In this chapter I will present the framework of Physical Computing. I believe that there is a clear step by step development from Virtual Reality to Mixed Reality and finally to Physical Computing. Under no circumstances do I want to imply that physical computing is the ultimate solution to every need. Even though it is more tempting due to the fact that it is more attached to our physicality, it doesn’t mean that all the previous notions have ceased to serve their purpose. It is just that Physical Computing presents itself as another option.
The abandoned “virtuality”
Since the 90s the use of computers for architectural applications follows a number of main lines; Virtual Reality1 (VR) represents one development, which for a number of reasons, has continued to be of academic rather than practical interest [Penn et al, 2004]. One of the main reasons is that VR applications are based on immersive equipment, and due to their cost are affordable only to specific institutions. But even with the best equipment the problematic depiction of reality never ceased to be a drawback; even by using the most advanced rendering methods the final outcome (with few exceptions) is rather naïve simply because the unreality of virtual spaces is their over perfection. It’s true, however that VR still serves psychological experiments and simulations and general applications investigating non-aesthetic factors very well.
Fig. 3 A Virtual Reality Head Mounted Display[Source:http://www.vr.ucl.ac.uk/img /headset.jpg]
Fig. 4 A Virtual Reality CAVE (Cave Automatic Virtual Environment ) [source:http://www_ivri.me.uic.edu/ivrI /contamination/vr.JPG]
1 Virtual reality (abbreviated VR) describes an environment that is simulated by a computer. Most virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones. Some advanced and experimental systems have included limited tactile feedback. Users can often interactively manipulate a VR environment, either through standard input devices like a keyboard, or through specially designed devices like a cyberglove. The simulated environment can be similar to the real world—for example, in simulations for pilot or combat training— or it can differ significantly from reality, as in VR games.In practice, it is very difficult to create a convincing virtual reality experience, due largely to technical limitations on processing power and image resolution. [source: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_reality ]
Using Everyday Objects as Communication tools