Autodesk/InsiteVR Collaboration Brings BIM into VR Meetings
Emily Pollock posted on May 10, 2019 |
An Autodesk and InsiteVR collaboration lets users change the BIM model while in VR.
One of the features of the integration is that it allows users to create annotations in the BIM model just by talking out loud. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)
One of the features of the integration is that it allows users to create annotations in the BIM model just by talking out loud. (Image courtesy of Autodesk.)

Autodesk has announced an integration between InsiteVR and Autodesk BIM 360: the first commercially available solution on Autodesk’s construction platform that lets users perform multi-user meetings inside of VR. The tech allows users to join from headsets or desktops and make changes to the model from inside the VR environment.

The business of translating BIM into VR has been a complex one: BIM files are too large to easily absorb into the immersive environment necessary for VR. Initially, engineers and architects who wanted to see their models in VR had to translate their files into FBX before passing them on to Unreal or Unity, meaning that the raw BIM data was lost. Over time, the process was improved, but translation has still historically been necessary.

“When you go to interpret some of the challenges designing a building entails, sometimes having the first person perspective can give you the clarity you need,” said Andy Leek, vice president of Technology & Innovation at general contractor PARIC Corporation.

He added that the industry has been slow to adopt VR because it’s too clumsy to use in meetings.

“When you’re using VR, it dominates the conversation, as opposed to being part of the conversation at hand,” Leek said.

Autodesk’s new integration with InSite is an attempt to solve that problem. The link lets users join a VR-based meeting from multiple devices, including headsets and desktops, in multiple locations. One streamlining feature included is that InsiteVR automatically has the latest published version of any BIM model uploaded to the system. Another is that users can make speech-to-text annotations to the model in VR, which are automatically registered as BIM 360 issues when the meeting is finished.

The two companies hosted an industry webinar showcasing the new software May 7. It was the first public showing of the new software after early feedback from PARIC was incorporated into making the software more streamlined.

The new arrangement has a third “partner,” Facebook’s Oculus Go and Quest headsets. While the new link works on the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Windows Mixed Reality and regular desktop computers, the joint webinar focused on its compatibility with Oculus Quest, Facebook’s new wireless headset. Quest lets users use VR without connecting to a PC, making it easier to walk around with it on. The set has received mixed reviews, but InsiteVR CEO Angel Say touted its ability to give the user “six degrees of freedom” when viewing VR.

Say suggests making VR a sparingly and thoughtfully-used tool and not just using it for entire meetings

“As specific issues come up, jump onto the headset,” he said.

Leek said that PARIC has used the link between the two programs more and more, in some unexpected ways.

“We’re finding new ways to apply BIM and VR to our projects clients asking for separate viewings to take to board meetings or fundraiser events,” he said. “We’re being asked to do things beyond just the construction realm.”

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