The concept of virtual reality (VR) has been around since the 1950s. The idea that someone could connect to a machine and view a never-ending screen was intriguing. It held the promise of transporting people to new places where they could view art, listen to a concert, or have any number of other experiences without the burden of travel.
Unfortunately, when VR made its way into consumer households in the early 90s via computers and gaming systems, the technology was rudimentary at best. As Matthew Schnipper writes in the Verge,“though a true believer could immerse him or herself in the roughly built digital landscape, the chasm between that crude digital experience and the powerful subtly of real life was too great.” In short, “the vision simply did not match the means.”
VR quietly went away, though, the concept was never forgotten. The idea wouldn’t gain mainstream attention again until 2012. That’s when a young man by the name of Palmer Luckey developed a homemade headset called Oculus Rift. The pop culture awareness of VR was fueled by Oculus Rift’s wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, and Facebook’s $2 billion purchase of the company in 2014.
What makes the Oculus Rift different from early predecessors is its wide field of view, high-resolution display, and ultra-low latency head tracking – which means the graphics are smooth and the user is less likely to experience nausea. These advances have led to the technology that powers the Samsung Gear VR, and the company recently started accepting pre-orders for the Rift, which works with the Xbox One and gaming PCs. You can see the Rift in action via the below video.
All of this is great news if you’re a passionate gamer, but what about the applications for CAD design? Read on to learn how VR has sparked new ideas for augmented reality (AR), a way to display digital renderings on top of your existing field of view, which may forever change the way you design.
Microsoft HoloLens: A Hybrid of Reality and Technology
Microsoft recently announced the HoloLens at E3 in 2015. This device, unlike previous VR technology, isn’t immersive. Instead, it layers a digital display on top of elements within your field of vision.
This technology has major implications for CAD design. In fact, Autodesk recently announced plans to make its 3D modeling software compatible with Microsoft's HoloLens. View the below video to see how this technology can improve product design and development.
Augmented Reality Without A Headset
One of the biggest criticisms of AR is the need for a headset. Let’s face it, lugging around expensive headsets isn’t the most practical way to share product designs with others.
Augment, an Orlando, Fla., and Paris-based startup is aiming to solve that problem with iOS and Android apps that enable users to display building plans, marketing materials, and other 2D collateral on a 3D BIM model.
“Designed for a smartphone or tablet, Augment offers plug-ins for Sketchup, Revit, 3DS Max, SolidWorks, and other design software. After uploading their building models to the app, team members can use their device’s camera to scan either paper plans or the physical jobsite, bringing the project to life on the screen,” according to Architect Magazine.
Share 3D Product Designs With Consumers
Another promising startup is Pair, a company that developed an iOS app that lets anyone physically walk through 3D models The app enables you to transform how you display visualizations of buildings, installations and engineered components.
The app is compatible with a variety of software including, but not limited to, Autodesk, Revit, 3DS Max and Graphisoft Archicad. The company even offers a “Makers” tool, which enables you to create augmented product experiences for free.
Gone are the days of crude models, and these examples are only the tip of the iceberg. There’s every chance that AR will disrupt the CAD industry in coming years making it easier to visualize and share your ideas. But, for now, only time will tell what the future holds.
Image Source: SNDRV via flickr