HP Z Workstations Get A CPU Boost, Mixed Reality Goes Pro, And More New Virtual Reality Tech Revealed
Andrew Wheeler posted on February 05, 2018 | 740 views

SOLIDWORKS World is a celebration of the creativity enabled by design engineering software, executed by hardworking, carpal-tunnel fighting, 3D modeling desk jockeys who perform fantastic engineering maneuvers every day. Though product development can feel like a grind, having the right tools by one’s side is essential. 

HP Z4 Workstation levels up in terms of new powerful CPU and GPU configurations, HP Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition is released, HP VR Launch Kit to accelerate VR deployment and Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) are available now for Virtual Reality from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.)
HP Z4 Workstation levels up in terms of new powerful CPU and GPU configurations, HP Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition is released, HP VR Launch Kit to accelerate VR deployment and Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) are available now for Virtual Reality from HP. (Image courtesy of HP.)

The HP Z4 Workstation

HP is a legendary engineering company, the blue-chip darling of Silicon Valley before it was named after the most abundant material in the Earth’s crust. HP was a place where all the best engineers were guaranteed satisfying and interesting work, a legacy which continues today.

Since SOLIDWORKS is such a favored design and engineering software, what better place could there be other than SOLIDWORKS World for HP to make new announcements about tools designed to alleviate some of the constant woes of product development?

1.     The HP Z4 Workstation  (Starting at USD 1499) got a CPU and GPU performance upgrade.

Today, the company announced that the Z4 Workstation can now be configured with two Intel Core X processors (up to 18 cores) as well as two potent GPUs. (Image courtesy of HP).
Today, the company announced that the Z4 Workstation can now be configured with two Intel Core X processors (up to 18 cores) as well as two potent GPUs. (Image courtesy of HP).

Designed to carry heavy product development workflows through various stages of design, engineering, simulation, rendering as well as virtual reality, the HP Z4 was made for workers using applications that require multiple CPU cores and dual GPUs, for heavy-duty parallel processing. 

The idea is give simulation-based designers and VR content creators the ability to move quickly between design, engineering, visualization, simulation and virtual reality, which enables collaborative iteration of digital prototypes.

CPU

Xeon W series

Core X series

Core Count

From Xeon W-2123 (4 Cores) 
to Xeon W-2195 (18 Cores) 

From Core i7-7800X (6Cores)
to Core i9-7980XE (18 Cores)

Memory

Up to 256GB

Up to 128 GB

NVIDIA Graphics

Up to two NVIDIA Quadro P6000

AMD Graphics

Up to two AMD Radeon WX9100 GPUs


2.  HP Windows Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition (USD 449, available in March) was added to the company’s commercial VR portfolio.

The Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition pictured here isn’t that much different than the regular edition except for the polyurethane pads, which are resistant to wear and tear. The Head Mounted Display unit comes with one face cushion installed and 3 replacement cushions. (Image courtesy of HP.)
The Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition pictured here isn’t that much different than the regular edition except for the polyurethane pads, which are resistant to wear and tear. The Head Mounted Display unit comes with one face cushion installed and 3 replacement cushions. (Image courtesy of HP.)

The Windows Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition requires the Windows Fall Creators Update to be installed on your workstation or PC, and you can check recommended configurations here to see if your gear passes muster.

Screen

Two LCD 2.89"diagonal displays

Resolution

1440 x 1440 pixels per eye (2880 x 1440 total resolution)

Refresh Rate

90 Hz (HMDI 2.0)
60 Hz (HDMI 1.4)

Field-of-View

100-Degrees

Tracking

Two Front-facing cameras

Sensors

Windows Mixed Reality Inside-Out 6 Degrees-Of-Freedom motion tracking
Also includes a gyroscope, accelerometer, and magnetometer)

Ports

HDMI 2.0
USB 3.0
3.5mm jack

Cables

One 3.6m 2-in-1 (HDMI 2.0 + USB 3.0)
One 0.6m 2-in-1 (HDMI 2.0 + USB 3.0)

Padding

Three Polyurethane face cushions, cleanable, detachable and resistant to wearing down, so less need for replacing them

I think there’s a bit of a misstep in this offering from HP, because there isn’t really any difference in the Professional Edition besides the addition of the polyurethane face cushions.

I don’t see any difference between this edition and the others in terms of specs offered by the company.

3. HP revealed a new VR Launch Kit for Unreal Engine with Datasmith, a package that is specifically designed to accelerate VR development and deployment.

The Launch Kit works by evaluating the hardware it is launched on and loading a profile that details how good of a performance to expect. It also allows users to access ready-made templates to streamline viewing and developing CAD models in VR, including an exploded view and a cross-section view. Users have access to two data sets which include Frank Lloyd Wright’s Trinity chapel and a motorcycle.

Another part of the offering is a toolkit for Unreal Engine called Datasmith, which was developed to give designers and artists a straightforward way to import 3D data into Unreal Engine for modeling in VR.

All file formats are supported, and there are more than a dozen modeling software including SOLIDWORKS, AutoCAD, Cinema 4D and Maya.

Though Datasmith is technically a trial, all features are functional after registration, but can only be used until November 1st, 2018. Subsequent paid subscriptions will be available starting October 1st, 2018.

Also, if you haven’t yet and are interested, you can register and download Unreal Engine here.

Pictured here is one of the 3D data sets including in the HP VR Launch Kit, which delivers a diagnostic of hardware and lets users know the level of quality they can expect while modeling in VR. (Image courtesy of HP.)
Pictured here is one of the 3D data sets including in the HP VR Launch Kit, which delivers a diagnostic of hardware and lets users know the level of quality they can expect while modeling in VR. (Image courtesy of HP.)

4. HP extends Device as a Service (DaaS) offering for Virtual Reality solutions.

Currently, VR is seen as extraneous or unnecessary to a lot of small businesses who operate on a lean budget. This of course does not mean that they aren’t interested in developing for VR. HP’s Device-as-a-Service allows users with a limited budget to access the hardware and services needed to develop for VR by paying a smaller monthly fee instead of paying with a concentration of capital that could prove to be too risky.

DaaS already exists for other hardware and gear at HP, but they are adding their VR backpack, the HP ZR, as new options starting today. Included with the service are lifecycle services, analytics and hardware support to reduce the complexity and unpredictability of purchasing VR hardware for developing in VR, creating new content and testing out new applications.

Bottom Line 

HP’s latest offering of improving the HP Z4 Desktop Workstation with Intel Core X-Series and room for two high powered GPUs is good for developing in VR, as well as for improving product development workflows in 3D modeling, rendering and simulation, but the Mixed Reality Headset Professional Edition seems a bit aloof because it just costs more, but is the same hardware with a few new cushions.

Perhaps HP makes a good case that VR is useful for design visualization in AEC fields, as well as for collaboration and training. It could help cut costs, increase productivity and help customers in an immersive and novel way, but there aren’t any use cases proving that this is true. Which is why the company is doing everything it can to distribute VR gear, like announcing the inclusion of their VR gear in the DaaS program, which could surely help smaller customers like startups wet their beaks with VR productivity suites.

The VR launch kit for Unreal Engine with Datasmith is a useful offering in tandem with new VR gear available from HP—including the HP Z VR backpack and HTC Vive Business Edition, which are also sold by HP.



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