Trimble Launches SketchUp Viewer Mixed Reality Solution for Microsoft HoloLens
Andrew Wheeler posted on November 22, 2016 |
First-ever AECO HoloLens app available at the Windows store.

Trimble has launched a SketchUp Viewer app for Microsoft HoloLens. It allows you to visualize and manipulate digital models over physical structures that serve the architecture, engineering and construction sectors. The promotional material is very cool, and the app itself seems amazing. There are many architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) professionals who use SketchUp alongside many 3D design professionals in other sectors. The main idea is that by digitally overlaying models onto physical environments, you do not have to produce them physically by any digital fabrication method such as 3D printing and CNC machining.

SketchUp’s Viewer app was launched at Trimble Dimensions 2016, which ran from Nov. 7 to 9 in Las Vegas. The SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft HoloLens was introduced by renowned architect Greg Lynn with Trimble CEO Steve Berglund by his side.

Their partnership was mentioned in a press release from Trimble on May 27, which stated that “architect Greg Lynn used its mixed-reality technology and Microsoft HoloLens to reimagine and design the Packard Plant—the historic, abandoned automobile factory in Detroit. The architectural project was commissioned as part of the U.S. Pavilion and will be featured at the 2016 Venice Biennale exhibition in Italy from May 28 through Nov. 27.”

A picture of a Microsoft HoloLens user overlaying a digital model onto a physical one for visualization purposes. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)
A picture of a Microsoft HoloLens user overlaying a digital model onto a physical one for visualization purposes. (Image courtesy of Microsoft.)

I’ve never worn or experienced a HoloLens (though I did recently at Autodesk University last week), but I’m aware of its capabilities. The Windows Holographic OS is meant to extend 2D apps into 3D, and I’ve seen the demos where you can drop 3D models and applications into a room, leave the room and come back to see them right where you left them.

This is the first dedicated AECO app for Microsoft HoloLens that is available on the Windows app store. The line of time from origin to creation can be traced through the combined efforts of Google (where SketchUp was born) and Trimble (which purchased SketchUp from Google in 2012) to now, where it is fully integrated with Microsoft HoloLens and available on the Windows store.

Promotional video for Trimble’s SketchUp Viewer for Microsoft HoloLens. (Video courtesy of Microsoft.)

This collaboration was also hinted at during Microsoft’s Build 2016 conference earlier this year, when Trimble demoed a proof-of-concept HoloLens app.

These kinds of spatial qualities are impressive feats of engineering no doubt, and again, the Trimble SketchUp Viewer marks the first HoloLens app available on the Windows store. This is a cool benchmark if you’re a fan of holograms and augmented reality and are hopeful for some great new visualization cases for the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) sector. Owner-operators who run their own operations in health care, maintenance, logistics and repair businesses will probably take note. Of course, the first question is always: What are the requirements and how much does it cost?

Requirements: You need to have SketchUp Make or Pro: If you don’t have SketchUp installed on your computer, you can download the software. A SketchUp Pro license costs $695. You’ll also need the SketchUp Viewer AR/VR extension from the SketchUp Extension Warehouse.

Cost: Microsoft HoloLens Developer Edition (no warranties) costs $3,000, while the Enterprise Edition costs $5,000. You can buy the SketchUp Viewer app for the Developer Edition of the HoloLens, which means your starting costs are not $6,500, but $4,500. Add the SketchUp Pro license and you are at $5,195.

This can make it a first for holographic computing that many won’t be able to afford or experience, but for major AEC firms and owner-operators willing to spend money and time learning how to use very cool visualization technology, the world is your holographic oyster.

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