It was at SOLIDWORKS World 2013 in Orlando that I first saw the emerging technologies of Virtual Reality (VR) & Augmented Reality (AR).   Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS was just about to add AR to eDrawings 3.0.1  and zSpace was displaying their “virtual-holographic system in the Partner Pavilion  

The promotion of these technologies have had a rapid expansion over the past twelve month or so.  In part as the hardware part of the technology, in regards to graphic cards, have rapidly accelerated to meet the demands of the software.   Much of this has been driven by the gaming and entertainment industries.

Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS continues to tinker around the edges of Virtual Reality.  It was around this time last year that SOLIDWORKS  added a “version” of VR to eDrawings 5.0.0

Over these years I’ve viewed Virtual Reality as a solution looking for a problem.  Certainly a product geared more towards Marketing more than Manufacturing.  This however may be starting to change with the introduction of Emulate3D and their Demo3DVR Add In for SOLIDWORKS.

I first experienced Emulate3D – Demo3DVR for SOLIDWORKS at SOLIDWORKS World 2017 – Los Angeles.   Emulate3D is a Certified Solution Partner of Dassault Systèmes SOLIDWORKS with their software products that facilitate the demonstration, understanding, and sale of Automated Material Handling Systems and now with their Demo3DVR for SOLIDWORKS.   There was a demonstration in the General Session on Day 3 which was hard to do justice of the product.   You have to put on a headset to truly appreciate this product.   I had that opportunity later in the Partner Pavilion where NVIDIA was demonstrating the software in conjunction with the use of their Graphic Cards.    This is the NVIDIA video from SOLIDWORKS World 2017

Over the past couple of months I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to meet up with Alec Poulton of Glenvern Associates , who provides Software sales and support for Emulate3D in Australia.   Alec was demonstrating Demo3DVR for one of the Sydney’s reseller SOLIDWORKS 2018 Launch events.   I could see that there may be a opportunity to market our products at Trakka, utilising the technology of Virtual Reality.

Alex was good enough to come out and set up the VR equipment in my office to demonstrate the world of VR

Until you put on a VR headset it is difficult to explain the fully immersive nature of Virtual Reality!   These two quick videos below give a typical insight to what happens to many, the first time they experience Virtual Reality world.   The more time you spend inside a VR headset the more you become lost in the reality.  Squatting, bending and reaching out to touch is as natural to do in Virtual Reality as it is in the real world.

Setting up Demo3DVR is a straight forward process, similar to any software install.

Once the software is installed it becomes an Add-In to SOLIDWORKS.  When active it adds a Demo3D Tab toolbar

Along with the Demo3DVR software, there are a couple of other pieces of software required to be installed.  One is for the VR hardware.  Both HTC Vive and Oculus Rift are supported

As we were using HTC Vive the additional software of Steam VR is required.  Steam is your interface between SOLIDWORKS – DEMO3DVR and  HTC Vive.  SteamVR provides the tracking system and defines the boundaries of the physical area that you will  be moving around in.

The hardware connection is also straight forward.  The HTC Vive is a complete package that includes the Headset,  two (2) wireless controllers, the two (2) base (tracking) stations and all connection cables and chargers.   The final and most important part of the equations is your computer graphics card.  Although they run on a range of graphic cards HTC Vive said NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 or AMD Radeon™ RX 480, equivalent or better.   Although they run on the “professional” NVIDIA® Quadro range they are limited to the middle to upper range P5000 or greater.

Demo3DVR for SOLIDWORKS takes the SOLIDWORKS model and “live renders” it.  Time required to render the model is dependent on the model size and complexity.   Once rendered the model is then controlled by the headset, your movement and the controllers.  At the time of the demonstration at work Alex was having a SOLIDWORKS licensing issue so we ran the demo out of Emulate (below).  A couple of weeks later Alex came out and put on a demonstration for the Sydney SOLIDWORKS User Group.  This time running out of Demo3DVR for SOLIDWORKS.

Once you have the headset on, you become fully immersed in the Virtual Reality world.  It all feels very real world.   What you look at, you see, as you rotate your head (and body) the model rotates around you.  Walking around inside our vehicle model, it feels very much like you are standing inside our vehicle.   As you walk, bend, squat your head tells you that it is exactly what is happening around you.  It is easy to get lost inside the world of Virtual Reality.

The controllers have a few functions.   First they allow you to teleport to any surface that is within 5º of horizontal by a simple point and select function.  They can also be used to “disassembly” an assembly.  Again using simple point, select and hold functions you can “grab” a part, hold and rotate and move that part around.  Without effecting the structure of the 3D model.

It is difficult to fully appreciate the immersive nature of Virtual Reality.   It works best with large life size products.  Buildings, vehicles and the like.   As it places you in and around the product.  The below video gives you an idea of VR but doesn’t really do justice to the effect of Virtual Reality

Before I had the opportunity to try Demo3DVR my thoughts were that it was basically a clever Marketing tool.  But after spending some time in Virtual Reality I can understand, for some products that it would make for a very good review tool.  It is easy to see the benefits of the ability to “walk” through and get a “real” perspective of the product.

If there is a criticism of Virtual Reality for the business world, at this stage, it is the quality of the rendering of the model.  At this stage it is certainly not photo realistic.  Not like we have come to expect with rendering programs like SOLIDWORKS Visualize.

Is saying that from a few Virtual Reality products that I saw at SOLIDWORKS World 2018 and the continuing rapid development within graphic cards I don’t think that will be too far away.

So until we see a J.A.R.V.I.S style of holographic modeling (sorry, but you should have known there would be an Iron Man inspired reference in here somewhere) then products like Demo3DVR for SOLIDWORKS are something that you might like to consider!


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