David Kravets, writing for Ars Technica:

A judge on Thursday declared as unconstitutional a local Wisconsin ordinance mandating that the makers of augmented reality games get special use permits if their mobile apps were to be played in county parks. The law—the nation’s first of its kind—was challenged on First Amendment grounds amid concerns it amounted to a prior restraint of a game maker’s speech. What’s more, the law was seemingly impossible to comply with.

The federal lawsuit was brought by a Southern California company named Candy Lab. The maker of Texas Rope ‘Em—an augmented reality game with features like Pokemon Go—sued Milwaukee County after it adopted an AR ordinance in February in the wake of the Pokemon Gocraze. Because some of its parks were overrun by a deluge of players, the county began requiring AR makers to get a permit before their apps could be used in county parks.

The permitting process also demanded that developers perform the impossible: estimate crowd size, event dates, and the times when mobile gamers would be playing inside county parks. The permits, which cost as much as $1,000, also required that developers describe plans for garbage collection, bathroom use, on-site security, and medical services. Without meeting those requirements, augmented reality publishers would be in violation of the ordinance if they published games that included playtime in Milwaukee County parks.

Central to its position, Milwaukee County tried to argue that Augmented Reality apps were not protected by the First Amendment. Why?

Because according to the county, the game “does not convey any messages or ideas. Unlike books, movies, music, plays and video games—mediums of expression that typically enjoy First Amendment protection—Texas Rope ‘Em has no plot, no storylines, no characters, and no dialogue. All it conveys is a random display of cards and a map.”

This is a preliminary injunction, and ultimately the matter will be determined in trial, currently not calendared until April of next year.

Building Enclosure Online shared the following:

After pioneering the use of virtual design in construction, Mortenson Construction has developed a first-of-its-kind augmented reality (AR) mobile app to help the University of Washington community “see” the future CSE2 computer science building – well before its doors open to students in January of 2019. Similar to the popular Pokémon Go, users can either point their smartphones at the construction site on campus – or at a printed handout if off campus – to experience a life-like digital representation of the future CSE2 building.

According to the article (which requires subscription to read, unfortunately), Mortenson developed the app in-house. I think what impresses me the most about the capabilities of this kind of technology is how engaging it becomes for stakeholders.

Back when I was working on the Pfizer Global Research & Development campus project in La Jolla, there came a point where the entire project was threatened due to changes to the company’s capital plan. One of the pieces of collateral that I used to help save the project (and 1,500 jobs in the process), was a 3D flythrough of the the campus. Once stakeholders could see themselves in the project, and could experience what it would be like to actually work in such a space, the green light came rather easily.

That was 15 years ago. The cost for doing something similar today would be about 2% of what we paid back then.

Admittedly, this is a little strange, but clearly could be a practical measure in certain parts of the world.

Dahir Insaat Corporation is a Turkish company that specializes in pre-fab cast-in-place construction buildings ranging in size from a small cottage to an entire apartment block.

The company also has developed a design concept for an “earthquake safety bed” design to quickly (perhaps almost violently) swallow the bed’s occupant whole within an industrial strength steel shell in the event of an earthquake or building collapse.

Rather than try to explain the concept any further, here is a video:

Both inside the industry and externally, there is an almost urgent message heralding the massive disruption already taking place in the world of design and construction.

The latest entrant in the race to proclaim the end of the construction industry as we know it is none other than McKinsey & Company. Historically a management consulting firm that uses both qualitative and quantitative methods for evaluating business performance, the firm has numerous clients in both the public and private sector after more than 90 years of existence. (more…)

Solar panels leveraging photovoltaic (PV) technology to convert sunlight into electricity are notoriously inefficient. According to research by the International Energy Agency, one way to improve PV efficiency is through the implementation of Statistical Performance Monitoring combined with some advanced machine-learning.

In their report, the researchers identified 4 different methodologies for improving solar panel efficiency, all of which depend on constant monitoring:

The first system for residential solar analytics was developed in Australia, where solar irradiation data is made available free of charge by the government. This system comprises a simple energy meter installed on the PV system feed into the electrical power‐distribution box that collects data. Using statistical analysis, the data on generated electricity is compared to an expected generation profile from the irradiation data and system configuration. The system owner has access to real‐ time electricity generation data and fault diagnosis that identifies issues and what to check if performance was not as expected.

The second system uses machine learning to predict next day’s hourly production by small residential systems for aggregation into virtual neighborhood power plants for the benefit of grid managers. This system requires only inverter data feed to the system server. The algorithms work on the inverter feed and meteorological prediction extracted from commercially available meteorological servers. No irradiation data or system configuration data is required. Applying these algorithms on yesterday’s weather history, as opposed to weather predictions, produces an immediate indication of system health. Tracking daily system health, which is simplified to qualitative ratings from A to F, enables even the smallest system to positively ascertain that the system is performing as expected or that a service call should be made.

