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Impact of virtual reality on architecture revealed by Invisible Landscapes exhibition

The Royal Academy of Arts has uncovered four installations showing how technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are transforming the experiences offered by buildings and spaces. 

The installations were developed by architect Gilles Retsin, designer Keiichi Matsuda, three-dimensional scanning studio ScanLAB, and design company Soft Bodies.

The four installations constitute the final installment of RA curator Gonzalo Herrero Delicado’s Invisible Landscapes. It is a project that explores how the world is being transformed by digital technologies.

The final Invisible Landscapes act delves into the impact of virtual technology on physical spaces, and vice versa. The four installations, which encompass two newly commissioned works inspect how immersive technology forms like mixed, virtual and augmented reality are bridging the gap between the virtual and physical worlds. These technologies are making populations question the definitions of fictional and real, and shaping interactions in a completely new way. – Gonzalo Herrero Delicado

Gilles Retsin, tutor at the Bartlett School of Architecture, contributed with one of the newly commissioned installations called Real Virtuality. His past works include prototypes for a 3D-printed plastic house, and a 3D printed chair built by robots.

Real Virtuality by London-based Retsin is an amalgamation of plywood with augmented reality building techniques and digital technology, to create and install a wooden frame within the architecture gallery of the Royal Academy. The building blocks used to create these blocks were 9 by 12 mm plywood sheets, shaped into part molds with CNC milling equipment.

Modular building blocks created for the project were assembled by workers equipped with HoloLens headgear, which enabled real-time visualisation during the building phase.

Digital design models created with the HoloLens devices were overlaid within the gallery’s walls, enabling the workers to get a visual idea regarding how each plywood piece would fit. The speciality of this structure was that tension is holding it together, along with several laterally placed rods at certain places.

Post-Lenticular Landscapes was another installation created by 3D-scanning firm ScanLAB Projects. It consisted of a diorama that was visible with a holographic lens.

The process of creating this installation involved the ScanLAB team carrying laser 3D-scanning gear to the Yosemite National Park. The equipment was used to create a hologram of the national park’s landscape, in line with the 1870s journeys of Eadweard Muybridge, a renowned photographer.

A diorama allowed viewers to explore Post-Lenticular Landscapes, ScanLAB’s hologram of Yosemite National Park

London-based designer Keiichi Matsuda exhinited his short film named Merger, a 360-degree dystopian feature. It interpreted the possible consequences of how productivity and AR can join to create a monstrous situation within a modern workplace.

Design house Soft Bodies contributed with Weightless Bricks, an MR experience that enables participants to use a VR headset for digital exploration. Users will be able to interact with specially-created physical items within a hybrid setting.

Virtual and augmented reality are two immersive technology forms being utilised by many museums today, with the purpose of enabling visitors gain new perspectives and find newer ways of interaction with exhibits.

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