The issue of interoperability in 3D architectural design

Studio Wikitecture is an open group, composed of a diverse range of individuals from varying disciplines, interested in exploring the application of a open-source paradigm to the design and production of both real and virtual architecture and urban planning.

Amongst their projects is an award-winning 3D Wiki multiple-author 3D-urban project.

They have launched an important appeal to influence the future development of Second Life so that 3D designs can move from one platform to another.

Here’s a good explanation of the problems involved (excerpt only):

I’ve been using Second Life for a number of years now to run experiments, through our ‘Studio Wikitecture’ group, to see if a Metaverse, such as SL might one day act as the platform for collective intelligence in architecture and urban planning. I’m also an active member of the ‘RL Architects in SL’ group. As you can imagine, most of the members that compose these two groups are architects. What I have found, participating in these groups over the last year or so is that new members are always excited about using Second Life as either a collaborative tool or as a platform to exhibit their work. Unfortunately, however, their interest soon wanes when they find out there’s no easy way to import in models from third party programs. I realize there’s a number of grass-roots initiatives out there that have developed rough and crude ways to import from the following:

Blender / Sketchup / Max / Maya

Although, I give my utmost respect to the programmers that have developed these projects, to say they are crude, is to pay them a compliment. What invariably happens is that after sharing these links with the many people that ask, they come back (if they come back at all) even more confused and frustrated having labored through the elaborate and evolved process of copying and pasting pieces of code back and forth between one program and the other. The process is about as easy as painting with rice grains.

Having had a number of conversations over the year with people about this, I can say with confidence, that SL’s lack of portability is the number one hurdle for our demographic and the main reason why many people never come back. Although speculation, I would imagine this is a major hurdle for other groups as well.

What I don’t really understand is why this issue is not pushed more by the SL community at large. I have noticed there were a number of issues posted on SL’s Issue Tracker that call for portability of a number of various file types, such as .OBJ, .3DM, .3DS, .DXF, & .DAE.

What I don’t really understand is why, firstly, the overall SL community is not voting on this en masse and secondly, why have some of these grass-roots initiatives outlined above, just withered on the vine? Some of these projects are over two years old, with no sign of life or continued evolution since they were first posted.

Having been in the middle of this conversation for awhile, it seems the standard responses usually involve two factors: technology and/or SL’s economy—Technology, from the aspect that it’s currently still too difficult to do and economically, from the aspect that the sudden influx of new models would dilute the value of existing in-world creations, resulting in a negative impact on SL’s economy. Although I’m sure there are more reasons, these seem to be at the forefront of the discussion.

What confuses me, from my perspective anyways, is that these reasons still don’t seem plausible to me and I’m found wondering if I’m missing a valuable part of the equation.

First, although I have a limited background in programming, it appears from the existence of these grass roots projects, that portability is indeed obtainable. Having dabbled a little with each project above, I realize the process is laborious—cutting and pasting code from one program to the other.

I also realize that most of these conversion programs drastically simplify the form when imported into SL, such as textures being stripped off, and meshes and certain objects such as cylinders and sphere’s being simplified down to plain ‘box’ prims in SL. Although these are indeed hurdles, the technology is currently there to do this on a very limited basis.

What I don’t understand, is why these projects haven’t evolved into a more user-friendly format after the years they have been in place. This is just a lack of user-interface design verses a lack of back-end programming. Even though they are crude and might only import texture striped SL boxes in some cases, i know that I, as well has a horde of others, would still jump at the chance to have access to a tool like this and in most cases would actually pay good money for such a thing.”

This video, provides a nice overview of the technology behind Wikitecture 3.0 (‘Wikitecture’ being an experiment to work out the procedures and protocols necessary to harness a group’s collective intelligence in designing architecture):

2 Comments The issue of interoperability in 3D architectural design

  1. Pingback: 21st Century Spirituality · Life stream of 2008-08-28

  2. Maria

    This must have taken an awful amount of time to do. However, the results seem to be highly rewarding and people who spent all their time on making of this can be satisfied with their work. 3D industry is still on the move as far as the development is concerned and there are so many professions that need good software to improve and speed up their work. Today’s world is a busy and hectic one and time is money (Heh,I’m talking like a true American, aren’t I? :).

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *