Microsoft's mixed-reality ambitions are reaching into realms of industrial design and product engineering.
The Redmond, Wash., software and cloud services provider announced that its Simplygon automatic 3D data optimization software now supports two formats used by computer-aided design (CAD) software packages. Acquired by Microsoft in early 2017, Simplygon enables video game developers to trim complex and resource-intensive 3D models down to size while maintaining a high level of visual quality. On Dec. 17, Microsoft launched a cloud service based on the software.
Focusing on more ways to bring mixed reality—a blend of Windows-based virtual and augmented reality capabilities—into the enterprise technology mainstream, Microsoft is now embracing the CAD community.
"Today, I am excited to announce that Simplygon has added compatibility for JT and STEP file formats, which are pivotal to the productivity of CAD professionals. The addition of two of the most common CAD file formats brings automation of 3D optimization to customers across many industries," stated Lorraine Bardeen, general manager of Mixed Reality Experiences at Microsoft, in a March 26 announcement.
JT and STEP are two common file formats used by CAD users. JT, or the Jupiter Tessellation data format, features prominently in product lifecycle management software products and is a favorite among manufacturers. STEP, short for Standard for the Exchange of Product, is used to share 3D models among CAD software packages.
Simplygon now makes it possible for CAD files to make the leap from workstation monitors to mixed-reality headsets like Microsoft's own HoloLens. "As the enterprise increasingly embraces the era of digital transformation, CAD support for Simplygon empowers more industries to painlessly and efficiently bring their existing assets into mixed reality," Bardeen added.
Google and Facebook Bet on Augmented Reality
Of course, Microsoft isn't the only tech titan working to add a dash of the virtual to the physical world.
In February,Google announced the version 1.0 release of ARCore, an augmented-reality SDK for the Android mobile operating system. In addition to enhancements that speed up the development of augmented-reality apps, ARCore 1.0 includes improved detection capabilities that allow users to place virtual objects on a greater variety of textured surfaces, including furniture and books.
Recently, Facebook unveiled new target-tracking capabilities in AR Studio that are set to arrive this spring. Available for macOS, AR Studio is a software toolset that enables content creators to overlay interactive 3D graphics onto images captured by the company's Camera Effects technology.
On March 13, Facebook said the new AR Target Tracker feature will allow users to create augmented-reality experiences that are linked objects that appear in the real world, like signs and logos. In a closed beta, Warner Bros. is using the technology to create a virtual portal into the world of Ready Player One when users point their phones to a poster for the movie. Disney used a similar technique for its A Wrinkle in Time movie posters.