The headline-grabbing aLoft Hotel project, first prototyped in Second Life before construction started, can now be visited in the real world (and has been open for quite some time now). Starwood Hotels was the first to take their hotel’s architectural concept into the virtual world via Electric Sheep, and even used the virtual prototype to invite feedback they eventually used to modify the design construction started in real life.
Business Week (among others) covered the project, and had this to say about it,
“For Starwood, opening aloft inSecond Life is a way to test-market the hotel’s design and rapidly prototype the evolving concept. For instance, staffers will observe how people move through the space, what areas and types of furniture they gravitate towards, and what they ignore…. The project is also an effort to tap consumers for ideas. “
“This is the first time the company has created a complete mock hotel—digital or physical—to serve as “a laboratory,” says Starwood Vice-President Brian McGuinness, adding that they’re already building a second physical prototype for an extended-stay hotel under the Westin label in the same White Plains warehouse.
“This is unusual for the industry. Hotel prototypes usually don’t amount to more than a single-room model that might be shown at a trade show. But the company says that both prototypes made financial sense.”
As you can see, it can be difficult to determine which shots were taken of the real world building, and which were from Second Life. Just imagine the possibilities for architectural prototyping that will become possible with mesh imports in Second Life, or importing models into gaming platforms like Unity.
This time-lapse machinima shows the creation of the project in Second Life: