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A Hike Through Digital Landscapes: Relations Between the Physical and Digital World

A Hike Through Digital Landscapes: Relations Between the Physical and Digital World

Simon S. Pedersen is studying Software Engineering at DTU and has a passion for AI. In his words, AI is destined to stay. The digital transition is already a reality for a broad mix of engineers, designers, and architects of all kinds. Katja Terzic studying landscape architecture at the University of Copenhagen, have come to realize the potential AI has in future physical planning. Interested in knowing how AI can be incorporated in design practice, and optimize the understanding of the different sites, Katja had an interesting dialogue with Simon about the topic.

Give 1, Get 2 

“Machines are undoubtedly capable of processing more data and recognizing its patterns in a shorter time span than humans. (…) However, these results will often still show the underlying influence of humans as we are part of the generalization”, Simon explains. Through the course Machine Learning and a subfield in Deep Learning, he has learnt that these methods help to reach higher levels of intelligence equal to or beyond that of human intelligence. Both fascinating and terrifying at the same time, strong AI helps recognize and understand human flaws, but as a result, turns our position to near obsolete. 

Pushing Creativity

In my field of study, we are experiencing a growing demand for understanding and utilizing digital programs to design outdoor spaces. Students learn digital tools beyond school hours to keep up with the digital race.

“AI does not necessarily mean that robots and computers are taking over your future job, it simply gives you the possibility to spend more time doing e.g., creative tasks.” 

Simon adds how this can be implemented in other fields. “Computers are really efficient in repetitive tasks and finding underlying patterns, but humans are still needed to create the environment wherein the AI acts”. This reflects how the current scientific understanding and design practice of landscapes and ecologies are outdated.

Augmented Reality 

Discovering AI tools in present architecture projects, for example offered by (Norwegian based) firms such as Spacemaker AS and Augment City AS. The latter delivers Augmented Reality (AR) technology, which means virtual data added to models of the physical reality. AI can then implement historical and live data, and even predict the outcomes of different scenarios. This means to enlighten variables, eliminate uncertainty, and reduce work hours in projects. “To be able to virtually explore such animations shows far more flexible simulations and greater prototyping,” Simon confirms. 

AI Building Trust Between People

AI’s role in conveying quantitative information in intuitive manners is also a benefit to public participation – another important aspect of landscape architecture. By illustrating future environments in a more vivid and engaging way than today’s “perfect” Photoshop renderings, the technology can connect the user’s imagination with the designer’s work process. This new common ground for conveying and understanding surroundings builds trust between planners and the public.

Technology + Biology

Parallel with dreaming of AR technologies, Simon and I conclude that “even” with today’s level of AI methods it is possible to make great changes in the way we plan physical sites. With time, more advanced technologies, such as AR, will push developers and designers to innovative solutions by easing their creative work. In return, the public will also engage in more site planning. This means if you are conscious and curious, you can experience AI technology, simply by examining the physically built environment around you.

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