From isolation to collaboration: Arup's new adventures in immersive design

21/04/2022
Chris Ames

Engineering and consulting firm Arup has launched ExperienceLab - 'a unique immersive facility that allows groups of designers, clients and stakeholders to step inside and move around virtual representations of their plans'.

Arup said the facility will change the way designers, clients and stakeholders can experience, test and improve their designs, by enabling them to understand how their decisions will impact the experience of an environment, space or building before being implemented.

Users are surrounded by 26 speakers and face a six-metre curved screen. A stereo head-tracked projection fills their field of view and responds to their movement.

Arup said this provides ‘a verified experience with accurate depth of field and perspective coupled with a calibrated immersive sound environment of everything from concert hall room acoustics to the sound of traffic’.

It added that this new immersive technology creates an environment that allows users to experience complex problems from perspectives that previously weren’t possible, using high quality audio data and an immersive visual experience to give them ‘a new level of insight and help them to adapt and enhance their plans’.

The firm said this kind of collaborative immersive facility removes the need for virtual reality (VR) headsets, which can be isolating, and instead users wear 3D glasses.

The facility also has a data visualisation capability that Arup says gives a clear indication of how a project will impact a surrounding area, for example through mapping potential changes to vehicle movements.

Arup says this capability will also allow masterplanners to translate complex environmental data into a visually rich representation, allowing them to test their proposals to reduce noise or air pollution in cities or to visualise the usage of a space rather than reading complex data analysis.

Ian Knowles, Arup's director of acoustic AV and theatre consulting, said: ‘Arup ExperienceLab is a digital facility that can genuinely improve how we design and plan our built environment through human experience.

‘Immersive design tools are a fantastic innovation for our industry, allowing us to step into our designs, share the impacts with stakeholders and provide a platform for discussion and agreement.

'Until now this has been an individual task, with users closed off by VR headsets. Arup ExperienceLab changes this – keeping the immersive realism but allowing us to experience and talk through decisions together.’

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