CAD Tech News (#56)5 Jan, 2017 By: Cadalyst Staff
IrisVR's smartphone app offers AEC professionals an inexpensive, readily accessible way to share immersive panoramas of their designs.
By Cyrena Respini-Irwin
Lots of designs look good on paper — or on screen, as the case may be. But envisioning how a new product or new piece of infrastructure will actually appear in the real world is a challenge that's spawned a host of visualization approaches over the years. Each of these has its own limitations: Rendered images, for example, can portray designs with accurate lighting and in photorealistic detail, but show only one fixed perspective at a time. Physical prototypes created with 3D printing can closely emulate some products, but cannot create parts larger than the build size of the printer, and can only represent buildings and landscapes in miniature.
Virtual reality (VR) design visualization technologies hold particular appeal for AEC professionals, who have long looked for a way to put architects, owners, and other stakeholders "inside" designs — but they have limitations as well. Fully immersive VR enables users to explore their surroundings as in a video game, moving through a full-size digital model of a revamped penthouse or proposed shopping mall as if they were really there. Providing that type of interactive visualization, however, requires an investment in hardware, such as dedicated head-mounted displays (HMDs) and the computers that power them, as well as the software and expertise needed to create VR experiences from design files. In addition, all users must either be in the same physical location in order to use shared hardware, or have their own hardware setup.
Another VR option relies on smartphones and lightweight, inexpensive viewers instead of powerful computers and HMDs. Typically made of cardboard or plastic, viewers based on the Google Cardboard platform often incorporate a magnifying lens for each eye, a holder or slot for the user's phone, and sidewalls to block peripheral vision and outside light. They're also inexpensive to purchase, or those inclined toward DIY projects can build their own. As Google states, the goal is to help users "experience virtual reality in a simple, fun, and affordable way." Ubiquitous access is likely of greater importance to AEC professionals than fun; such a setup enables widely scattered team members and stakeholders to gain a more realistic sense of designs for various spaces, with no expensive equipment or travel required.
To address both scenarios, IrisVR launched two software solutions recently: Prospect desktop software, which creates navigable VR experiences for users who have access to dedicated VR hardware, and the Scope mobile app for use with smartphones and Cardboard-type viewers. Available for iOS and Android devices, Scope turns panoramas of designs into 360-degree VR experiences. It works with panoramas that have been rendered in V-Ray, Lumion, Autodesk A360, and other applications.
Scope processes rendered panoramas into twinned imagery, so that each eye has its own perspective. When the panorama is displayed in a Cardboard-type viewer, this results in a 3D effect that helps users feel that they are standing inside the rendered room. A button on the viewer activates the gear icon pictured at top, enabling the user to select different panoramas while the app is in use.
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Cyrena Respini-Irwin is Cadalyst's editor in chief.
New mobile construction app enables Android users to join their iOS-based counterparts in managing plans, models, and documents in the field.
By Cadalyst Staff
Autodesk BIM 360 Docs, which was released as a commercial offering early last year, received a substantial extension in December with the launch of a mobile app for Android-based smartphones and tablets. The new Android version joins the existing iOS version to provide more mobile users with BIM 360 Docs functionality. Both apps are free. BIM 360 Docs offers a paid subscription tier and a free tier; the latter provides access to a single project, with some feature limitations.
Although iOS is the most widely adopted platform in the mobile construction market — 65.6% of construction companies are currently using iOS devices, according to the 2016 Construction Technology Report from JBKnowledge — more than one-third of the surveyed companies are currently using Android devices. "Android as a platform is pretty significant [in this market]," said Peter Billante, senior marketing manager for BIM 360. "We're happy to add it, we think it makes sense."
The Google Play app store indicates that the Android app has 500–1,000 installs at this time. Autodesk declined to share specific adoption numbers, but Billante noted that the new app had been very well received in the three weeks since launch. "It's typically not the best time to launch a B2B app as people are about to head out on vacation … but the growth rate has been pretty fast, even in the holiday season." Autodesk has had "nothing but positive feedback" since the launch, Billante reported: "We've gotten a lot of customer love." Read more »
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