Architect uses HoloLens to redesign abandoned Detroit property for Venice Biennale 2016

Vu Anh Nguyen

All the buzz around virtual reality for entertainment may have obscured a bit another approach to linking the digital world to the real world – augmented reality – at the forefront of which is Microsoft with its HoloLens AR headset. Despite not getting as much media hype as the likes of Oculus or Samsung VR, HoloLens is a powerful part of the Microsoft ecosystem that has the potential to change the face of many industries – a fact demonstrated well by Microsoft in marketing materials, and now by architecture professor Greg Lynn, in the newest Partner Spotlight, announced on the Windows Blog.

Professor Lynn teaches architecture and urban design at UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and is the US representative at the 2016 Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious architecture competitions in the world. Lynn’s entry is a ultra-redesign of an 50-year-abandoned Detroit platform called “The Center for Fulfillment, Knowledge and Innovation”, in which he employs Microsoft HoloLens to completely change his approach to designing. His work, combining a transport hub, industrial park, factory and university into one complex, will also be featured in the Detroit-focused The Architectural Imagination exhibition.

Specifically, the HoloLens, working in conjunction with a new mixed-reality-supported design software from location-based solution leader Trimble, enables Lynn to compare his design model with the actual plant in real-time. In a “wow” moment of the video, holograms of the model can actually blow up to real-world scale, offering a new perspective from the inside of the design. It looks almost magical, awesome, insanely practical, and cements the power of the HoloLens in assisting the designing process, or its potential in many other fields.

Interestingly, Microsoft also shows the user’s point of view in the video; unlike in previous marketing videos, the environment outside the view window are also partly visible, albeit darkened and blended in with the real world background. Whether this hints at some breakthrough development on the HoloLens, or just marketing freedom, only the future can tell. For now, those of us without the $3000 or the programming chops to get and work on a HoloLens Developer Edition can watch these videos to dream about the day when everyone would have a HoloLens or the equivalent at their home.