Fault prediction is the topic of the third system described in this report, which is also based on machine‐learning algorithms. Clustering statistical methods are used to predict future faults that will affect power production. This system requires only an inverter data feed and access to historical meteorological data extracted from commercially available meteorological servers. No irradiation data or system configuration data is required. This system has proven so far to predict future 9 loss due to faults, though work continues to classify the specific fault that will occur in order to enable the owner to undertake appropriate preemptive corrective action.

The fourth method is only theoretical it seems, and involves “application of artificial neural networks.” That’s a topic for another time…

Construction Junkie’s Shane Hedmond shared the following:

Runnur, a mobile tech gear company, has developed a hands-free belt clip system for your tablet that’s perfect for construction professionals. The belt clip system attaches to the case you already own and allows you to store it on your hip, keeping your hands free, when it’s not in use.  Also included is a security cord, which keeps the tablet from hitting the ground if you accidentally drop it. The $99 belt clip is compatible with most tablets, but larger tablets like the Surface Pro and iPad Pro may need to upgrade to the beefier Tablet Tool Belt.

To give you an idea of what it looks like, here is a video:

This is so cool! Years ago, I was able to find a special pouch that would go on a standard tool belt that was meant for holding a clipboard, but could also hold an iPad. When performing back-to-back inspections all day long, especially when inspecting roofs or attics, being able to safely toss my iPad in the pouch to free up my hands was indispensable.

These days, I prefer to carry less stuff when performing inspections and thereby avoid the tacky looking tool belt — or worse: a fishing vest! — so I don’t expect to be purchasing this any time soon. However, if I found myself doing 40 hours of inspections a week again, this would be high on my list of priorities for both protecting my gear, as well as for improved ergonomics.

Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zürich, a technical school in Zurich, reports on a fascinating project that several ETH Zurich professors are collaborating with some outside business interests on. It involves both robots AND 3D printing.

At the DFAB HOUSE, four construction methods are for the first time being transferred from research to architectural applications. Construction work began with the Mesh Mould technology, which received the Swiss Technology Award at the end of 2016; it was developed by an interdisciplinary team and could fundamentally alter future construction with concrete. Here, the two-metre high construction robot In situ Fabricator plays a central role; it moves autonomous-ly on caterpillar tracks even in a constantly changing environment. A steel wire mesh fabricated by the robot serves both as formwork and as reinforcement for the concrete. Thanks to the dense structure of the steel wire mesh and the special composition of the concrete mix, the concrete stays inside the grid and does not pour out.

The result is a double-curved, load-bearing wall that will characterise the architecture of the open-plan living and work-ing area on the ground floor. A Smart Slab will then be installed – a statically optimised and functionally integrated ceiling slab, the formwork of which was manufactured using a large-scale 3D sand printer.

Smart Dynamic Casting technology is being used for the façade on the ground floor: the automated robotic slip-forming process can produce bespoke concrete façade mullions. The two upper floors, with individual rooms, are being prefabricated at ETH Zurich’s Robotic Fabrication Laboratory using Spatial Timber Assemblies; cooperating robots will assemble the timber construction elements.

Here’s video of the process:



Ronald Dahl’s beloved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one book, but a sequel called The Great Glass Elevator is where in the movie Charlie explores his world from the air in a super-advanced elevator that moves in any direction, but requires no cables.

Clearly the engineers at Thyssen Krup were inspired by Dahl’s tale of a boy who one day discovered all his dreams had come true, as they have announced proof of concept for a cable-less elevator that moves both vertically and horizontally. Inhabitat’s Lacy Cooke has more:

The elevator was invented over 160 years ago, and engineering firm ThyssenKrupp evidently thinks it’s time to shake things up a bit. They’ve designed the MULTI: a rope-less horizontal-vertical system that’s drawn comparisons to Willy Wonka’s crazy sideways-moving elevator. And now they’ve brought their designs from paper into the real world at an 807-foot-high test tower in Rottweil, Germany.

ThyssenKrupp’s technology allows multiple elevator cabins to run in a loop – “like a metro system inside a building,” according to the firm. And no cables or ropes are necessary; the cars move due to a magnet-based drive system as might be found in Maglev trains. The test tower boasts 12 test shafts, with cars that can travel as rapidly as 59 feet per second.

Here is a video from Thyssen Krup demonstrating the technology:

Apple’s Tim Cook has been unusually candid in recent months about some of what lies ahead in the company’s normally secretive pipeline. Besides empowering the Internet of Things (IoT) as part of a home automation play, Apple has invested substantial R&D resources in developing the best Augmented Reality (AR) experience possible, the way only Apple can.

Using Apple’s ARKit, which gives developers a means to leverage the AR resources Apple has embedded within the next version of iOS, Laan Labs has developed a wonderful proof of concept product that turns your phone’s camera into a realtime measurement tool. The Next Web reports:

To accomplish this, AR Measure factors in the distance between various points in 3D space to help you measure any physical object by simply using your phone’s camera.

All it takes to put the virtual ruler to use is point your camera, select your desired starting point and pull your phone away from it. AR Measure will then calculate the distance between your starting and end points – sort of like a virtual measuring tape.

Want to see it in action? Video below:

The app won’t be available until iOS 11 is released to the public later this year.