Visualising complex 3D data on any device
If you want to be sure that the person you are sending documents and pictures to will be able to open them on their computer, then you send them in PDF and JPG format. But what do you do with 3D content?
“A standardised option hasn’t existed before now,” said Dr Johannes Behr, head of the Visual Computing System Technologies department at the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Graphics Research IGD.
In particular, industry lacks a means of taking the very large, increasingly complex volumes of 3D data that arise and rendering them useful — and of being able to use the data on every device, from smartphones to VR goggles. “The data volume is growing faster than the means of visualising it,” said Behr.
Fraunhofer IGD is presenting a solution to this problem in the form of its instant3DHub software, which allows engineers, technicians and assemblers to use spatial design and assembly plans without any difficulty on their own devices. “This will enable them to inspect industrial plants or digital buildings, etc, in real time and find out what’s going on there,” Behr explained.
On account of the gigantic volumes of data that have to be processed, such an undertaking has thus far been either impossible or possible only with a tremendous amount of effort. After all, users had to manually choose in advance which data should be processed for the visualisation, a task then executed by expensive software. Not exactly a cost-effective method, and a time-consuming one as well.
With the web-based Fraunhofer solution, every company can adapt the visualisation tool to its requirements. The software autonomously selects the data to be prepared by intelligently calculating, for example, that only views of visible parts are transmitted to the user’s device. Citing the example of a power plant, Behr explained: “Out of some 3.5 million components, only the approximately 3000 visible parts are calculated on the server and transmitted to the device.”
Such visibility calculations are especially useful for VR and AR applications, as the objects being viewed at any given moment appear in the display in real time. In a VR application, it is necessary to load up to 120 images per second onto data goggles. In this way, several thousand points of 3D data for, say, a vehicle model, can be transmitted from a central database to a device in just one second. The process is so fast because the complete data does not have to be loaded to the device, as used to be the case, but is streamed over the web.
A huge variety of 3D web applications are delivered on the fly, without permanent storage, so that even mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones can make optimal use of them. One key feature of this process is that for every access to instant3DHub, the data is assigned to, prepared and visualised for the specific applications. “As a result, the system fulfils user- and device-specific requirements and above all is secure,” said Behr.
BMW, Daimler and Porsche already use instant3DHub at over 1000 workstations. Even medium-sized companies such as SimScale and thinkproject have successfully implemented ‘instantreality’ with instant3Dhub and are developing their own individual software solutions on that basis.
Technologies that create a link between CAD data and the real production environment are also relevant for the domain of augmented reality. “Augmented reality is a key technology for Industry 4.0, because it constantly compares the digital target situation in real time against the actual situation as captured by cameras and sensors,” said Dr Ulrich Bockholt, head of the Virtual and Augmented Reality department at Fraunhofer IGD.
Ultimately, however, the solution is of interest to many sectors, he explained — even the construction and architecture field, where it can be used to help visualise building information models on smartphones, tablet computers or data goggles.
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