Innovative app unveiled to help tackle information overload in 3D virtual building technology

Image: Pixabay

Researchers at Loughborough University have developed new software for architects and civil engineers that searches for detailed information, including external documents or web pages, linked to 3D artefacts.

The 3D Information Retrieval (3DIR) app for Autodesk Revit allows the user to search a 3D building model for information by using specific key words or specifying a 2D area, 3D volume, or a set of 3D components. Search results are displayed either as a list or are superimposed on to the 3D model itself. Relationships between 3D objects are also used to rank search results.

3DIR works on the principle that the 3D visualisation or 3D data can be exploited when running search queries, delivering more tailored, digestible and engaging results than those produced, for example, using a web search engine.

Managing information linked to a 3D artefact in this way, helps to exploit our natural spatial cognition ability and visual memory, and overcomes any weaknesses we may have in using language to articulate queries and in perceiving text listings of search results. 

The 3DIR software, which is free to download, has been developed within the Autodesk Revit Building Information Modelling (BIM) platform.

The app has received more than 100 downloads in just a few days. It is based on the research by a team of academics from the School of Civil and Building Engineering at Loughborough University and partners from the former Information Science department, now part of the School of Business and Economics. The app’s development has been funded by The Royal Society and the University’s Higher Education Innovation Fund.

BIM technology is set to revolutionise the design and construction industry, following the Government announcement that by 2016, government construction projects of all sizes will need to be undertaken using the software. BIM provides structured information throughout the lifecycle of a project to help support decision making.

Dr Peter Demian, Senior Lecturer in the School of Civil and Building Engineering, said: “BIM is very important in the construction industry, and more information is being crammed into 3D BIM models, making the hunt for relevant information even more challenging.

“Our research shows that when faced with a situation of information overload such as this, the 3DIR app is a lot more effective in engaging the brain than text-based systems such as web search engines. This is largely due to the fact that the app is picture-led and links together graphical and non-graphical information in an easy-to-read format.”

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