Arch prof develops virtual reality app that could be used for LEGO, IKEA or any assembly project

Thick, sometimes confusing manuals for building LEGO kits, IKEA furniture, or any product that requires assembly could eventually be replaced or augmented with a version of a step-by-step [augmented reality assembly app] ( developed by Wei Yan, Texas A&M professor of [architecture] ( .

Yan demonstrated his app’s capabilities by creating a user-friendly program instructing a user to build a moderately complex LEGO project, Paris’ iconic [Arc de Triomphe] ( , without a printed instruction manual.

Using a tablet screen to depict the LEGO construction area, the app shows a 3D rendering of which brick to use next, and where it needs to be placed. The process is repeated until the completion of the structure.

Yan’s idea could apply to any number of assembly-related tasks.

“Other applications could include anything requiring assembly, manufacturing, or construction, training for jobs in these fields, and a wide variety of do-it-yourself projects,” said Yan.

His idea attracted the attention of the [Innovation Awards] ( at South by Southwest (SXSW), the giant Austin festival that celebrates the convergence of the interactive, film and music industries.

Yan’s app, BRICKxAR, was recognized as an alternate in the XR category of the Innovation Awards, which celebrate the most exciting tech developments in the digitally connected world by honoring breakthroughs in augmented, virtual and mixed reality technology.

The app has also led to a research collaboration between Yan and Dezhen Song, professor of computer science and engineering, who are studying how to enhance learning of creativity and science, technology, engineering and mathematics with an augmented reality-based [making] ( and gaming approach.

Their study is [funded] ( by the Texas A&M Presidential Transformational Teaching Grant program, designed to further the university's commitments to the pillars of advancing transformational learning; enhancing discovery and innovation, and expanding impact on our community, state, nation, and world.

Yan’s areas of academic interest include computer-aided architectural design, visualization, parametric modeling, building information modeling, building science, and computational methods in architecture.

Richard Nira

posted February 18, 2020