The Wild Promotes VR/AR Collaboration as a Path to Better SketchUp and Revit Designs

4 Jun, 2019 By: Cyrena Respini-Irwin

The AEC-focused platform provides persistent virtual spaces where users can draw on and discuss their designs, thanks to new sketching and comment tools.

At this point in human history, our physical world is pretty thoroughly explored: We have mapped out mountaintops and caves, jungles and deserts, volcanoes and glaciers. When it comes to frontiers, there are simply not many of this kind left on Earth (Star Trek fans will be quick to point out that we still have space, of course). With the help of technology, however, we are creating our own uncharted territories — and then stepping into them.

For design professionals, these new digital worlds often take the form of collaborative spaces for meeting up with clients or colleagues and exploring — or shaping — structures, products, and places that don’t yet exist. One appropriately named example is The Wild, a cloud-based virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) collaboration platform marketed for architecture and design teams.

Users can import their SketchUp or Revit designs for evaluation and walkthroughs; with a Sketch tool announced last month, they can also mark up those designs and draw their ideas in 3D.

During collaborative sessions in The Wild, users can walk through imported Revit models (top) and add their annotations to designs (above) using a new Sketch tool. Images courtesy of The Wild.

Another new feature is support for video content, so users can include realistic televisions, retail displays, or other screens in their VR/AR experiences. A Comment tool for leaving feedback and annotations in context on designs was also released recently, fulfilling “a top request” from AEC professionals and environmental designers, the company stated. “The Wild goes beyond simply creating a meeting or presentation in VR and instead provides a persistent space in the cloud, connected to your BIM files, with the ability to bring in new content, sketch ideas, leave feedback, and more,” explained Gabe Paez, founder and CEO of The Wild.

Team members can invite clients and other external stakeholders to visit these spaces as well. “When adding in travel time to conduct design reviews, not to mention the daily inefficiencies of collaborating back-and-forth with your colleagues, you will incur a lot of time and budget,” stated Clay Walsh, marketing and communications director for The Wild. “Architects and designers are saving not just hours, but days of work by adding The Wild to their workflow.”

‘A More Human Way’

There are many types of solutions marketed to design professionals as enhancing collaboration, but effective collaboration remains an elusive goal for many. “We have more tools than ever for collaboration, and yet I question if better file sharing or messaging is making us better collaborators,” said Paez. “Great collaboration emerges from people coming together, ideating, understanding each other, and executing … not a meeting where someone talks through a document while others answer emails on mute,” he said.

Although The Wild uses terms like “delightful, charming, and fun” in describing its offering, Paez argues that high-quality collaboration is not a luxury. “Every day, mistakes are made and potential is missed because of our inability to effectively collaborate with our teammates,” he explained. “Details get missed or lost in the information we have modeled, not because it isn’t there but because we require a more human way to understand and experience it.”

Nor is such collaboration an afterthought or add-on to the primary design workflow. “The Wild is … the hub at the center of the design process, centralizing content like BIM [building information modeling] files, 3D objects, videos, and images with people such as designers, project managers, and clients into a real-time workspace,” Paez explained.

Many Roads Leading into The Wild

The Wild is intended for design professionals who use SketchUp or Revit in the AEC, retail, interior, and environmental design fields. “The majority of our customers work at mid-sized firms in the AEC industry, typically with remote clients and more than one office,” noted Walsh.

It’s not alone in targeting those users; The Wild’s competitors include Enscape, IrisVR, and InsiteVR (see Cadalyst’s look at IrisVR here). One way that The Wild seeks to distinguish itself is by supporting a variety of user devices and experiences. In addition to virtual reality (viewed through a head-mounted display), The Wild can be accessed in desktop mode on Windows or MacOS, and in augmented reality on an iPad or iPhone. 

An iPad or iPhone can display designs overlaid on the user's real-world surroundings. Image courtesy of The Wild.

“Virtual reality is great for experiencing a space that is totally unrelated to the physical space that you occupy,” said Paez. “If you are physically onsite, augmented reality can enable you to experience your space in context with the surrounding physical environment. … When in this mode, the space is superimposed into the physical space while everything is still completely live, so anyone inside the space can be seen and heard, and any changes that are made can be seen in real time.”

Although The Wild features native support for Revit and SketchUp only at this time, more CAD applications will join them in the future, Paez predicted. “We have a lot of exciting integrations that will be rolling out in the next few months,” he said. “We have wide support for interchange formats like FBX, OBJ, glTF, and DAE, and we are increasingly adding native integrations with CAD solutions.”

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