Google I/O is an annual event that brings together developers and creators from around around the world to Google’s home base in Mountain View, CA. For three days, the Shoreline Amphitheater is packed with sessions, codelabs, tech sandboxes, hands-on learning with Google experts, and a first look at the latest releases of products. Despite the exciting nature of I/O, the question needs to be asked; why is an Architectural Designer attending such a technology-focused event?

As a designer and researcher for Arrowstreet’s Innovation and Research Studio (AIR), we have spent the last year and a half exploring the far-reaching potentials of Virtual and Augmented Reality. More than technology research, our group at Arrowstreet is committed to understanding (through prototyping), the ways in which the rapid evolution of technology is fundamentally changing design and the creation of the built environment. Now more than ever, Architects need to deeply understand how technology works so that we can deftly craft physical spaces to meet the needs of our technology-reliant culture.

Google’s new developments in driverless cars, IOT (Internet of Things), VR/AR, and machine learning provided important insight about the technologies that must be leveraged in architectural design. Attending codelabs on Google’s AR Core developer tools, Cloud IOT Core, and Nest Tensorflow illustrated the limitless potential for technology to facilitate deep connection between people, shared experiences, and the built environment. However, it is no longer enough to simply consider these tools as a spectator. This year’s Google IO was a call to action, to all creators and designers, to accept the great responsibility of crafting accessible, and customizable experiences for all. Google made a number of exciting announcements at the summit, that will continue to influence our daily lives, our relationships with technologies, and the spaces in which we spend our time. One thing was clear, it is critical for today’s Architects to be able to create technology, understand its potential, and provide it equitably throughout physical infrastructure.

While this new set of responsibilities for today’s Architects may seem insurmountable, Google I/O’s developer tools, hardware, software, and support platforms, provide a great place to start. Google’s AR Core—a platform for building augmented reality experiences—allows mobile devices to sense the surrounding environment and even gain contextual understanding. This technology provides today’s users with the ability to view their world from many perspectives and become true stakeholders and creators of spatial information. Google also announced the Cloud Anchors API, which allows users to share and participate in the same augmented content as one another. This communal participation will have far reaching impacts in how we utilize public spaces; as technology allows for different types of engagement. When interaction no longer lives within the confines of a screen, the way we occupy our spaces will be drastically changed.

Google unveiled a new and improved suite of features that pertain to their digital “Assistant”, all of which are built on machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI). The Google Assistant is getting smarter, conversational, and will soon be capable of acting on its user’s behalf. The advancements in AI suggest a world in which our technology is not only deeply embedded in our lives, but also serves as an extension of ourselves. Internet of Things (IOT) provides us with a new set of “smart” devices powered by ML and AI that allow us to interact with technology while engaged with the built environment around us. If the deep integration of tech is combined with the creation of places, we will spend a much larger portion of our time connecting with the world around us, instead of building a deeper sense of isolation within our mobile phones.

These types of technological advances are often posed as a threat to the way we socially engage with the world. Google I/O delivered a clear message to all creators—there are tools that have been created to establish a better paradigm for engagement and connection. It is on us as Architects to utilize these tools (Augmented Reality, Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, IOT) to create a more flexible model of physical infrastructure that leverages technology, and continues to establish true connection between people and place.

Want to see what Google I/O 2018 was like for yourself? Click the image above or the link here to tour created in Google’s Tour Creator Platform! https://bit.ly/2rRLG0i

Kat Schneider, LEED Green Associate, is an Architectural & User Interface Designer for Arrowstreet’s Innovation and Research Studio (AIR). 

Topics: Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, User Engagement, Google, Technology