Australian school design expert Dr Kenn Fisher is working with the Institute of Education, London, using a new 3D interactive sevive to model immersive learning spaces for school capital projects like Building Schools for the Future and the Primary Capital Programme.
One of the challenges in school capital projects is sharing designs with stakeholders for consultation. New MOOFU technology, called Archi-Me, can take architectural 3D designs and turn them into fully interactive virtual spaces that can be explored and modified by all the interested parties.
The Archi-Me service being used by Dr Fisher, associate professor at Melbourne University, and the IOE takes already constructed 3D CAD models and transforms them in a process that makes the spaces fully interactive, much like a computer game. People use 3D characters (avatars) to walk around the buildings, both inside and out, change settings elements like the lighting, furniture and fixtures as well as talking to other avatars. The building design can be tested for a range of users, including for example, those in wheelchairs or very small children - even on a website.
The solution is licensed as software with schools and other education institutions paying a fee to have their 3D models developed with Archi-Me. According to Dr Fisher, the Archi-Me solution is providing the research and development team at the IOE with a new way to test and change learning environments. While the project is under wraps until November, there are examples and a demo video on the Archi-Me website.
“The use of avatars and games technology is engaging and intuitive," says Dr Fisher (right). "It’s an excellent test facility for exploring layout options. As for teaching and CPD, it will allow teachers and educators to prototype learning spaces and get feedback at a time when their learning spaces are being designed, particularly useful in the BSF programme.
"Archi-Me is clearly a superior solution to Second Life, which educators are currently tempted by, because we can test models as they are designed without rebuilding them in another coding language. We need radical concepts for pedagogical spaces as opposed to rows of students in a classroom and this can justify and test the application of those concepts in regard to furniture, acoustics and ICT. It will clearly advance the notion of 21st century learning spaces.”
Nick Peacey, co-ordinator of SENJIT (Special Educational Needs Joint Initiative for Training) at the Institute of Education, says that the idea of mixing CAD design with games technology is exciting: "It is an imaginative approach to engaging all those involved in school building designs. Everyone can share the experience and play with the best school models locally, nationally and internationally. It allows them to bring these ideas into the designs of their own. The concept of playing with designs is engaging for young people and an excellent way of getting their feedback."
MOOFU managing director and founder Nick Palfrey says: “We have been stunned by the overwhelming response from our test companies across the globe and with the launch of Archi-Me we are giving a new edge to the way educational planners create and showcase their work. We’re committed to leading with emerging ideas, creating new markets and championing the best people – and Archi-Me is a solution that meshes perfectly with that.”