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3 Case of Study

This item presents a teaching methodology for a practical course in architectural degree where the students improve AR and VR technologies through their own mobile devices. The course design follows previous examples [23] of moodle-based evaluation systems for the actual requirements within EEES on new skills for professional technicians such as spatial vision, orientation or teamwork.

At the same time, to test the accuracy and satisfaction of GPS systems only available in smartphones and iOS devices, we developed an Android tool (RA3) based on

Fig. 2. On the left is an iOS screen displaying options with ArPlayer of Armedia. On the right is the application RA3 developed for Android devices.

markers as location encoders (i.e. markers with regular shapes, such as QR code-like markers) associated with specific points of the environment or objects.

3.1 Methodology

The proposed course focused on two points:

On the one hand, the structure that defines the acquisition of knowledge is an inverted pyramid: students cannot perform an activity without having completed and assimilated the activity before. Therefore, only students who have built a 3D model will be able to insert it into a landscape or photograph according to its geometrical space or perspective. Similarly, only smartphone owners are able to play AR applications for iOS platforms. To separate mobile device users from the rest of the class, all students completed a pre-test that defined two main groups; a control and experimental group.

On the other hand, the work of the students with the proposed methodology, not only helps them to improve their spatial skills (to be able to compare their 3D proposals located and displayed in its location, allowing understand and correct common design errors in particular focused on the size of the models) but this work also improves the educational proposal identifying strengths and weaknesses from the usability of the method.

During the designed course at the Architecture University of Barcelona (ETSABUPC), four main exercises were developed in order to evaluate particular skills linked to architectural and engineering careers, such as spatial perception, orientation or occlusion. These kinds of abilities can also be introduced with specific AR experiences [24].

3.2 Contents

The first activity of the course was to generate a database of 3D sculptures of Andreu Alfaro. These virtual sculptures, in the second part of the course, then had to be integrated in a nineteenth-century square through a photographic refund. The third exercise was the virtual representation of the chosen architectural environment, one of the few arcaded squares of Barcelona, the Plaza Masadas. Finally, every student promoted their own urban intervention according to the regulation and urban plans.

Fig. 3. Two examples of photographic proposals of 3D sculptures in the middle Plaza Masadas, Barcelona

In the photographic proposals of the object or piece in the middle of a square, the realism of the image can be diminished if the ambient occlusion or point of view of both images (the real square and the 3D sculpture) is in contradiction. Lighting, for example, is an element of realism that is dynamic and produces shadows that, when missing; break the realistic effect of AR. To avoid ambient occlusion contradictions, the students were required to select several properties such as color, reflection or material, and use tools that introduced the latitude and light-time during the render process of 3D models in Artlantis, V-ray or 3DStudioMax to offer more interactive real environment [25]. Then, Photomatch options of SketchUp were used to match the 3D model in the chosen squares photography according to its point of view.

The third part of the practical course introduced teamwork abilities into the previously evaluated skills of geometric performing, spatial visualization or orientation and ambient occlusion. Different segments of the existing arcaded buildings around the square had to be developed in two partner groups separately according the urban plans that expected the reconstruction of one corner of this place. The more or less extensive adjustments undertaken to connect every segment with the entire compilation determined the

Fig. 4. 3D model of the section of an arcaded square in Barcelona

first mark of the group, with the second mark coming from the result of a controlled exam in which every student had to represent a part of a similar arcaded square in 3D.

The fourth exercise implemented physical and urban properties in the main 3D model. A personal approach was required that discussed material, color, landscaping and urban furniture in the proposed space. The grade for this project was obtained from two perspectives rendered in a human point of view.

Before the final exercise an experimental group composed of students who had passed the digital natives pre-test, have worked using AR with two location strategies for 3D models, marker-based and GPS location. Evaluating the academic results obtained finally by the students, it became clear this experience enabled an improvement in their spatial abilities, as intended. The two main platforms for mobile devices, Android and iOS (ArPlayer and RA3) determined the location strategy for each user in order to integrate their own project on its real environment. Placing the 3D model in its real environment, the application displays different options of interaction such as rotation, scale and light-orientation. Playing with application choices, the student should obtain a final scene with his device in order to compare it with his previous virtual representations and exercises.

Fig. 5. Rendering of two projects in a human point of view

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