You should watch this new demo video from architect Keystone Bouchard, at least until :23, when something fairly amazing happens. That's when he seems to literally take the outline of a real world blueprint he's working on and drag it up into full 3D. This is made possible with Visibuild, a new software package from a company of the same name, designed to convert 3D StudioMax and other industry standard building software into the metaverse -- specifically, into RealXtend, the OpenSim-based world. Here he's created the 3D version in Autodesk's Revit software, and referring to the original blueprints to to model the fireplace and porch," Keystone tells me, "and every time I pulled it down over the model from the sky to check the model for dimensional accuracy, I thought it was an interesting effect." In previous projects (as here) he's matched real world blueprints with their 3D, metaverse-based rendition. But this time, "I didn't have to guesstimate the in-world replica one prim at a time-- this model is exactly as it was in Revit, saving me at least 32 hours of painstaking replication time", he says.
For OpenSim/Second Life-based worlds, this strongly suggests a breakthrough in construction tools. For architects and designers experimenting with virtual worlds as a building tool, this is a powerful innovation. As the RL architect industrial designer known in SL as Chip Poutine puts it, "Most professionals I have talked to cite the inability to import CAD data [into the metaverse] as a non-starter. It's time to get started."
Read more about it on Keystone's blog; but first, he answers a couple more questions from me (how it works, and why it's so important) after the break.
Hamlet Au: How exactly does this process work from a technical point of view?
Keystone Bouchard: Visibuild divides the more complex models into several pieces using 3D Studio. We then use the "Upload 3D Model" feature to pull those model pieces into the sim. At first, they appear all white, with no textures. Each imported piece has up to 12 material slots according to component type that are pre-establish before importing. For example, we designated all exterior walls as one material slot - all window sash pieces are another, etc. This makes it easy to drag different textures over those material slots to test many different material options. I then used the in-world building tools (which are nearly identical to what you find in SL, only without size limitations) to build some of the areas we had yet to resolve in the design. This enables me to test out and present several different options to the client so that I could illustrate several different options.
HA - Why is this innovation so important to RL architects?
KB: Many architects and city planners are already working with a 3D model on a daily basis anyway, so the most immediate benefit is that they can now leverage an existing resource they already have. Creating a building is a huge investment, and project stakeholders are justifiably eager to fully experience the entire design before construction starts, since it enables them to solve problems earlier and discuss solutions more efficiently. This has always been one of the many promises of BIM (building information modeling) technology, and this immersive, multi-user, collaborative environment moves the industry closer to realizing the full potential of that vision.
The fact that this is an open source platform with a cost-effective service is exciting too. There are other ways to collaborate, but they are generally not true realtime, multi-user collaborative virtual environments, and they usually cost more and are more complex to implement. There is something very exciting about the ability to e-mail your client and their builder with log-in names and passwords, then see their avatars appearing next to yours inside the lobby of their soon-to-be new building for a tour of the building far in advance of construction. This is powerful stuff, and I'm excited to see how it all evolves in the years ahead.