Top 5 Takeaways from the LI Digital Practice Day

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Top 5 Takeaways from the LI Digital Practice Day

Written by: Mike Shilton - Product Director, Keysoft Solutions

The second Landscape Institute (LI) Digital Practice Day of 2018 took place on 16th October in Manchester. The CPD event was attended by around 80 people with many more tuning in online via the simultaneous live stream sessions that Keysoft Solutions sponsored. The great news is, these sessions were all recorded and will be available to catch up on the member pages of the Landscape Institute (LI) website soon.

So, what were my top five takeaways from the day?

  1. How useful are Public Consultations?

It was staggering to be reminded that ninety percent of people struggle to read a 2D plan and even a local map of their area. Also, public meetings tend to comprise mainly of individuals over 30 years old. This puts into question the usefulness of traditional public consultations based on 2D plans and whether they represent the broad spectrum of views and issues of the community. By adding digital realities into the mix, people can now interact with the proposed environment in a virtual world, even starting from the own doorstep! This allows people to better understand the new proposals, how it affects them personally and, hopefully, engage a younger audience. It was recognised that this medium is not suitable to all age groups and people but, where practical, it should be considered an additional resource for communicating proposed change.

  1. VR has its issues

Virtual reality (VR) has a place to play in helping others to understand our ideas; the use of goggles has enhanced this by creating a more immersive experience. However, goggles are expensive to buy, cumbersome and only allow a personal perspective of the virtual world. It was surprising to learn that only a small minority (4%) of the population have access to google technology. Also, many people feel vulnerable wearing VR googles and those that wear glasses and women, in particular, are less likely to use them.

  1. Augmentation is hitting the mainstream

With the inclusion of stereoscopic lens in the new generation of smart phones and the massive investment by the likes of Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, Amazon and others into the technology, augmented reality (the overlaying of a virtual 3D world over the camera view) is only likely to get better and could become the best means of communicating ideas sooner than we think. With the likes of Ikea now making it possible to view their furniture in your home using AR, it will raise the level of expectation of what we will need to produce to communicate our ideas in the future. The technology is not fully ready because GPS accuracy can make the object shake and cameras are only able to produce 2D images so there is no masking out of elements that appear behind existing features in the view. However, it has its place as a commination tool and augmented reality may have greater opportunities within design teams because the model can be viewed collectively, encouraging wider collaboration.

  1. Gamification within landscape design

Game engines allow users to quickly create photo realistic landscapes and most of these are free to download and use, although a royalty or subscription is necessary for commercial use. This means that many students are able to learn the tools and quickly create unbelievably realistic 3D landscapes. The engine development teams are now considering everything that constitutes a real landscape, including atmospheric conditions, time of day, moving animals, botany, ecology, geology, running water and much more- the same elements that landscape architects consider when designing their landscapes. Also, they are moving away from designing spaces as backdrops to games to creating real world places where we can be immersed and interact with the surroundings, and that mimic the real world. This similarity has not gone unnoticed by the Landscape Institute who are trying to engage with these digital designers to provide a route for them to consider joining the profession and use their skills to create real-world rather than virtual places.

  1. Blockchain and the digital twin

Blockchain should not be ignored! This was most simply defined as a digital ledger, where each entry (line) on the ledger is a block that represents an interaction, incoming or outgoing, and block is followed by further entries to form a chain. Like a ledger, the start of any block must match (opening balance) the end of the last block and this must be “agreed” across many copies of the same ledger across the entire network. This means the transaction immutable and secure because any attempt to change this would be rejected by the majority. This “time stamp” has great opportunities for managing contract interactions and payments because, once it is agreed you provided the project deliverable, you can be paid instantly. This has the potential to remove the need to invoicing, chasing late payments and allows the project team, and client, to have an instant, up-to-date record of the financial status of a project. It was recognised that for design contracts there will need to be a two stage approval process, the first being the actual deliverable and a second based on an assessment of “quality” because it must be fit for purpose.

As the Blockchain provides an undisputed audit trail of the project from inception to handover, it could become the digital twin of the built element, minus the geometry, and provide a framework for managing the asset in the future. Watch this space!


If you would like to watch any of the sessions from the LI Digital Practice Day, a selection will shortly be available on the logged-in side of our website. If you are a member of the LI you can also view the presentations on the members section of the Landscape Institute website when they are made available.