Microsoft to bring Immersive 3D to AEC Models with HoloLens and SketchUp

You’ve heard of the Oculus Rift, you’ve seen holodecks on sci-fi shows and you may have read about Reality Computing with us before. But have you heard of the HoloLens yet?
Microsoft’s answer to the Oculus Rift, the HoloLens is a holographic computer headset. It runs on Windows 10.
With the HoloLens, users can project all their favorite apps and social media into the world around them. Users interact through hand gestures and voice commands.
HoloLens in an AEC World
The technology is already finding real world applications in AEC industries thanks to integration with Trimble's SketchUp.
With SketchUp, AEC professionals can take 3D models from their computers and upload them into the HoloLens. Models can be presented in miniature in front of users both near and far, or you can build the model around you in full scale.
Alterations to 3D models can be made in real time with the HoloLens, making “what-if” scenarios and changes in plans easier to handle out in the field.

AEC professionals will see their models come to life around them through the HoloLens’ mixed-reality 3D display.
"Microsoft HoloLens is a revolutionary tool for people and businesses enabling professionals in industries like design and construction to do more and achieve more," said Yusuf Mehdi, corporate VP at Microsoft. "Trimble's deep knowledge of design and construction processes makes it a natural partner in bringing holographic computing to this industry." 
Microsoft, Trimble Partnership
Trimble’s team-up with Microsoft doesn’t end with SketchUp, though.
Trimble Connect, based on Gehry Technologies’ GTeam software acquired in 2014, will enable teams to access and manage project data via a cloud platform.
An integrated camera system, the Trimble V10 Imaging Rover, will capture 360-degree digital panoramas transform them into data-rich geospatial deliverables.
These HoloLens applications, including the integration of SketchUp, are still under development.
The HoloLens proof of concept was displayed earlier this week at Microsoft's Build Developer Conference.
What fantasies do you see coming to life with the HoloLens and SketchUp pairing? Let us know in the comments below.
For more information on the HoloLens watch this video, or visit Microsoft’s official page.

New Materialise and SketchUp partnership brings nearly 3 million 3D models to users

Although many 3D printer manufacturers and service providers have found amazing success with launching their own independent products, it’s been just as interesting to see what happens when two companies have come together to create the best of what each company offers in a singular product.  Most recently, we’ve seen this with 3D Hubs and Thingiverse after the latter began integrating their on-demand 3D printing service directly into Thingiverse’s catalog of 3D print-ready digital models.  
Now, Materialise has teamed up with Trimble (owners of SketchUp) to streamline a new cloud-based service that improves the accessibility and printability of 3D models that are currently available inTrimble’s 3D Warehouse.  
Trimble, who purchased the popular SketchUp 3D modeling platform from Google in 2012 for an estimated $50-$100 million, has been busy since their purchase improving on the CAD program for their user base of over 30 million designers.  Their latest version of SketchUp, SketchUp 2015, was released in November of 2014.  The 3D Warehouse component of the company’s ecosystem contains nearly 3 million downloadable 3D models which are downloaded over 4 million times by nearly 1 million visitors every week.  
As a part of the collaboration, 3D Warehouse’s Printables feature will be powered by Materialise’s new cloud services to generate high-quality STL files, while also analyzing and fixing models as needed.
The new cloud services from Materialise, which are currently being used to operate their platform, were launched in 2014 in an effort to help drive meaningful applications to desktop fabrication and has helped provide a platform for educational and maker contests and challenges since its inception.  
“The belief that design tools should be as simple and intuitive as possible is deeply rooted in the philosophy behind SketchUp,” said Mike Tadros, Product Manager for 3D Warehouse.  
“Trimble’s collaboration with Materialise is aimed at eliminating the most common pitfalls and annoyances related to 3D Printing workflows.  There are a number exciting possibilities that can surely arise from our users being able to share and reliably access print-ready files directly from 3D Warehouse.”
The new offering from the companies was announced at the Materialise World Conference in Brussels in Brussels last week.   
Currently, Materialise and 3D Warehouse are testing the new features in beta, with a full launch planned sometime in the near future.
“For the past 25 years, we at Materialise have been developing software to empower useful applications of 3D Printing, both medical and industrial, and help users of 3D Printers to get the most out of their machines,” said Stefaan Motte, Director of Software for the Additive Manufacturing unit at Materialise.
“Through this collaboration, which links our new cloud service to 3D Warehouse, our goal is to now deliver an enhanced user experience to a much broader 3D printing community as well.  My hope is that the Printables feature enables this community of designers, artists, makers, and more, to focus even more on the design and creation of meaningful 3D Printing applications, while leaving the question of ‘Will it print?’ to our software.”


