CAD Tech News (#105)

15 May, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Herrera on Hardware: Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for CAD, Pt 1

Are VR/AR Indispensable Tools or Novelty Toys?

By Alex Herrera

Still trying to figure out what you think about VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality) for CAD? Can't decide whether it's a novelty fad or something you could justifiably harness to permanently and materially improve the efficiency of your workflow and, ultimately, improve your end product? I feel you. Having tracked VR and AR technology and applications for the better part of three decades, I've wrestled with the same dilemma.

As is too often the case, under constant pressure to identify and exploit new technologies, technology vendors can sabotage their own goals with excessive hype, leading to the all-too-common boom and bust cycle. Irrational exuberance typically gets followed by unjustified disappointment. Most of the time, the reality is somewhere between the peak and the valley, and in retrospect the industry is usually better served to temper that early fervor. The key for all involved — vendors and users alike — is to look past the limelight and noise and focus on what's underneath: does it help your cause to invest in the technology and training, or not? That's the ultimate litmus test, and VR/AR today, in what we could call its version 2.0 — passes the test, but it will do so to varying degrees and as a function of your business.

VR 2.0: The Technology

Defining the term virtual reality is to some degree subjective, but most would agree it means the viewing of fully synthetic 3D scenes in some type of immersive display environment. Several display environments can serve virtual reality applications, including display rooms — typically cubes (i.e., CAVEs) or domes — but for the vast majority it implies the use of 3D stereo HMDs (head-mounted displays). The same applies for augmented reality, except the scene is an integration of natural and synthetic, most often natural with synthetic objects inserted to augment the scene.

A compelling VR experience demands interactive visuals that can suspend viewers' disbelief, creating imagery so detailed, smooth, and responsive that they forget whether it's real or not. Therein lies the root of problems with over-hyped VR v1.0 products and technology — poor image resolution, limited detail, and inferior frame rates, compounded by an unnaturally slow response, made suspension of disbelief all but impossible.

Dramatic advancements in real-time interactive 3D graphics hardware, combined with a new generation of HMDs, have enabled VR solutions that finally deliver on the long-awaited promise: a convincing, immersive experience available at economical prices. After a long wait in the wings, a whole range of applications are being unleashed that will fundamentally change the way many professionals design, develop, engineer, and market in applications from manufacturing and architecture to media, medical technology, and science. Read more »

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Alex Herrera is a consultant focusing on high-performance graphics and workstations.

▶ The Cost of CAD in 2019

Subscription models are now the norm and perpetual licenses are taking the back seat.

By Cadalyst Staff

This year's overview of CAD software reveals that software subscription licensing is now the norm instead of the exception. When Onshape debuted in 2015, its subscription-only licensing model was considered as novel as its 100% cloud operations. Soon after that Autodesk announced plans to eliminate perpetual licenses and convert its entire product line to subscriptions, causing a CAD industry earthquake with aftershocks still being felt today.

Diverse CAD Market

What has not changed is the incredible diversity of the CAD marketplace. Prices in our chart range from $49.95 (TurboCAD Designer) to $10,000 (nTopology Element Pro). Not every vendor makes its prices public, or the high-end price would be even higher. Dassault Systemès' Catia, for example, is sold specific to the task with a set of add-on solutions complementing its core modeling technology. Its prices can range from $9,000 to more than $65,000 per seat and it is rarely sold in single units, but as part of a company's standardization on Dassault products.

How companies price product support has changed as well. In the past only the most expensive products carried a separate maintenance charge; now it is common for most products more than $1,500 to carry a maintenance charge. Read more »


CAD Manager Column: Proactive CAD Management — for 2019 and Beyond
Make this the year that you set up long-term strategies to prevent problems from occurring in the first place. Read more »

Best Input Devices 2019, Part 2: Mice & Trackballs for CAD
When you work on a computer all day, your input devices become very important to help you avoid repetitive stress injuries. Read more »

AutoCAD Video Tips: Easily Divide an AutoCAD Object up into Equal Segments!
Imagine the possibilities! If you've ever wanted to evenly space a block on an object — or just divide it up into equal segments — then the Divide command is for you! Join AutoCAD Tipster Lynn Allen as she shows you how easy it is to use Divide to boost your productivity. Watch the video »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

Cadalyst Staff

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