VR for Revit

I recently get my hand on an HTC Vive headset, and I spend some time exploring various solutions to display a model in this headset.

The HTC Vive headset

There are a handful of solutions, like the Revit Live from Autodesk or Enscape, but I choose to focus on a VR-only solution build by IrisVR, Prospect.

Installing Prospect is pretty straightforward, and you end up with the Prospect application along with the Revit plugin.

I run the Revit plugin, select a 3D view, and export my model to the Prospect application.

Export your Revit model to a VR scene

The resulting virtual visit is saved in my Prospect library. I can also save this scene as an external file, to open it in another computer running Prospect and a Vive headset.

The visit itself is divided in two, a scale model overview and a walkthrough.

In the scale model mode, you can see a small-scale view of the model that you are able to manipulate like any 3D view in your favorite design tool. You can also add sections and move them around. The feeling is close to manipulating an actual physical mockup, as we move it, turn it around and “grab” it to have a closer look.

Section and rotation of the scale model

This scale model mode also works as the entry point to the virtual visit itself, as it allows you to teleport yourself in the building.

Teleport in the model

In the second mode, the visit itself, you can actually walk into the building and look around. The navigation tool is well designed, and you quickly end up teleporting yourself everywhere in the building, walking around like you own the place.

Along with the walkthrough, Prospect provide a few tools for design review, like screenshots and markups. You can draw a few notes in mid-air and take a picture of your annotations for later review.

There is also a nice daylighting simulation tools which helps us feel the light inside the future building.

Daylighting analysis

Daylighting analysis

To enjoy all these features, you will need a Pro subscription, but you can start with the free tiers, which include the ability to create a VR scene from Revit, Rhino and Sketchup.

The overall experience is really interesting, and let us imagine new workflows to validate a design with a colleague or a client. The main drawback, shared by any VR experience, is the lack of interaction with others. Strapped in your headset, you can only see what is inside the scene, and the experience feels rather lonely. However, this is probably the best tool to immerse yourself in the future building and get a sense of the space and light.

Autodesk Screencast

Implementing BIM software across a company implies to communicate in-house procedures or best-practices to a potentially large audience. We also have to keep it mind than our public is generally not as proficient as we are with all this BIM stuff.

Replacing text by pictures or even better, videos, can help deliver our message. This is where Autodesk Screencast can be really useful.

Screencast

Autodesk Screencast, formerly known as Autodesk Project Chronicle in the Autodesk Labs, is a screencast application specifically design for Autodesk products. It can support any application, but has an additional feature for Fusion 360, AutoCAD, Revit and Inventor. On these products, it can record not only the screen, but also every commands used during the session. These commands are displayed in a very convenient timeline, allowing the viewer to understand the process behind what is displayed on the screen.

Timeline

To record these command, Screencast install a plug-in in every selected Autodesk Application.

Installation

Screencast comes as a stand-alone application, and can be launch from within your Autodesk product, directly in the Add-Ins ribbon. Once started, you can choose which application to record, fit its window to a correct aspect ratio and select if you also want to log keyboard events. You can even add to your video the sound coming from your microphone.

Interface

After hitting the Record button, you can start your demonstration. Screencast will log every command you launch along with the screen cast, and show keyboard actions. This last part is especially useful for describing functions with specific keys, like rotating the view with the Shift key in Revit or Navisworks.

At the end of your demonstration, you can edit your video, cutting out irrelevant parts or loading times to shorten our screencast.

Once recorded and edited, the screencast is automatically uploaded to the Autodesk Screencast website. By default, the screencast is public, but you can restrain to on who have the link, or to a specific group of user with an Autodesk account.

MyScreencasts

And the last but not the least, the video can be downloaded from the website. An URL is also provided to embed your screencast in a website.

I’m usually not very fond of video tutorial, but I must admit than the Screencast application made the creation of such video too easy to miss. I will probably use it more to present my solutions.

Dreaming of a new drawing table

As BIM software has greatly improved over the last few years, there is not much change  on the interface side. Since the beginning of the concept of BIM, we have not much improve  the way we are designing on our favorite CAD application. The development of powerful touch-screens has totally changed our personal devices (mobile phones and personal computers), but I haven’t seen any professional design application using them successfully.

Anyway, some new devices seem to be interesting as new way of interacting with a 3D model.

The SMART Board presents itself as a flat screen, and uses a camera on top of it to change it into a giant touch screen. Some demonstration using Navisworks shown a very impressive way for reviewing and annotating a 3D model.

Some pretty cool videos make me think I am not the only one to believe in cameras and other Kinect to change our way of designing 3D models. As an example, you can have a look on the Scott Penman’s page on the Grasshopper forum. He presents how he uses a webcam to create and control a Rhino model through Grasshopper.

One of my biggest hope in this field is the Leap Motion, a new device including some VGA camera sensors and a “little” piece of software to create a $70 gesture control system that will make the Kinect look like an outdated piece of technology.

The presentation video features an incredibly precise motion detector, which can “see” the individual position of each of your fingers in a three cubic feet workspace.

Possibilities for this kind of devices are almost endless, especially in any 3D models related domain. I already imagine myself casually sculpting a whole building with just a few intuitive hand movements.

These kind of devices may be the next step for integrating BIM in the AEC industry, when modeling a building will become as easy and intuitive as a few pen strokes on a drawing table. And make me dream of a new desktop.

Virtual Environments

Virtual environments are a trending topic among our clients these days. Owners don’t want only pretty pictures of their future building anymore, but also videos, and lately, whole 3D environments.

They want to be able to walk through their future building and see everything just like the expected end user. This kind of easily accessible 3D model has endless applications: You can validate architectural and interior design choices, check the accessibility and the ergonomic of the building, present a show apartment on a web-based application accessible by anyone, and many more…

For the one who were fond of videos games in their youth, it’s pretty much like creating a level of an average first person shooter game. You create the geometry (in our case, an already existing aggregated design model), you add some textures to make it pretty and you run the whole thing in an engine for interactive 3D content, a professional name for a game engine.

I have tried two of these engines, with different results.

3dVia Studio is the solution develop by Dassault System. It’s really powerful, with a lot of features and possibilities, and can run really large models. But on the other hand, its price reserves it for visualization professionals, and finding some support and examples on the web can be dreadful.

The other solution is a broadly used game engine named Unity 3D. Its basic version is free, and you can pay for a professional version and specific features, like publication on portable devices (IOS and Android), or work in a collaborative environment.

After some trials with 3DVia Studio, we finally put all our effort to Unity. I will try to post one of my models, so in the meantime, you can have an really good example here.