Similar to SketchUp?

No, it's Autodesk FormIt 

Autodesk is showing its conceptual modeling tool, FormIt, at the annual gathering of architects held by AIA. It appears remarkably easy to use. 3D buildings are easily created and modified with a push or pull. It’s like I’ve seen this somewhere before… Oh, yeah. It was called SketchUp.

Autodesk’s FormIt may remind you of another architectural conceptual modeling program
Autodesk’s FormIt may remind you of another architectural conceptual modeling program
Architects have almost universally accepted SketchUp, which has been giving away its easy-to-use 3D modeler for years. This has no doubt been a vexation to Autodesk, whose Revit software, while close to a standard as a BIM design software, does not lend itself to the type of 3D “sketching” architects need to do at the conceptual stage of design.
Autodesk must have chafed at the use of SketchUp, which they had knocked for not being precise, not being a real solid modeler and not being able to merge efficiently into “serious” design tools. But nothing could pry SketchUp from architects’ hands.
So Autodesk creates FormIt
Of course, Autodesk would never copy SketchUp, right? It would be preposterous to think a software leader of high standing would stoop to anything so low. The giant that has never admitted to even having any competition. And how would that look, when the giant has actively and aggressively pursued others for copying their software.
I am not making any friends at the Autodesk booth with my unwelcome comparisons to a product it could never have copied. So I wander over to the SketchUp booth to get their take on FormIt, where I wonder out loud if SketchUp should be worried about the giant’s hot breath on their neck.
The SketchUp guys have quite another opinion on the similarity of FormIt. Their product manager bites his tongue when he sees I am taking notes. He answers instead with a barrage of numbers, most of them ending in “million” that signify the immense following and insurmountable lead SketchUp already enjoys.
But I can’t resist. I have to tell them FormIt is a real solid modeler. And it does tie directly into Revit.
SketchUp doesn’t deny it.
“But have you tried using it?” he asks rhetorically. He piques my interest, and I’m curious enough to see what real architects have to say. 

SU Podium v2.5 Plus for SketchUp by Cadalog

More geometry, more textures, more speed:

With significantly increased speed and an exciting new Panorama feature for presenting interactive, 360 degree VRs, Cadalog, Inc has released SU Podium v2.5 Plus for SketchUp.

After months of development, SU Podium v2.5 Plus implements a shift from Ruby to C++, meaning the plugin can now process SketchUp models and communicate with the photon mapping/ raytracing engine up to 20 times faster than in previous versions.
Models with significantly more geometry, textures, and materials, will produce far less impact on render-times. In tests, Podium v2.5 Plus was able to export a model to its rendering engine, with 760,000 faces and 145 materials in only 43 seconds. Older versions of SU Podium required over 12 minutes to complete the same task.
360 degree Podium Panoramas:
v2.5 Plus also has an eye toward client presentations with the introduction of Podium Panoramas. The new feature allows users to render a 360 degree panorama of any SketchUp scene, which can be converted to an interactive presentation from directly within SU Podium.
Panorama presentations can be sent directly to clients or embedded on a web page, and lets your client control a camera to “look around” the design as if they are standing in the space. Panoramas convey far more information in a single render than ever before, and retain the beautiful lighting and photo-realism you’ve come to expect from a Podium render.
This link shows an example of SU Podium’s Panoramas using Sphere Cast’s VR hosting site (in beta). You can also generate the Panorama directly from SU Podium’s image editor.
The SU Podium v2.5 Plus upgrade is available to existing Podium users for $29.95 in the Cadalog webstore, and $198 for new users.

SU Podium v2.5 has both 32 bit and 64 bit versions for Windows 7/ 8 and Mac OS-X. It requires SketchUp 2015 or 2014. Thirty day trial versions can be download from here.

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