IMAGINE Lab's AR Tool Helped Georgia Tech Envision Coda Building Years Before Construction Began

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Georgia Tech’s vision for Tech Square’s newest structure, the Coda building, was only an idea in 2015 when initial development talks began. The first tenants started moving in this month after more than two years of construction and much anticipation.

But researchers in the Georgia Tech IMAGINE Lab didn’t have to wait for brick and steel to start being laid or watch a “construction cam” on a website to envision the possibilities for the new building. They were able to use their expertise in digital imaging, 3D modeling, and augmented reality technologies to create Tech Square in a digital model that included Coda in its earliest concept.

In 2015, the IMAGINE Lab, part of the Center for Spatial Planning Analytics and Visualization in the College of Design, was tasked by stakeholders at the Institute to create a pilot project for a quick visual tool for planning the future Coda building.

“The main goal of the digital application was to quickly visualize a few possible options with building concepts that included 20, 30 and 40 stories, and allow people to interact with the models and see how the cityscape in midtown would be altered,” said Miro Malesevic, digital designer at the IMAGINE Lab.

In essence, the researchers gave decision makers a virtual time machine to the future that brought the building to life and showed how it might be situated in Tech Square and impact the area.

The visualization tool came in the form of an augmented reality app on mobile devices that allowed users to point the screens at a 2D physical map of Tech Square and watch a 3D model of the space come to life on the screen. Users could tap the screen to start with a 20-story building and tap twice more to end up with a structure twice the height (Coda eventually ended up with 21 levels).

Users could also understand how the length of shadows cast by the building or the structure itself might occlude views at the street level or other buildings. The digital AR application even provided a glimpse of the possibility for traffic simulations.

“Use of the 3D AR application has an advantage over traditional 2D blueprints as it provides an individual user with 3D perspective of the design, interaction with the environment, and the ability to use simulations to help in decision-making,” said Malesevic, who worked on the project.

The powerful tool was built within a week, thanks to the IMAGINE Lab’s 3D modeling library, compiled over a 20-year period.

Over the years the IMAGINE Lab has produced numerous architectural visualizations for Georgia Tech, non-profit, and local private organizations supporting economic development efforts at the city and state level.

The third phase of Tech Square was announced in September. It includes preliminary plans for a two-tower complex at the northwest corner of West Peachtree and Fifth streets and possibly a retail plaza as well as an underground parking deck.

The design team in the IMAGINE Lab is already building this next version of Tech Square inside their digital world. The rest of us will have to wait and see how it turns out sometime in 2022 or later.


Story: Joshua Preston

Video: Noah Posner

Video Editing: Terence Rushin


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