roads could potentially power. Outlining the possibilities for "intelligent roads," COLAS said how they could be used for real time traffic management, self-driving cars, charging moving electric vehicles and eliminating black ice. What's more, COLAS said that the panels can be "directly applied to existing roads, highways, bike paths, parking areas, etc., without any civil engineering work." On top of that, the panels can last up to 20 years in areas that see infrequent traffic, meanwhile COLAS estimates the lifespan of the panels in regular traffic conditions to be 10 years. For example, if the quickest route from Caen in the North of France down to Marseille were to be covered, residents in both cities could be powered for 52 years if the panelled road lasted 10 years (and was removed afterwards). How Legitimate are COLAS's claims? France gets 1,600–2,000 sunlight hours per year. Taking the minimum of that, and subtracting 10 percent (road occupancy from vehicles) that leaves 1,440 sunlight hours per year. Interestingly, COLAS's claim of powering one home every 13 feet arose from the presumption of roads receiving only 1,000 sunlight hours per year, indicating that they are being extremely stringent with their study. Unsurprisingly, COLAS's panels have a lower percentage yield than current photovoltaic market solutions, offering 15 percent solar yields compared to 19 percent, but one can presume that this is a byproduct of making the panels roadworthy and their altered angle of incidence. This equates (by COLAS' calculations) to the panels costing $6.73 per Watt. However, according to Olivier Danielo of DDMagazine, this is "six times the cost "of large-scale photovoltaic cells." Danielo has reason to be skeptical. COLAS specialize in highway construction and by creating an "energy efficient" solution actually implement roads that have a shorter lifespan than regular roads, thereby giving themselves more work. Surely it would be far more efficient to equip houses who can utilize the optimum angle of incidence in conjunction with the most efficient photovoltaic (PV) technology? Jenny Chase, head of solar analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance ("Solar Insight Team") backs Danielo's claims up. Danielo and Chase aren't the only ones concerned, either. French engineer Nicolas Ott said that the energy payback from rooftop PV's is 7.5:1 compared to Wattway's 1.6:1. COLAS also claim to have "invented" the solar road when this is not the case. SolaRoad, a bike path in Krommanie in the Netherlands produced better than expected yields. However, when compared to three rooftop PV systems in the same area of the prototype road, data showed that rooftop PV's was double that of the SolaRoad per square meter over the same period. Nonetheless, installation of the French solar road panels is set to start soon with funding coming from raising taxes on fossil fuels.
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Someday soon, virtual reality could let you get in the game… in your living room

This year's 50th Super Bowl could be extra special to those who can somehow get their hands on Microsoft's HoloLens. Though not yet available to the public, the tech giant has unveiled an NFL-based concept that would bring the players and the stadium into your living and even onto your coffee table. The technology would work through gestures, similar to Microsoft's Kinect for Xbox. In the video below, users can be seen bringing up player stats, holograms of the actual stadium including relevant information like weather (forecasts and current), and attendance. The 3-D virtual reality engine will enable players to appear as if they are coming through walls and allow for the football field to be beamed onto a coffee table. Even though Microsoft debuted its concept last year, the idea does sadly remain in concept form. Virtual reality, however, is nothing new to the architecture profession. Last year AN reported that Tsoi/Kobus & Associates was using the Oculus Rift system to place clients into computer generated 3D renderings. The software was used to deliver a more immersive feel of what the future space might look like. In practice, clients can walk round virtual buildings using Revizto, a cloud system, which architects can invite their clients to use. That said, progress with the technology remains slow as according to Luis Cetrangolo, the architect responsible for implementing the idea, users have begun to feel dizzy after just five minutes of usage.
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Pictorial> Here are the four winners of the Field Constructs Design Competition in Austin, Texas

In November, Field Constructs Design Competition presented site-specific installations by emerging architects and landscape architects at the Circle Acres Nature Preserve in East Austin. AN recently reported on the winners, but check out the full set of imagery for each project below. As AN's Nick Cecchi reported,
Each of these projects is a diverse and unique response to the competition brief, yet all are united in a search for the latent possibilities in this unique site and the confluence of historical, social, and economic concerns it brings together. As social commentary and landscape art, they provide critical fodder not only for architecture and design professionals, but for the public as well. Competitions and proposals of this scale are not only opportunities for emerging voices to have a dialogue with each other and the distinguished members of the jury, but also demonstrate to the public that architects and designers are constantly reimagining how we interact with our natural and built environments.
2015 FCDC Winners 99 WHITE BALLOONS INVIVIA — Cambridge, Mass. USA BLURRED BODIES StudioRoland Snooks — Melbourne, Australia DUCK BLIND IN PLAIN SITE OP.AL + And-Either-Or — New York, NY USA HYBROOT OTA+ — Austin, Texas USA For more FCDC, check out AN's original article.