Design Visualization

Autodesk Launches LIVE to Democratize Revit Visualization

20 Jul, 2016 By: Cadalyst Staff

New web service helps AEC professionals with no visualization expertise create immersive, interactive 3D visualizations from Revit models.

Autodesk announced today the launch of Autodesk LIVE, a new service that enables users of Revit building information modeling (BIM) software to quickly create interactive visualizations of their designs. According to Autodesk Senior Vice-President Amar Hanspal, LIVE enables users to “take building information models and bring them to life, so people can experience things before they are real.”

Users can “walk through” LIVE visualizations at their own pace, viewing rooms and structures from any angle, examining objects, and exploring whichever elements are of interest to them. “It’s fully in control of the person who is reviewing this design,” said Hanspal. “They’re free to walk through anywhere.”

Nicolas Fonta, senior product manager, demonstrated the video game–like navigation of LIVE visualizations: “You just click where you want to go, and the engine takes you there automatically.”

Clicking on any object pulls up the BIM information related to that object. That data also means “we can be smart and make smart decisions,” said Fonta, explaining that LIVE automatically prevents users from walking into a swimming pool but allows them to walk through doors, because it has access to information about those objects and their function.

Autodesk LIVE retains critical BIM data from Revit models. This view of the LIVE editor shows a hospital model composed of many Revit linked files. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

LIVE can be used on Windows-based devices and the iPad Pro today, and “will start showing up on VR [virtual reality] devices at some point in the future,” said Fonta. Autodesk expects to support VR technologies including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Google Cardboard.

No Expert Needed

Hanspal explained that LIVE is a product of Autodesk’s decades of development efforts in the areas of visual effects and BIM software. “At this point, we saw the opportunity to bring these two worlds together and take visualization to the next level,” he explained.

That “next level” means democratizing the creation of dynamic, fully interactive visualization — enabling architects, engineers, and other AEC professionals to use the tool even if they are strapped for time and short on visualization content creation skills. “This service is not designed for someone with lots and lots of content creation experience,” Hanspal noted.

That low barrier to entry means that clients can explore the models on their own, should a question arise between meetings with the architect. And factors such as the time of day or building lighting can be easily adjusted on the spot to compare various effects. “[LIVE] changes the dynamic in the way people will approach the design process,” said Fonta.

Autodesk LIVE editing functionality includes interactive time of day and time of year tools providing realistic sun lighting and shadows. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

To create a LIVE visualization, the Revit user simply clicks one button and “everything that the Revit model requires is grabbed and loaded to the cloud,” Fonta explained. Once the software uploads all required BIM data to the LIVE cloud service, everything is translated to 3D, animated, real-time models, and “the result of that can be consumed right away on the architect’s desktop,” he continued. Free viewers enable anyone to view and explore the completed LIVE visualizations, whether they have Revit or not.

Free viewers for Windows and iPad Pro enable anyone to view the completed LIVE visualizations. Image courtesy of Autodesk.

Although Stingray is the platform that LIVE is built on, Hanspal was careful to clarify that LIVE “is not Revit ported to a game engine — it’s data from Revit that utilizes a game engine to create an immersive experience. … It’s the best of both worlds.”

Building on a Persistent Problem

Autodesk LIVE is the latest addition to Autodesk’s LIVE Design family of visualization tools, which includes the Stingray 3D game engine and 3ds Max.

LIVE began life more than two years ago as Project Expo, an Autodesk Labs Technology Preview that was made available to a select group of Revit users under NDA.

Fonta explained that Autodesk realized the need for LIVE when they repeatedly heard the same complaint from architects: The visualization specialist in their firm would create video and still images to demonstrate the design to a client, but when the architect presented them in a meeting, the client would inevitably request something additional. He or she wanted to see a view of the building at night, perhaps, or to better understand how the design would look to pedestrians on the street. Preparing those additional visualizations required returning to the office, putting the visualization specialist back to work, and waiting until the next client meeting to present the new imagery.

“There is a need for a new way to interact and communicate design intent —something interactive, something more immersive,” said Fonta. The tool needed to provide quick turnaround and — in contrast to Stingray — be accessible to architects and other users who are not specialists in design visualization. “The intent is really to make this accessible from anywhere,” Fonta continued. “The goal is to provide users with easy and quick access to consume this information.”

Pricing and Availability

The Autodesk LIVE service is available to Revit subscribers for an introductory price of $30 per month; that fee includes unlimited use of web services. The Windows and iPad Pro viewer apps are free, and Autodesk plans to add more viewers in the future.

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