CAD Tech News (#107)

17 Jul, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff

▶ Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for CAD, Part 3

If you want to dial up your VR environment for CAD, explore options that extend beyond baseline systems, including no-compromise performance upgrades and immersive display solutions.

By Alex Herrera

Virtual reality — the immersive and disbelief-suspending experience of a purely or partly synthetic world — offers particular appeal in CAD. As explored in Part 1 of this series, applications from manufacturing to architecture and construction can see undeniable benefits from the ability to see, manipulate, and navigate big-budget designs like cars, planes, and buildings in rich interactive detail well before any dollars are sunk into physical design. In Part 2, we looked at the baseline set of hardware components that yield a VR solution that is cost-effective and can produce an impactful and useful VR experience for both designers and clients.

In this third and final installment, we'll examine some of the more effective ways to dial up your hardware to deliver anywhere from a better to best-possible VR solution. In lieu of any disclaimers to the contrary, the reader can assume commentary applies to augmented reality (AR) applications in addition to VR.

Taking It Up a Notch ... or Two

In Part 2 of this series, we introduced vendors' logo programs — such as NVIDIA's VR Ready — which have been created to give prospective VR adopters solid baseline requirements for hardware that can deliver a productive and credible VR experience. Upgrading hardware from that baseline focuses primarily on what are arguably the two most important links in the VR chain: the graphics subsystem that creates the images and the interactive displays that deliver them, especially (but not limited to) HMDs.

VR shares notable synergies with two other key GPU technologies: raytracing and multi-GPU technology. Both dovetail with VR's paramount goal to create the most credible imagery to trick — or at least please — the human visual system. When it comes to the most photorealistic CGI, raytracing rules the roost. Based in the physical properties of the real world — lighting and materials in particular — raytracing is perfectly suited to suspend disbelief, both with respect to what the eye may be focusing on in the scene, and just as importantly, the more subliminal but just as critical cues like shadows, reflection, and refraction. Like VR, raytracing has become a focus of the computer graphics industry, with hardware and software alike beginning to make a transition from traditional raster-based 3D graphics to raytracing. And also like VR, raytracing places maximum demand on the GPU, motivating buyers with two symbiotic benefits for CAD visuals. (Furthermore, NVIDIA's latest Quadro RTX series delivers on both with extra hardware acceleration for raytracing, as discussed here.)

Outfitting workstations and high-performance gaming rigs with two or more GPUs isn't a new option. But it still is very much a niche option, as doing so offers limited value: One, even a single entry-level GPU can now drive four or more monitors, thereby eliminating one of the previous motivations to configure a second GPU; and two, teaming up multiple GPUs to render the same scene can certainly help performance, but it is not particularly efficient (for a variety of reasons not worth getting into here). However, here's where the synergy between dual GPUs and VR comes in: It turns out allocating two GPUs to two different images can be extremely efficient, and precisely what VR needs to create both left and right eye images every frame. Accordingly, for those looking to push their VR solution to the max — and with a budget to match — upgrading to a dual-GPU workstation configuration provides a worthwhile avenue to consider. It's not a cheap way to go, but it can deliver solid bang-for-the-buck.

VR represents an ideal use case for a dual-GPU configuration. Image source: NVIDIA.
VR represents an ideal use case for a dual-GPU configuration. Image source: NVIDIA.
It's not a cheap choice, but dual, linked RTX-class Quadro GPUs can deliver on both performance and raytraced quality for the ultimate VR experience. Image source: NVIDIA.
It's not a cheap choice, but dual, linked RTX-class Quadro GPUs can deliver on both performance and raytraced quality for the ultimate VR experience. Image source: NVIDIA.

Read more »

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

▶ Viewpoint: For the Construction Industry, Going Digital Is No Longer Optional

With survey results indicating that many businesses are still not working digitally, it's time for construction and infrastructure professionals to ask themselves, can machines help us think better?

By Mark Coates

It has now been seven decades since Alan Turing, the pioneer of modern computing and artificial intelligence, wrote, "I propose to consider the question, 'Can machines think?'" Turing's question has now been proven beyond doubt in many fields: In chess, the IBM supercomputer Deep Blue beat former chess grand master Garry Kasparov in 1997. In science, the HiSeq X genome-sequencing system can map tens of thousands of human genomes in a year — a task that initially took an army of scientists from 20 universities across the world more than 13 years to complete.

In the construction and infrastructure realm, professionals now need to ask these questions: "Do you believe that machines can help you to think better? Do you believe that information and data can help you to work smarter?"

What's the Payoff?

As Michael Douglas's character Gordon Gekko said in the 1987 film Wall Street, "The most valuable commodity I know of is information." Since that time, the value of information has been further amplified by an explosion of data: In the first 19 years of the 21st century, we have produced more data than in the previous 5,000 years of humankind.

The most important benefit that we derive from information is insight, which helps us make better decisions for ourselves, our businesses, and the wider world. And the resulting financial impacts can be massive: For example, a British government policy paper on data highlighted that more effective sharing of data within and between organizations can unlock GBP 149 billion of operational efficiencies, and GBP 66 billion of new business and innovation opportunities, in the UK alone.

Going digital can unlock these insights and make data the new currency. One only needs to look at the USD 110 billion of sales that Google made in 2017, or the USD 55 billion in revenue Facebook recorded in 2018, to know that it is true.

Why Do We Need to Redefine Working Practices?

Despite these compelling indicators, it seems that many people in our industry do not believe that technology can help them think better, or believe but are not acting accordingly. Bentley Systems' survey of more than 720 business professionals across Europe, North America, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, Australasia, India, China, and Southeast Asia has shown that close to half of businesses (44.3%) have limited or no insight into company or project performance. These professionals are either not collecting data, or are collecting it manually instead of digitally.

It has never been more important for businesses — and all project delivery partners — to know what is happening on their projects. With 21st century construction projects becoming ever more complex, project partners are putting more money at stake while working to achieve tighter margins. Read more »

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Mark Coates is the Industry Marketing Director for Bentley Systems.


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Closed-Loop Digital Twins Are Key to Harnessing Data Complexity, Says Siemens PLM Software
In addition to being highly accurate and multifaceted, digital representations of real-world products and processes must provide feedback to the value chain, the company believes. Read more »

About the Author: Cadalyst Staff

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