3 Tools That Will Change How You Design

image: Ryan Deane

image: Ryan Deane

Emerging Technology

While the projects we do as landscape architects are slowly evolving, the ways we are able to execute and deliver these projects are progressing at light speed. Every day there are new technologies being developed that will redefine how we work in years to come. This blog is just a sample platter of what will likely be a part of your daily workflow in the not so distant future.

Augmented Reality & Virtual Reality

Unless you live under a rock, you have heard the buzz surrounding Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens. These are the two wearable’s that have everyone from the gaming world to the architectural world swooning over their potential. If you haven’t already done so, do a YouTube search for either one, watch a few videos, and then pick your jaw up off the floor. Recently, Digi-Capital predicted that the combined AR and VR industries could be worth $150 billion by 2020.

Without getting too involved, the differences between the two technologies are this; Oculus Rift uses virtual reality and the Hololens uses augmented reality. In the Oculus Rift virtual reality scenario, the user is visually immersed in a model, seeing nothing but what is on the screen in front of them. Augmented reality through the Hololens, allows computer generated graphics to be visually projected into the real world environment around the user. Both are effective methods that can be used for designing and experiencing objects and spaces.

Although there will never be a replacement for the good ole’ chipboard and glue model, its undeniable that Band-Aid sales will drop significantly when you can hang up the X-ACTO knife and present to a client using augmented or virtual reality. The video below uses augmented reality and motion capture to unveil a site analysis and design.


video credit: Guangzhou Li Dong Animation Design

Social Media

Social media is here to stay, so why not make the most out of what it has to offer. Over 1.65 billion (and growing) social media accounts are being accessed via a mobile device. This data is, more often than not, tied to a GPS location, which provides information that we can use as landscape architects. To put this in perspective look how much GPS linked data is generated every second of every day:

Facebook: 1.46 billion users posting 694,445 times every second
Twitter: 304 million users tweeting 9,964 times every second
Foursquare: 60 million users checking in 2,000 times each minute

This data is tied to the demographics of the user, their location, restaurant, bar, store, business, and sometimes even mood. Not all of this data is useful to a landscape architect, even after you weed through all the pictures of Fluffy (the cat) wearing sunglasses on the couch. There is still an awe inspiring amount of raw data to be harvested and used.

This time lapse video from Foursquare is a circulation analysis showing check-ins over a 24 hour period in New York City. It shows where people are going and what they are doing at every second. For a fee, this data is available to you at any location to help inform your planning efforts.


video credit: Foursquare

Flux IO

How many hours in a year do you spend tediously reading zoning regulations, sorting through zoning maps, overlay zones, and understanding allowed uses for a project? If you’re like me, those are the thankless hours that never bring you any satisfaction.

Started in late 2010, Flux is still in its infancy. The video below shows a demo of what this software can do in the Metro area of Austin, Texas. “Flux provides cloud-based collaboration tools for architects, engineers, and contractors to exchange data and streamline complex design workflows.” As they simply state on their website, “Let us handle “the plumbing” so your teams can spend time on what is most important to them: design.”


video credit: Flux IO

The new programs and gadgets being introduced daily will redefine the way we work. The few that I’ve mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg. In September 2015, Landscape Architecture Magazine reintroduced their “Tech” section, with Daniel Tal and Ryan Deane as editors at large. If you have any articles you’d like to see written on technology related topics, feel free to send an email to deane@slamcoll.com. Stay tuned!

by Ryan Deane, ASLA, Digital Technology PPN Chair

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