Environment-Responsive Materials as Dynamic Markers for Architectural Augmented Reality Applications

Research project led by Theresa Uitz and Andreas Körner (2021-2022)

With the awareness of our environmental responsibilities growing, architects must engage with alternative design strategies and techniques to express thermal comfort characteristics that are unseen with the naked eye and their inherent spatial features.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a digital technology that allows real events to be virtually augmented by overlaying real data with digital data. As an emergent technology, AR is becoming ever more ubiquitous with the availability of free tools and powerful devices. In a hybrid state, the video camera input of smartphones or tablets can be overlaid in real-time with virtual data and displayed on the device’s screen. Marker-based applications are constantly scanning for distinct and specifically designed patterns called markers that trigger the AR experience. Markers are mostly static patterns, like quick-response-codes or bar-codes. While AR technology is being widely used in industrial environments, it is still a novel territory in architectural design and has only recently gained notable popularity among academics and professionals.Contrasting industrial environments, architectural spaces are hardly standardised and naturally highly dynamic. AR has the promising capacity to visualise invisible sensor data and complex conditions that are otherwise imperceptible to humans. Nonetheless, the markers appear to be a bottleneck when dealing with such dynamic environments.

This project presents a design workflow and preliminary results for thermochromic AR-markers (thermochromic materials change colour depending on temperature). The research investigates design, simulation, and fabrication techniques for a range of prototypes. Once assembled, they form a human-sized wall screen which reacts to changes in temperature. The resulting patterns consequently provide unique, predictable, and programmable markers which signify specific environmental changes at specific locations on the wall. While this research reconsiders digital design and its design parameters, the scalability of the results remains open and a task for the future.

In this way, architecture does not have to exist in one form only, but as a more individualised hyper-environment that enriches or stimulates the users and individuality.

This research was funded by the Förderkreis 1669 at Universität Innsbruck. ith generous support from Modellbauwerkstätte der Fakultät für Architektur, UIBK

Funding: Förderkreis 1669 der Universität Innsbruck

Principal investigators: Theresa Uitz and Andreas Körner
Assistant: Catalina Tripolt