Tag Archives: 3D

360 Panoramic Views with WebVR – Production Workflow

Optimising work is part of me. I hate repeating the same task again and again. We are using computers, that’s what they are good at, repeating a task for us. When it comes to work in a team, the workflow get even more important so that two different persons don’t overlap each other work or come back with always the same questions of “how you doing this?” or “where is this file?”. This is all good sense in theory, very far for being the norm in practice, at least from my experience, working mostly with architects and designers. Furthermore, as a freelance, months will pass without using a specific workflow,  working on a different project with different software. Being able to look back at how we did something  is a must if we don’t want to repeat the same mistake again.
On the Saydnaya project I was working on with Forensic Architecture for Amnesty International, we produce a series of interactive 360 panoramic views developed using the fresh WebVR. We didn’t get enough time to develop it in VR, although it is real-time 3D online in a browser, no plugin, no viewer needed. Pretty awesome stuff! Here is the workflow we used to get those 8 Interactive 360 Panoramic views online:
Saydnaya Circulation in 3dsMax
  1. Some of the 3d models were made with Rhino then exported to 3dsMax, most of the models were made only with 3dsMax avoiding any mistranslation between Rhino and 3dsMax, two very different modellers.
  2. All the texturing and lighting was done in 3dsMax, then baked to texture.
  3. Optimization was a big part of the process.. Models were  exported in OBJ (only meshes) and optimised with MeshLab. Maps were optimized with Photoshop.
  4. Everything was tested in a sandbox in WebGL using MAMP as a Apache Local Server, Atom to edit the PhD and Python files.
Saydnaya Circulation WebGL

If you are interested  and would like more details, let me know in the comment below or via email.

What is WebVR? It is 3 things, see this Reddit post here for more details:
  • WebVR is configuring the VR HMDs
  • WebGL is about drawing in WebVR using mainly three.js
  • HTML5 is the sandbox to play in.

Saydnaya Project link

VR or 360 panoramas apps for sharing?

Have you tried any of those Virtual Reality (VR) headset yet? Did you enjoy looking around being immerse into a totally different environment. Have you even had the opportunity to move around and interact with some object or even other avatar?

Actually, you can even create your own VR environment quite easily. Although, it depends on the level of “realism” you would like to achieve: you can upload panoramic photos or video of your physical environment, which will be realistic visually but not very immersive because of the lack of interaction or you can upload your own 3D environments fully programmable.

As an architect, I was  looking for a 3D VR application that would allow me to share an experience of the project I was working on online with the other architects and designers or even with the client.

I have tried a few of those applications, here are my findings. The best option, from a budget and mobility point of view, these days is to opt for a format that can be “experienced” with a smartphone and a google cardboard style headset. Another option, much more expensive,  is to choose the heavier solution using a head mounted display linked to a powerful computer, not as convenient but brings more immersivity. Today’s post will focus on the former.

Considering buying a VR headset is a bit of a hassle; so many option out there.  Basically, any cheap Google cardboard style headset  is good enough. The one I picked up is the MergeVR: using soft material, it is more comfy and it offers buttons to interact with the VR environment. It fits easily any size of smartphone. It works wonders with my LG G5.

That aside, back to the software. After having modelled the whole project in details, instead of having to render dozen of stills from all the angles, I thought a VR experience would be a better solution to immerse the client in his project. Two main choices from there: either you want to walk around inside the 3d model, or you render 360 images that let you look around from a fix location. I tried both, not able to share much without giving my login I am afraid. Here is what I found:

  • InVR : Easy to upload any 3D model. Can be straight from inside Unity through a plugin or via an FBX upload. The mobile app is ok, no sharing yet.
  • Iris: divide into two :
    • Iris Scope for 360 panoramas accessible via smartphone/cardboards. The  app is neat and quite professional. That is the one I used to show to the client. No sharing though.
    • Iris Prospect to share 3D model like obj, sketchup or Revit, although for those, you will need Oculus or HTC Vive.
  • Roundme: 360 panorama online made easy. This is more for everyone uploading their photos. Probably the most user friendly  for sharing 3D 360 panoramas. Check this sample that I upload there when working on this Saydnaya prison project.

  • WebGl: which is actually the option we develop for the final project. Saydnaya prison. However, we didn’t had enough time to develop the whole VR environment. It is “only” 360 Interactive Panoramas you can access from a desktop/laptop web browser.

There are of course some other apps on the market. The one mention above are working on Android. Let me know if you find anything else worth mentioning.

Happy VR.

Memory Triggers from a Prison.

Under the arche.
Part of my research project is to investigate the way humans perceive and remember their surroundings, from an architectural point of view. Results from the first set of experiment using 3D Virtual Environment (3DVE), see ArchiMemory XP 2.3, brought me some insights on what architectural features are most efficient at enhancing participants memory.
This is typically a top-down approach: by placing architectural elements  (doors, windows, arches …) at specific locations inside a 3DVE, we can use them as triggers or symbols to construct a meaningful journey for the participant. For example, a door is used as a transition from one type of information to another; a window is used as a digression device to give a hint on something else without taking you away from the main subject.
Lets look through that window, for a mo!
 A few month ago, I had the opportunity to work on an important project about syrian’s prison with a special research group in Goldsmiths: Forensic Architecture (FA). I couldn’t say much until the official release of the website we worked on due to the secrecy of the mission. Now that Amnesty International has released the website, I am taking the opportunity to briefly explain  the project in the light of my own research.
Saydnaya's prison - Aerial 3rd floor
Saydnaya’s prison – Aerial 3rd floor

The purpose of this project is to make the public aware of the existence of torture prison in Syria where humans right are baffles everyday. No NGO or any journalist have ever been inside, we don’t have any document, picture or report on this prison. What we do have is a satellite view and a few ex-prisoners testimonies.

Prison's Corridors
Prison’s Corridors

FA investigation started by doing long interviews of those witnesses. Based on their memories, an architect and a sound designer rebuild in real-time a 3D model of the prison. Because prisoners were blindfolded when arriving at the prison, most of their memories are based on sounds, movements and proprioception. Only after a few weeks, they got to their main cell, they were able to see the walls and the other people faces. Even though, sounds were a big part of their memories, my job was to focus on the visuals including 3D models, lights and textures. I will explain more about this in a separate post.

Triggers in Corridors
Triggers in Corridors
Back to the main room.
Working on this project gave me the opportunity to understand my research topic from a bottom-up approach.  In this case, memories are already in participant’s minds. They are vivid and strongly attach to all sort of emotions and perceptions due to the high stress environment where they happend. In a opposite direction as my previous method, here the process was to extract and rebuild those spaces from memory.
Those interviews were a constant demonstration of how memory works. The further we got in the interviews, the more we realised that memory is triggered by details like objects, architectural elements or colors.  Being in a cell with no window or arche, those triggers can take very different shapes. It can be a water pipe with his specific sound, re-purposed as a communication device or a hatch in the door through which the food was coming.
From the truck on arrival.
From the truck on arrival.
Before closing the door.
Even though those two methodologies are very different by essence,  one being to enhance memory, the other being to retrieve information from existing memories, they have a lot of common ground. From a cognitive psychology point of view, the main factor  activating those memories is “trigger”. Either we find them by telling the stories we remember and go in as much details as we can, or we place those triggers along a new journey to create that story.

To have a hint of those prisoners memory, visit the website and explore the 360 panoramas (more about this in next post) here: Saydnaya Project