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Design Review using virtual prototyping and real-time 3D stereo visualization

Digital prototyping of complex engineering and architecture projects is becoming more common. Throughout the design phase, teams come together to review their work. 3D stereo design review visualization systems are more accessible than ever before.

Engineers and architects know that the spacial relationships are critical in 3D design. Our minds think in 3D. We see the end result in 3D. And the result of all our work will be – in reality – not virtual and truly in 3D. So whether that product is a portable telephone, a motorcycle engine, a new home, or an office complex, we struggle to interface our natural 3D spacial awareness with the limitations of our 2D, planar tools.

Sure, our parametric modeling programs and architecture tools are fully 3D, but our view of this information is, finally, almost always limited by the 2D images our workstation displays produce. Get up and walk around your workstation monitor and you see nothing more than the back of your monitor.

That sounds silly and of course it is. We are used the the real-time 3D renderings of our design and the ability to interact with complex models via a 2D monitor. And yet we understand also, that a 3D stereo image gives us a much better feeling for those important spacial relationships in our designs.

We all know that having 3D images floating in space have long since left the pages of science fiction novels. But many architects, designers, and engineers may not be aware how accessible this technology has become. And it is not just accessible to the designer with 3D glasses sitting at a workstation, but equally accessible for multiple viewers in a design review conference room as well.

Techviz enables stereo 3D for over 150 applications. Work directly inside the application for your design reviews.

Alexis  Vartanian talks about his company and the benefits they strive to provide to customers needing high-end visualization.

Yes, it can be a significant investment to dedicate a space to visualization, procure the multiple projectors, workstations, tracking systems, synchronization hardware, headsets, glasses, and software needed to create a 3D cave environment. On the other hand, many companies will get 80% of the benefits of virtual prototyping and 3D virtual design reviews with much less than 20% of this investment.

An alternative that can achieve these results would be a single-system power wall for 3D stereo visualization. This is a configuration which is relatively easy to implement, provides, the advantages of 3D stereo multi-viewer visualization, and avoids many of the expenses often associated with such a project.

One expensive aspects and the most difficult objection to overcome will be the dedicated space for virtual design reviews. A single-system power wall, one workstation, projector and tracking system, can be integrated into a multi-purpose conference room thereby avoiding the additional expense of having a dedicated space.

A single-system power wall generally will be a dedicated system, and as such you will economize the over all costs by needing only a single workstation and a single projection system. While some application areas will require higher physical resolutions than can be achieved with a single system, the vast majority of designers not currently using such a VR system for design review will find that a single projector will meet many if not all of their requirements.

For the workstation, choose a professional graphics workstation and adapt the level of system and graphics performance to easily meet your needs with your largest projects today, but also plan for your projects next year. Stereo 3D visualization obviously requires twice the rendering performance – the same image is rendered 2 times, once for each eye. In addition, this technique requires twice the graphics memory as well, so you will want to pay special attention to your choice for workstation graphics. Whether you need to consider a single CPU or a dual CPU system depends on the software you'll be using for visualization. It will pay for you to test your system configuration with this in mind.

It may be that the software you will use for visualization will already be capable of stereo 3D output, and if not, 3rd party solutions, like that from Techviz, can enable stereo 3D visualization for hundreds of programs including the major CAD and design programs. This kind of solution has the advantage of using your standard CAD design software for a design review.

When it comes to the display system : graphics, glasses, emitter, all of the parts need to interface correctly. In brief, you will have choices between a passive or an active system for 3D glasses. The choice will depend on your requirements – especially the physical space, the organization of that space, and the number of simultaneous users. Generally a professional environment today will use active 3d stereo glasses technology.

AMD developed HD3D for the AMD FirePro professional graphics cards. NVIDIA has a solution called 3D Vision Pro for NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics solutions. In both cases, the important underlying technology has been put in place and support for 3D stereoscopic viewing – either with passive or active 3D stereo technology – is supported.

In the case of glasses, it is possible to find multiple solutions. CADplace recently met Volfoni at Dimension 3D. Jean-Luc Ros was kind enough to present the passive, active, and hybrid versions of the Volfoni 3D glasses to us. Particularly interesting for professional users are the ActivEyes professional, active 3D stereo glasses. A key benefit is that Volfoni has separated the electronics from the glasses so that the glasses remain very light & comfortable while the electronics can be clipped to your shirt pocket or belt. In addition, they French 3D glasses specialists developed a hybrid version of the ActivEyes product which works with both active and passive solutions. This is a very flexible, quality solution.