AEC Tech News (#264)

17 Feb, 2010 By: Cadalyst Staff

Look, but Don't Touch

The fantasies of sci-fi become real as digital holograms bring virtually any 3D data to life.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

When Elvis was beamed onto the stage of "American Idol" in 2007 to sing a duet with Celine Dion, and when correspondent Jessica Yellin popped onto the New York City set of CNN on election night 2008 — even though she was on assignment in Chicago — holography created quite a stir. Although some debated whether those were true examples of the technology, there's no question they got our attention.

Today, holography is getting attention in the design world as well, as a striking new way to present a 3D model. With what is known as a digital hologram, you're able to walk around the model — whether it be a skyscraper in its downtown setting, a topographic map, or even a life-size concept car — and view it from every angle. The model you see is fully detailed and highly accurate — but if you reach out to touch it, your hand will slice through the air.

When people see a digital hologram for the first time, the reaction is, "What is it?" and "How did you do it?" says Jay Mezher, manager of design visualization in the Seattle office of Parsons Brinkerhoff. The firm has used the technology to create infrastructure models that show proposed designs of highways and tunnels, and even to create an urban scale hologram depicting the city of Seattle. "This has added another amazing tool to the virtual design and construction [VDC] approach we take with our projects," he says. "We're intrigued by the ability to display a three-dimensional hologram instead of a projected 2D image."

These 3D models that you cannot touch are created from virtually any 3D data, printed on a flat surface, and viewable when light strikes them at a certain angle. Digital holograms can be used as a permanent display, or tiles can be disassembled and compactly stored or easily transported to another location for review. They are being used for applications ranging from design showrooms to overseas military operations. Read more »

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Nancy Spurling Johnson is Cadalyst's editor in chief.

Graebert Launches First Native CAD Solution for Windows, Mac, and Linux

ARES offers AutoCAD compatibility, familiar UI, full customization, and 3D support for $495 to $995 on three native desktop platforms, with mobile versions to come.

By Nancy Spurling Johnson

On February 9, CAD solutions provider Graebert announced ARES, said to be the first CAD solution to run natively across Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh OS X, and Linux operating systems. Selling for $495 to $995, the solution offers DWG as its native file format, an AutoCAD-compatible command line and scripts, and more than 400 commands.

ARES also includes features such as built-in VoiceNotes — which embeds and saves voice data in drawing files that other users can hear when accessing files — and 3D modeling support via the latest ACIS libraries. The Windows-based version is available immediately, and Mac and Linux versions will be available in Q2 this year. Other upcoming versions will be available for Microsoft Windows Mobile devices. ARES for Apple iPad and the Google Android operating system are under active evaluation for porting as well, the company reports. At Macworld, said CTO Robert Graebert, "we will gauge interest in providing ARES on the iPhone and other Mac-based mobile platforms."

Other key features of ARES include:

  • drawing recovery
  • latest ACIS 3D modeling support
  • I/O support for DWG 2.5-2009, DWF, SAT, WMF, SLD, ESRI, and SHP
  • print capabilities including PDF, raster and SVG
  • user interface optimized for each native operating system as well as an XML-based, fully customizable UI with a built-in designer
  • wide range of programming I/O support, including LISP, C, Delphi, COM, .NET (C#, VB.NET), C++, and VSTA
  • initial availability in 13 languages.

Read more »


Mark Your Calendar: AEC Events


SmartGeometry 2010 Conference
March 19–24, 2010
Barcelona, Spain
Organized by the SmartGeometry Group, sponsored by Bentley, and hosted by IAAC, this four-day workshop carries the theme Working Prototypes and focuses on functioning prototypes developed to prove and test concept and design. Read more »

Residential Design and Construction 2010
April 14–15, 2010
Boston, Massachusetts
Developed by the Boston Society of Architects/AIA, RDC offers workshops, special events, live demonstrations, panel discussions, and networking opportunities designed for professionals working on residential and other small-scale projects. Read more »

SEI Architecture Technology User Network 2010 Conference
May 17–21, 2010
Minneapolis, Minnesota
At this annual event, architecture practitioners and researchers will meet to share ideas, network, and learn about new and current architecture technologies and practices. Read more »

For a complete list of CAD meetings, conferences, training sessions, and more, check out our calendar of events on Are you hosting an event that you would like to include in our calendar? Submit details at least two weeks in advance to

Mastering Revit 2009 book by Paul F. Aubin


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