Northampton University's Cube offers landscapers a chance to bring virtual designs to life

Northampton University offers landscape designers a chance to use 3D immersive technology.

Professional landscape designers are being offered the chance to get an edge on their competitors by using new 3D immersive technology to perfect their designs.

Northampton University is giving smalland medium-sized enterprises in the region the opportunity to use its EU-funded 3D active cube system to develop their projects.

Landscapers walk around their virtual designs by uploading programmes from existing software to the NVision system, which projects them into the cube.

Using body sensors and 3D glasses, users can adjust settings to their own height allowing them to check perspectives and lines of sight and to change features and dimensions on the spot.

Garden designer Chris Guttridge from Second Nature Gardens said he hoped the system would help his business develop more complex designs. "If you are working on a large-scale commercial project or trying to sell bigger schemes to private clients it is a good way to help them visualise it," he said.

The system is easy for landscape designers to use because it is compatible with computer-aided design (CAD) systems commonly used in the industry, he added. "I think it will catch on because it's a novelty and if you are CAD-trained you don't need to learn a new skill," he explained.

Horticulture students at Moulton College in Northampton recently used the system to design show gardens for their course. Senior lecturer at the college Russell Sharp, who is working with Northampton University to develop the project, said the system allowed students to get a greater feel for their designs.

"I hope to build this into our proposed masters in garden history, so we could walk through gardens showing their progression through time as influences changed," he added. "Hopefully this will put our graduates at the forefront of cutting-edge garden design technology."

Sharp said 3D systems could benefit landscape designers by allowing them to assess the impact projects would have on the wider environment.

But he said more work needed to be done to perfect the system for the horticulture industry.

There are still problems with constructing plants in the system, however, because of their complex foliage. "The more businesses from the industry that show an interest in using the NVision system, the faster they will iron problems out," said Sharp.


East Midlands enterprises can apply to use the NVision 3D centre. The programme is funded through a £3m European Regional Development Fund package.

It aims to help:

- Small companies to develop better propositions and win business.

- Landscape designers to check dimension and sight lines.

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