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Planning cities in cyberspace

The interactive planning system ARTHUR simplifies the work of architects and city planners by replacing tedious, traditional model design with an augmented reality system. At CeBIT, researchers are showing how building plans can be visualized and modified in 3D.

With pride, the architect presents his scale model of the planned shopping center. Around the table, planners, builders and co-workers examine and discuss the design, which quickly reveals that scores of changes are required. Incorporating these modifications into a new model costs time, delaying development of the center. Not so with ARTHUR. With the Augmented Round Table for Architecture and Urban Planning system, ad-hoc modifications to the virtual model are possible, even from several reviewers simultaneously, explains Dr. Wolfgang Broll from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT in describing the multiuser collaboration system. Proposed modifications can be visualized at once, enabling each reviewer to see how changes affect the model at the same time. Tedious, conventional modeling methods become a thing of the past. ARTHUR starts with AR - Augmented Reality. This technology enriches real world environments by adding virtual sensory information such as graphics. ARTHUR uses a building blueprint to create a virtual 3D model. With special eyeglasses and networked computers, reviewers can visualize the computer-generated model at the same time. Each virtual object is projected over a real placeholder such as a wooden board. To shift a building complex two meters farther from the street for instance, one need only move the corresponding placeholder. All participants immediately witness how the changes affect the model. ARTHUR can also be linked to simulations. This enables planners to determine how architectural modifications impact visitor traffic or influence the air flow inside a building. To ensure that real and virtual worlds are accurately superimposed, the researchers developed semitransparent eyeglasses with stereoscopic projection. They function by embedding computer-generated scenes in the viewers actual field of vision. Users still have a good view of their natural environment though, emphasizes Broll. Even facial expressions and gestures of the other meeting participants are easily perceived. The collaborative EU project involves the FIT, University College London, Aalborg University in Denmark, Saabtech in Sweden, architects from London-based Foster and Partners and Linie 4 in Germany. In its next stage, the researchers will be working on ways to reintegrate modifications to the virtual model in the architects CAD system, allowing a seamless flow of continually updated information.Contact:,Dr. Wolfgang Broll,Phone +49 2241 / 14-27 15,Fax +49 2241 / 14-20 84,E-mail: wolfgang.broll@fit.fraunhofer.de Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Information Technology FIT,Schloss Birlinghoven,53754 Sankt Augustin, Germany For further information:,http://www.fit.fraunhofer.de/projekte/arthur/index_en.xml (FIT: ARTHUR),

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Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom