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CAD Tech News (#108)

1 Aug, 2019 By: Cadalyst Staff


▶ Holographic Workstation Gives HMD Haters a New 3D Visualization Option

For design teams and other groups, a desktop holographic display is more practical than head-mounted virtual reality solutions, according to the Looking Glass Factory.

By Cyrena Respini-Irwin

As more enterprises adopt augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) solutions, head-mounted displays (HMDs) are becoming a familiar sight in some work environments. But HMDs (or headsets or VR goggles, as they're often called), have downsides beyond making the wearer look a bit silly.

Depending on the design, they may be heavy or uncomfortable — and depending on the cleaning protocol, they may bear traces of the previous wearer's sweat. They can interfere with, or entirely preclude, prescription glasses. Tethered headsets sometimes make the wearer feel like a dog on a short leash; the untethered type allows the incautious to walk into walls. The complete visual exclusion of the real world can contribute to headaches, nausea, and even claustrophobia. And for better or worse, they are individual portals into an AR/VR experience; simultaneous use requires an additional HMD for each person involved.

Looking Glass Factory was founded with the goal of giving users 3D experiences "without the indignity of VR or AR headgear strapped to their faces," in the words of CEO Shawn Frayne. The company claimed the title of "creators of the world's first desktop holographic display" last year, with the launch of the Looking Glass display, which connects to an external computer and simultaneously generates 45 views of an object or scene at 60 frames per second, yielding a fully 3D viewing experience with any headgear.

At the end of May, Looking Glass Factory introduced the Looking Glass Pro, a holographic workstation packaged with a suite of software tools licensed for commercial use. In contrast to the Looking Glass displays released last year, the Pro is billed as an all-in-one 3D visualization solution. It has a built-in Intel NUC 8 VR NUC8i7HVK (a VR-optimized computer) and a 7" 2D fold-out touchscreen to complement the 15.6" lightfield display with integrated touchscreen. (The Pro is also, naturally, more expensive than the display-only models: The Looking Glass display costs $599 or $3,000, depending on size, and the Looking Glass Pro solution is $6,000.)

The small touchscreen at the side folds back behind the holographic display when not in use. Image source: Looking Glass Factory.
The small touchscreen at the side folds back behind the holographic display when not in use. Image source: Looking Glass Factory.

Users can display and interact with their own content holographically with included apps, such as the 3D model and animation viewer app, or use the Looking Glass Pro software — including the HoloPlay Unity software development kit (SDK), HoloPlay Plugin for Unreal, and the three.js Looking Glass library — to generate their own holographic applications for 3D design and simulation, architecture, marketing, and more. A Leap Motion controller enables users to interact spatially with the Looking Glass.

'A Truly Three-Dimensional Image'

Although 3D display technologies have appeared in the professional market before, Looking Glass is not comparable, according to Shawn Frayne, Looking Glass CEO. "The Looking Glass is unique, and I don't think there's anything quite like it out there," Frayne told Cadalyst. "It's a patented system that blends lightfield and volumetric display technologies in a way that no one had explored before. Most of the 'holographic' technologies that are floating around the internet are actually just 2D reflections — they use a trick called 'Pepper's Ghost' that's over a hundred years old, and it's really just a 2D reflection. So, most of the systems that claim to be holographic aren't actually three-dimensional at all. Read more »

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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.

▶ NVIDIA's Real-Time Ray-Tracing Technology Gains Momentum Among Software and Hardware Developers

At SIGGRAPH 2019, NVIDIA announces expanded support for RTX among software applications and the launch of ten more RTX Studio mobile workstations.

By Cadalyst Staff

NVIDIA's RTX platform, which comprises software tools and hardware acceleration of ray tracing and artificial intelligence (AI), introduced interactivity to ray tracing — it enables users to see the lighting effects immediately as they change illumination sources, materials, and other components of digital scenes. "Ray tracing has been known and understood for a long time, it just didn't work interactively [before RTX]," said Greg Estes, vice-president of corporate marketing and developer programs at NVIDIA, during a media briefing.

There are all kinds of reasons to accurately reflect materials and light when making design decisions, Estes noted. For example, "if you're building a building, you want to know how light is going to reflect other buildings off it [and] how light streaming through a window can affect the mood of a building," he explained. Or in aircraft design, "if the light was streaming through windows and hitting the backseat monitors, causing glare ... you'd want to adjust for that."

Ever since NVIDIA launched the technology in 2018, the company has been all-systems-go in extending RTX's reach throughout product and architectural design, video games, and other graphics-intensive fields. "In the one year since SIGGRAPH last year, we're really proud and happy that RTX is everywhere," said Estes.

Today, at the annual SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference, NVIDIA announced some fruits of those efforts. This week at SIGGRAPH, seven applications are introducing support for RTX technology, bringing the total to more than 40.RTX-supporting applications include Dassault Systèmes CATIA/Stellar and SOLIDWORKS Visualize, Chaos Group V-Ray, Autodesk Arnold, and Siemens NX RT Studio, as well as the Unity and Unreal 3D content engines. The latest additions to the group include Foundry MODO and Luxion KeyShot, both of which only had CPU acceleration until now, Estes said. "Every major 3D design application in the world has committed to supporting RTX by year's end," NVIDIA stated.

Mobiles Seeking to Rival Desktops on RTX Capability

On the hardware side, NVIDIA announced that BOXX, Dell, HP, and Lenovo are launching a total of ten new RTX Studio laptop computer and mobile workstation designs, joining the 17 RTX-powered models that are currently available. "All of the majors are with us," Estes commented.

The RTX Studio lineup of RTX-powered laptops and mobile workstations now comprises 27 models. Image source: NVIDIA.
The RTX Studio lineup of RTX-powered laptops and mobile workstations now comprises 27 models. Image source: NVIDIA.

Read more »

▶ Hexagon Hopes to Make Factories Smarter with Hidden Data, AI, and the Cloud

At its HxGN Live 2019 conference, Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division showed how the notion of Smart Factories goes well beyond Industry 4.0.

By Cadalyst Staff

At Hexagon's annual user conference, HxGN Live, Hexagon's Manufacturing Intelligence division showcases the transformational advancements moving manufacturing forward. The multi-faceted conference provides essential information on emerging trends including those critical for Smart Factories, such as cloud computing, autonomous processes, AI, and additive manufacturing. This year, the program included keynote, technical presentations, workshops, and roundtables covering topics from machine learning to new advanced materials that shape products and processes in the digital manufacturing enterprise — in other words, the Smart Factory and its benefits.

Smart Factory is a general term for a set of industry initiatives to deploy new advanced technologies and digital transformation across an entire enterprise to drive the next wave of productivity and quality improvements in product manufacturing. In a recent report, industry analyst firm Capgemini calculated that Smart Factories could add up to $1 trillion in value to the global economy by 2022.

Smart Factories are possible because of a "fourth industrial revolution," widely known as Industry 4.0. (The previous three revolutions were industrial mechanization that processed iron and steel using new energy sources, from roughly 1760 to 1830; mass production, huge industrial growth, and new forms of transportation, from roughly 1870 to 1920; and industrial automation, made possible with digital computing and robotics, starting in the 1950s and continuing through to today.) Industry 4.0 is the name given to the current trend of integrating automation and data exchange in manufacturing technologies. It encompasses cyber-physical systems consisting of mechanisms monitored and controlled by algorithms, the IoT, cloud computing, and cognitive computing intended to mimic human thought processes.

Although many people equate Industry 4.0 with Smart Factories, the former is actually a subset of the latter. Industry 4.0 is primarily about interconnecting sensors and systems through web connectivity (for example, the Internet of Things [IoT]). Smart Factories include those same IoT components plus big data–processing capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, and advanced production processes, such as additive manufacturing (AM).

What Is Hexagon's Role in the Smart Factory Movement?

While several companies say they are involved in making Smart Factories a reality, very few have the required capabilities to actually make it happen. Hexagon is one of the few poised today to bring the concept to fruition. In addition to new technologies, Hexagon believes that a new mindset is coming for bringing Smart Factories online, and the company is doing all it can to further that cause. Read more »

▶ WHAT’S NEW FROM CADALYST

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PTC's Heppelmann Maps Out AR Strategy for Enterprise
To determine the best approach for any particular augmented reality (AR) use case, enterprises should start by answering questions about their strategy, their content, and how they'll deliver it. Read more »

Handheld 3D Scanning Helps with Every Phase of Product Lifecycle, Creaform Says
Maker of the new Go!SCAN SPARK and HandySCAN BLACK portable scanners advocates applying the technology throughout product conception, design, manufacturing, and servicing. Read more »

Consolidation, Partnerships Are Reshaping Hot IIoT Market, Cambashi Finds
Consulting firm's study of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) market shows industrial and enterprise software providers joining forces, and total revenues up more than 40%. Read more »

CAD Manager Column: To Prioritize Your Workload Effectively, Analyze Change and Need, Part 1
The degree of change and frequency of need are both important factors in determining which tasks you should be tackling at work. Read more »

With BLK2GO, Leica Looks to Make Reality Capture More Mobile
Handheld addition to the BLK family of imaging laser scanners is designed for as-built data collection in complex environments. Read more »

AutoCAD Video Tips: Meet the Marvelous New Block Palette in AutoCAD 2020
We insert blocks all the time — there's no getting around it! Why not take advantage of the new Block Palette in AutoCAD 2020 and scratch that task off your list in no time? Join AutoCAD tipster Lynn Allen as she shows you all the great features in this new tool, along with the handy Repeat Placement option — which is certain to save you time and tedium! Watch the video »


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