Autodesk Live Creates Interactive Virtual Views of Building Designs

Autodesk introduced an online design service that allows architects and engineers to create simulations of designs that clients can tour virtually.

Autodesk Live 2

Gamers have long enjoyed virtual worlds, but that same kind of simulated view now is being made more broadly available to architects and designers.

The Autodesk Live online design application service gives architects the ability to create simulated views of houses or buildings that customers can interact with virtually, such as walking through hallways, checking out a conference room or viewing a building from the outside lawn area to get another perspective.

Autodesk Live makes it easy for clients to mark or posts comments on anything in the design they want changed, streamlining the feedback process for architects and clients. Architects can accept and incorporate the changes much more quickly than other tools allow.

Taylor Cupp, a technologist and general contractor at Mortenson Construction, whose company has been providing clients with pre-construction views of their building projects using virtual reality and other tools, said Autodesk Live provides a much quicker turnaround.

"A customer would look at a scenario, ask for changes and we'd have to go back to the drawing board re-piping things through the game engine. It was a week to two-week process," Cupp told eWEEK. "With Autodesk Live we can push through a change almost immediately. The workflow is greatly improved."

Autodesk Live imports designs created using the company's Revit BIM (Building Information Modeling) software used by hundreds of thousands architects and designers. Angi Izzi, global business strategy and business manager at Autodesk, says Live was developed to meet customer demand for more visualization and immersive architectural design technology.

"Customers see these immersive designs on remodeling shows on HGTV and elsewhere and they want that instant gratification," Izzi told eWEEK.

Of course, viewers only see the finished product on these TV shows. It still takes a lot of time to design a home or building. But Izzi says the difference with Autodesk Live is its ability to quickly change a Revit design to an immersive 3D experience.

"It's a one-button process to go from a Revit design into a gaming environment where we handle all the data prep and what needs to through the data engine in the cloud," she said. "Most of models you see today are static and canned and not easy to update." Autodesk Live lets architects instantly produce new imagery, she said.

A Lifelike Experience

In a demonstration, Autodesk showed how lifelike a building in the Live environment can be. Trees outside wave in the wind, doors open automatically as the user approaches the virtual view of the building design. There are shortcuts to zip ahead across a room or lawn. Users can also set the perspective, changing what the view is for someone 6 feet, 5 inches tall or someone much shorter, for example.

Frank Wolbertus, a developer at TBI Kennislab in the Netherlands and an early Live user, says he's been impressed by its ease of use. "Really, a 5-year-old can use it. We offered a help line, but no one called it," Wolbertus told eWEEK.

Wolbertus has been using a beta version of Autodesk Live (which Autodesk has been calling Project Expo) to help new home buyers with some remodeling before moving in. The consumers were given an iPad to see the design in Autodesk Live and mark what they wanted to change. "In the past, it would have taken us a week to make the changes and now we can do it on the spot," he said.

"What has us excited about Autodesk Live is that it's from the same company that built the other tools we use so, we know it's all tightly integrated and supports our process," he said.

Wolbertus thinks the next step for Autodesk will be to make Live available for virtual reality (VR) headgear for an even more immersive experience.

Autodesk Live "is one big step; the next will be VR where you'll truly feel like you're inside the home," he said.

Autodesk Live is slated to be available July 21.

David Needle

David Needle

Based in Silicon Valley, veteran technology reporter David Needle covers mobile, bi g data, and social media among other topics. He was formerly News Editor at Infoworld, Editor of Computer Currents...