Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Situation Engine

The Situation Engine research project at the Faculty of the Built Environment here at UNSW brings the real-time simulation capabilities of the CryEngine3 to the problem of teaching construction management. There are serious complexities around site visits for students of construction, elements like safety and timing have always been tricky, and the situation isn't improving. The notion of using a real-time game engine to present construction sites to students has the potential to achieve a raft of goals. Students get to see sites looking just as messy and disorienting as in real-life at any stage of the construction process with complete safety.

Sid Newton and Russell Lowe's ALTC grant around the teaching of Construction Technology has seen them and their team working with CryEngine3 to explore how this media can improve the educational experience for students. The notion that the simulated construction sites can present a suite of flaws or faults that the students set out to discover is intriguing. This turns the exercise of being in the environment very much into one of analysis which has real potential for reinforcing a whole range of site and construction concepts: safety, scale, sequencing, bracing, building elements, trade responsibilities, weather and more. I can see them generating the site/construction errors and then students sleuthing their way through immersed in the spaces and areas much like an inspector. This cant teach everything of course - the feel, the sturdiness, the close-up detail of nailing or paintwork - but it could still be a powerful aid to this early learning.

Here are two of the WIP videos created for the project thus far illustrating the logic of sections and the domestic housing construction sites.

Note that for the educational theorists there has been some interesting work done with the project looking at effectiveness, situated and authentic learning. Even though there is a game engine at the heart of things here, they have been moving away from the more gamey/gamification type uses.

The project is still going, but here are some screengrabs of me inside one of the later builds of where things are upto - showing the construction sites at various stages. Note these are all shots in real-time from inside the editor. I can see such potential here and the fidelity of the engine lifts the entire experience, esp in actual 3D (either nice glasses or even anaglyph) - super super stuff.

Apart from ongoing exploration in this context, I would love to see us taking this work and what the Architectural design students are doing in first year and elevate real-time visualisations to common practice in design education - exciting times.

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