I am just back from the NVIDIA GTC conference in Munich, where one of the hot topics was image quality or to give it the correct term: image fidelity. The technology demo in the keynote showed how far we have come in such a short time, and how the entertainment world has reset our expectations of image quality in VR. This, however, led to interesting conversations with a few of the automotive and aerospace users.

The thrust of the conversation was that for sales and marketing, in showroom or at launch events, the quality of the image is everything. Interactions with these models are limited and can be pre-set. Mackevision or the car configurator from ZeroLight are leading the way. Their image quality is breath-taking, but is this level too much of a compute/preparation time overhead for engineers who want to look quickly at their CAD data?

This arena is where I see the VR market place maturing, so although we acknowledge the great work that these folks are doing with image quality for specialised applications, we also recognise that further down the design process, at the more “nuts and bolts” stage, we need a less hyper realistic image.  Instead, engineers need a tool for understanding and communicating data, and doing it quickly!

This tool is going to be what sits alongside every CAD software licence in the future, because in the future I firmly believe we will view VR in engineering the same way we view 3D printing now, as a valuable tool that brings cost savings advantages to the design process.

This tool must be able to quickly read multiple data types, because suppliers, or even teams from other divisions, will use different CAD systems, so having a single source viewer is not the answer.

This tool also needs to read far more than geometric CAD data; it needs to display the meta data which could be the unit cost of the part, the supplier’s name, the number of these in the assembly, the last time this unit was serviced etc.  This is because all such textual inputs add value when making design decisions in VR.

Collaboration with VR

It is also vital this tool is collaborative, I have mentioned before in my recent blog on the Power of Connections, how I see collaboration as one of the main advantages of using VR. Check out our new video at on our YouTube channel if you want to see what I mean.

The wish list for this VR for engineering tool goes on – it should also support all the latest hardware, because as I have seen recently, the hardware war is not slowing down and we are seeing new HMDs, new input devices and new 3D projectors coming thick and fast, with a surprising number aimed at the industrial VR user.

This tool should also have a range of features that aid the design decision process, such as measuring, cutting planes, reach constraints and collision detection to name a few, because once inside the design, engineers need to thoroughly investigate before making a decision.

Finally, this tool needs to track decisions.  This could be by creating a recording of what has been done, or by simply writing out a log of the virtual changes, so that a CAD designer can evaluate their practicality, or perhaps by creating snapshots that can be dropped into a report.

This is the tool we are working on, so if you want to see a VR design review in action, give us a call.