Monthly Archives: January 2014

The Oculus Rift Has Arrived!

Exciting News! Virtual Architectures have just received their Oculus Rift development kit.

As we hope you can see from this video the Oculus Rift really is an exciting leap forward in affordable virtual reality technology. Having started as a Kickstarter campaign less than two years ago the key features which have generated such wide backing for its development are stereoscopic 3D rendering, wide field of view and low latency head tracking.

What does this mean for the user?

Stereoscopic rendering means that each eye receives a separate image adjusted in the virtual simulation to the actual distance between the users pupils. The users brain interprets these images as a natural three dimensional view. The wide field of view of the headset means that the user’s full field of vision is covered providing an unbroken visual sense of being inside and surrounded by the simulation. Finally the low latency head tracking is key to ensuring that as the user looks around the simulated environment, the changes in the images each eye receives closely match those that the brain would expect when not using a virtual reality equipment. Jointly these features are essential for creating an immersive and natural feeling virtual experience.

In the coming weeks Virtual Architectures be getting to grips with the development kit technology and exploring many of the great tech demos and games that have already been created by other developers.

Please check back to see how we are getting on.

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Building Bentham’s Panoption – A Simple Idea in Architecture

For our first project Virtual Architectures will be working to realise Jeremy Bentham’s design for the perfect prison, the Panopticon, in virtual reality. Jeremy Bentham was an British philosopher and jurist from the 18th century who is best know for his contribution to ethics in the founding of modern Utilitarianism. In formulating his plan for the Panopticon he described it as follows:

Morals reformed—health preserved—industry invigorated—instruction diffused—public burthens lightened—Economy seated, as it were, upon a rock—the gordian knot of the poor-law not cut, but untied—all by a simple idea in Architecture!

Bentham originally commissioned the British architect Will Reveley to draw up the plans:

The Panopticon

[Image – Elevation, section and plan of Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon drawn by Willey Reveley in 1791 via Wikipedia]

As you can see from Reveley’s rendering, the interior of the Panopticon was to have a circular plan with un-obscured cells arranged around the edge. This was intended to provide the prison inspector lodged in the center of the building with a panoramic view of all the prisoners. This feature would be combined with a design solution for the lodge that would prevent the inspector being seen by the prisoners so they would never know which of them was being looked at by the inspector at any given moment. This uncertainty on the part of the prisoners was expected to promote a sense of total surveillance which would have a psychological affect on each prisoner by having them internalise the function of surveillance. Not knowing they were being watched they’d have to assume they were watched at all times.

For Bentham this ‘simple idea in architecture’ was intended to provide a model for the construction of any building in which large number of people could be effectively and economically supervised by relatively few: not only prisons but also factories, hospitals and schools. Today the Panopticon has become a metaphor for total surveillance in which it is the public who assume the burden of their own control.

In the coming months Virtual Architectures will be researching Bentham’s writings on the Panopticon in order to construct his design in Virtual Reality with the intention that it be publicly exhibited so each of you can make up your own minds.

Please follow Virtual Architectures for further details.

Virtual Architectures – What’s it all about?

Hi!

Thanks for coming to check out the Virtual Architectures blog.

If you’ve had the chance to read our About page you’ll already know that Virtual Architectures is all about investigating different applications for the new wave of virtual reality technologies in diverse fields of architecture, urban planning, heritage and education. At the same time the project intends to offer a point of access for public engagement with those disciplines through the creation of memorable and entertaining virtual reality experiences.

We’ll look at the technology in forthcoming posts. In the meantime you may want to know why the fascination with virtual reality?

Unity Tuscany Demo in Oculus Rift

[Image – Unity Tuscany Demo running in Oculus Rift courtesy of Oculus VR]

There are many places we will never visit in our lives for practical reasons such as money, time and other commitments. Some of these places will be thriving while others may be ruins and shadows of what they once were. Then there are other places which exist only on paper, canvas or computer screen, and others still that exist solely in the minds of those who dreamt them up.

The motivation behind Virtual Architectures then is threefold. It answers the desire to create these different spaces, to explore them, and to share our experiences of them, whether they actually exist or not.

Whether they be spaces of the imagination, or of everyday life, the ability to model these spaces in 3D, to create rich interaction with the aid of computer simulation, and to place the user at the heart of it all in virtual reality is really exciting.

Here’s a great reaction to the Tuscany demo (pictured above) submitted to Youtube:

Thanks again for checking out Virtual Architectures. We hope you are interested in the project. Please check back for progress updates and follow us via twitter.