With an event like COVID-19, we are starting to have a better understanding of the value of spaces like gardens and parks. Many people took up gardening during lockdowns and more people flocked to open places like public parks. This has raised the bar for the public’s expectations for their living environment.
In the last dozen years, it seems like virtual and augmented reality and “smart” technology has popped up everywhere – from video games to museums. Let’s take a look at some of the ways garden designers are using this new technology – and some ways it can be used in the future.
Virtual Reality to Showcase Work
First, let’s quickly define VR and AR – it’s easy to get the two confused. Virtual reality is the creation of an entirely new reality. Augmented reality is adding to the physical reality.
In the past, landscape designers relied on 2d drawings and animated videos to showcase their work to current and potential clients.
By switching to virtual or augmented reality, designers can give their clients a more immersive feeling. Gardens are largely about how they make you feel. VR and AR are better at bringing in that emotional component. By being able to virtually interact with a space, the clients can provide better input. This makes for a happier client when the project is finished.
For Design Iterations and Alternatives
Most virtual or augment reality systems are fairly user friendly. It is easy to modify anything and everything. You can look at different variations of plants, different lighting, or different water features – all at the click of a button.
Lighting plays such an important part in garden design and not just for aesthetics. The health of the plants depends on getting the right amount of sunlight. With virtual and augmented reality, designers can simulate lighting at any point of the day or year. This allows them to accurately design planting schemes and layout the garden for the whole year.
Applying the Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT), which is a network of smart technology, has already been heavily implemented in agriculture. This allows for precise irrigation, precise fertilization, greenhouse controls, and other facility controls. According to a study done by Anhui Xinhua University in China, “sending the development of these technologies to the planning and design of smart gardens provides new references and breakthrough directions…”
When combined, the IoT can be used to enhance the experience of a visitor to a garden. An example is biofeedback sensors, which “help to obtain information about the user’s state in real time and/or improve the user experience.”
Fully Virtual Gardens
A game was recently created called Garden. Considered mixed reality, it combines virtual and augmented reality. In this game, players can create a virtual garden and then play in the garden. Project Tango, a Google tablet with motion tracking and depth sensing capability, is the device used to play. The real environment is scanned, virtual objects are added, and the user can walk freely around the physical space while engaging with the virtual.
Could this become a tool for garden designers? Speakers at the American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting certainly thought so. At this meeting, they identified new technology that had them excited by the prospects. They envisioned landscape architects entering the scene, virtually, and creating a SketchUp model over the design site with swipes of their hands. They even pictured landscape architects being able to work collaboratively in this virtual environment from around the world.