With this post we are starting a 7-part series on "An Introduction to Reality Computing":
- Reality Computing 101
- Turning things into data
- Creating new things with the data
- Turning data back into things
- The value of Reality Computing
- What Reality Computing means for you
- Future scenarios
Please join us regularly as we bring these to you over the coming weeks!
Reality Computing 101
The use of digital models, information, and workflows to develop and produce products and projects is a well-established, expected practice in many industries. Technologies for computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), digital prototyping, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) have already changed how many professionals design and deliver their products and projects.
This use of digital information about the physical world is now laying the groundwork for another transformation: the integration of digital design environments and the physical world. Technologies to capture information about the physical world, manipulate and analyze that information digitally, and actualize the result back into the physical world are combining to enable new ways of working. These new technologies for ‘Reality Computing’ are already improving workflows across industries that design, produce, or manage physical products or projects, from jet engines to highways to running shoes.
What is Reality Computing?
Reality Computing encompasses the many ways data is captured from the physical world; put to use with digital tools for the creation of designs, new information, and seeing changes over time; and ultimately realized either physically (with 3D printing and digital fabrication) or visually (through augmented reality or projection technologies). For anyone engaged in the design, delivery, or management of physical things, Reality Computing is a vision for how technologies are breaking down the barriers between the physical and digital worlds.
Since the advent of digital recordings and audio CDs, music enthusiasts have been copying music tracks, editing or reformatting them to suit their needs, and publishing the results for other people or other devices. Colloquially known as ‘rip, mix, and burn’, this practice completely upended the music industry.
Reality Computing is the same idea for data capture, compute, and create:
- capturing reality in a digital form,
- using software tools to manipulate and analyze that information, and then,
- moving the results back to the real world.
Virtual model-based designs that feed construction, fabrication, and manufacturing processes are commonplace across today’s industries. But many model-based design workflows begin with a digital blank slate. Any design context—be it the wing of a jet or the environs of a new road—is then modeled using geometry to represent spatial information. For example, the ‘existing conditions’ of a building renovation project are usually created manually by modeling the existing building from archived drawings, supplemented with surveyed or scanned data for important measurements as needed. Anecdotally, this ratio (of modeled geometry to captured reality data) is roughly 90 percent versus 10 percent. As a result, design teams are spending hours, days, even months on modeling current reality before they ever get to the design phase of a project.
New technologies are now enabling the direct capture of spatial information about the physical world for integration into design processes. Design context is moving from geometry (modeled representations of the physical world) to this captured reality data. Reality Computing helps design teams improve design accuracy and accommodate physical-world conditions through customized fabrication of a design that is shaped to fit precisely with real-world conditions and environments. Furthermore, there is a technology explosion occurring for how digital projects or products can be realized in the physical world, from 3D printing and machine-controlled grading to augmented reality devices.
In the next several posts, we’ll continue this introduction to Reality Computing. We’ll examine how physical data is captured digitally, operated on, and delivered to the physical world. We’ll look at the value Reality Computing can bring to businesses and organizations. And we’ll drill down into some industry-specific uses.