In our modern world, information is power.

In our modern world, information is power.

According to Director Ridley Scott, we should have androids living among us within the next four years, if Blade Runner’s depiction of Los Angeles in 2019 is accurate.  We may not quite get there in time, but Geneva’s airport assistant is a step forward. Rolling about the terminal, this robot seeks out people who appear lost and, using its array of sensors and communication devices, assists them in their own language and will physically guide them to their destination (there must not be any stairs in Geneva Airport).  The assistant, which is also a security guard, could also help print boarding passes and book your flights; all the little things we expect in the 21st century.  But to interact with real androids, you may need to visit Seoul’s RobotLand theme park when it opens in 2016. The South Korean’s are far advanced in ‘humanising’ robots and their government intends to have an android in every household by 2020.  Whether they keep our heart beating in hospital or simply vacuum our carpet, perhaps we can learn from the way robots see the world; as an array of sensors and connected information.

Our work involves recording, analysing and communicating some quite complex information received from a wide variety of sources.  Unlike robots, we can make critical decisions and formulate new ideas, but the value of the information we share remains central to our role in a project.

In our modern world, information is power.

That’s why Harrison Grierson’s Urban Design team uses cutting edge technology to deliver the power of information to our clients. I’m in a fortunate position to work with some of the best tech tools available. Our projects utilise aerial drones to sweep the landscape and provide accurate 3d surveys. We collaborate across the country in real-time over fibre optic connections. Our cutting edge hardware and software allows me to rapidly build an entire neighbourhood as a 3d model, viewing it with photo-realism. I can then use a 3d printer to turn that virtual model into a tangible product.

Urban designers are spatial thinkers and, like many people, we understand the world in a visual way. It’s no surprise that we use 3d graphics when presenting our ideas to clients, council staff, colleagues and project managers. I find that a realistic 3d picture or video is something that everybody can relate to.

We see 3d software as a working tool, not an expensive luxury utilised only at the end of the project.  Our models must be flexible, fast and responsive to design decisions, whether at the very early concept stage or when nearing the final product. Issues that are spatial or visual in nature such as privacy, street character or shadowing can be quickly understood in three dimensions.

Personally, one of the most rewarding parts of my job is sitting down with a client at my desk. We can navigate their project in real time and spot opportunities for improvement, make critical decisions and work towards the ideal outcome.  Through this enhanced understanding of information, we are able to build a stronger relationship.

Ultimately we all perceive the world in 3d and therefore it is a natural progression that we communicate the design process in 3d as well.  Taking a cue from our robot allies, I know that compiling a myriad of technical inputs into one intuitive model is a great way to move a project forward.  So please talk to us about how we can collaborate, enhance your projects and help you harness the power of 3d information.

This thought leadership article is by Sam Coles, a Senior Urban Designer at Harrison Grierson.

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