Using Generative Architecture and Augmented Reality Together

Author: Eric Abbruzzese

Very rarely does a technology come along that makes engineers completely rethink product development. Generative design is one such innovation and it is propelling the manufacturing industry into an entirely new realm. Combined with Augmented Reality (AR), the possibilities are limitless.

What Is Generative Design?

Generative design is a methodology to assist with efficiency in both the design process and the object being designed. It is used in discrete manufacturing, prominently in verticals like automotive, where products are often high value and complex. Generative design can leverage Artificial Intelligence (AI), along with human input to automatically create the best possible design solution for a given goal—maximizing structural rigidity, while reducing materials usage is a common and high-value example.

Applying this to architecture, generative design leverages applications for specific architectural purposes, with individual design efforts approached similarly to any other segment. Design can be both large and small scale, such as:

  • Entire building structure
  • Floorplans
  • Plumbing and wiring
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)

Leveraging AR for Generative Design

Augmented Reality (AR) can slot perfectly into a generative design ecosystem as an interactive visualization tool. AR is already used for things like project planning and Three-Dimensional (3D) design, training, collaboration, inspection, and maintenance. Content is often sourced from Building Information Modeling (BIM) data, similar to how Computer Aided Design (CAD), 3D models, and Internet of Things (IoT) data can be leveraged in other AR applications. This saves some effort in novel content creation for AR, which can be significant when starting from scratch. This all remains true when leveraging generative design as well, just the nature of creating that content is different.

Visualization Is Key to Generative Design Architecture

Generative design creates 3D content that can be visualized and interacted with in AR applications. Although each technology is well established, combining them in architecture is less established.

For architecture, visual design is a critical component. Visualizing complex objects, especially at scale, is incredibly difficult with existing visualization tools like computer screens. AR is the best visualization tool for these complex objects and environments, thanks to 3D content support and spatial tracking that enable accurate visualization and interaction at scale. This was not possible digitally before AR.

While AR is a fantastic visualization tool, it can also be used in the design process itself. Given its interactive nature, designers can collaborate and iterate with AR. Not only can things like visual design choices and floorplans be visualized at proper scale, but designers can update content within that system, increasing process efficiency, while also expanding the overall potential of the design process.

Generative Design Still Needs the Humans

Generative design can create incredibly complex and impressive objects and solutions, but there still needs to be a human touch to ensure everything works visually and as a cohesive environment. For example, a building façade generatively designed may be structurally and visually impressive, but when viewed at scale in AR, issues with manufacturing feasibility or visual cohesiveness with the rest of the building design can be spotted. For this reason, it’s still imperative to hire and train highly-skilled CAD engineers who are masters of generative architecture.

Technologies Enabling Generative Design

Many impactful companies and enabling platforms are already suited to generative design and AR, even if they’re not currently active in the space. Autodesk, for example, has a complete portfolio for generative design and Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC), as well as significant AR integrations into that portfolio. Hardware partners like Microsoft with its HoloLens Mixed Reality (MR) headset, also have significant partnerships across the AEC and broader enterprise ecosystem. Obvious ties to AI and machine vision, digital twins, and other enabling technologies leave significant potential for expansion into generative architecture, specifically for companies operating in related segments.

Generative Design Is a Mainstay

Expect to see more discussion around generative design leveraging AR over the next couple of years. Enterprise AR has been a story of slow and steady adoption with exceptional Return on Investment (ROI) potential, but high device costs and unfamiliar use cases have held it back a bit. Those barriers have quickly been falling, and there will be an influx of new AR devices coming from both enterprise-focused players and familiar tech giants. AEC is already a well-established vertical for AR, both in terms of interest in adopting AR and active, successful implementations. That trend continues, with generative design use cases adding to the potential value of AR.

To learn more about generative architecture, download ABI Research’s Generative Design in Industrial Applications research analysis report.