Everything you always wanted to know about AR/VR but were afraid to ask…

I feel there is a landslide coming up. A landslide that is like the paradigm shift we had in the 1990s when we left the command line interface era and entered the world of graphical user interfaces. What started as cutting-edge technology at a Xerox PARC lab some 50 years ago is now taken for granted. Today nobody would seriously discuss the use case of a graphical user interface. It’s just about getting things done easier. And I feel we will be at a similar turning point in the not-too-distant future. A turning point that will alter the way we live, work and play… the rise of virtual and augmented reality along with real-time 3D technology as a foundation…

Mining the treasure chest

Soon real-time 3D technology will develop into an integral part of Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) systems. And almost always PLM systems are coupled with Computer Aided Design (CAD) software to enable product design in 3D. Together PLM and CAD are operating as a critical backbone of product development in most companies. And to me real-time 3D and the PLM/CAD backbone look like a perfect fit. A perfect fit because CAD systems are already hosting thousands and thousands of 3D models describing complex products such as cars, trucks and aircraft. To me that always felt like a treasure chest of 3D assets that is waiting to be opened for use with real-time 3D. What if we could leverage these assets for a joint product review with Microsoft HoloLens? What if we could help someone to safely complete dangerous tasks at a factory with overlaid step by step instructions via augmented reality? What if someone in a car workshop would wear AR glasses that could recognize the car’s license plate and would be fed the maintenance history as an overlay? The list goes on and on but there’s a catch… CAD data need to be streamlined before they can be used with real-time 3D engines. Meet Unity Technologies and PiXYZ Software…

A perfect match

Unity is a giant in the gaming industry, a leading game development platform provider. Some key facts: Founded in 2004, successful IPO in 2020, current market valuation at about 30 billion dollars. The market isn’t always right but to me it looks like investors are very much on board with Unity’s vision how real-time 3D will change the future. It’s also important to know that Unity’s reach is way beyond the gaming industry now. It’s still Unity’s core business but in the last years Unity also ventured into manufacturing, automotive, engineering, construction, architecture…

I already hinted at the technical challenges that need to be mastered when using CAD data in a real-time 3D engine. For example, imagine the complete CAD data for a truck. These massive CAD data need to be simplified without losing their visual fidelity. So please let me introduce you to PiXYZ Software. PiXYZ’ mission is to enable CAD data to be used with Unity’s technology, creating the missing link between CAD and real-time 3D. When I worked with the PiXYZ team I felt they are strongly committed to their vision of making CAD data available for real-time 3D applications. Optimizing CAD data for real-time 3D? Mission accomplished!

Learning to fly

When I look around, I see many companies trying to prepare for real-time 3D. Small teams, lots of proofs of concept. We at Atos have been no different. When we worked on building showcase projects, we felt that we could create value with what we’re really good at: integration and industrialization.

How to make the most of your CAD data -
Join the real-time 3D revolution...

Some examples: We have a deep Unity/PiXYZ/Siemens Teamcenter integration production ready. We have pulled CAD assets from Teamcenter without leaving the Unity Editor. Streamlining of CAD assets happens behind the scenes with Teamcenter Dispatcher and PiXYZ’ magic algorithms doing the heavy lifting. We have pushed streamlined real-time 3D assets back into Teamcenter so that it enjoys its access management and IP protection.

We have integrated Unity with Atos’ Digital Twin platform to get a live stream of wind turbine sensor data and visualized them in real time using optimized CAD data. We have sent the 3D data to a holographic display for extra visual appeal. At least the pictures and video let you glimpse a bit into some of our showcases.

The shape of things to come

With Unity and PiXYZ as enablers in a PLM and CAD landscape the door is wide open to dream up all kinds of VR/AR applications. Think of simulation, training, work instructions, product design, product review, QA, marketing. I almost tend to think of Unity/PiXYZ as some kind of “real-time 3D operating system” providing the foundation to unleash enterprise CAD data at scale. Looking a few years ahead real-time 3D may become as commonplace as relational databases and will be simply taken for granted.

And the beat goes on

I can’t wait to continue the real-time 3D journey. And one thing is for sure: Once you’ve experienced real-time 3D there is no going back. You wouldn’t want to get back to a plain old command line either after working with menus and a mouse as a pointing device. There are more stories to tell, technical ones and personal ones, too. And I would like to hear from you. It’s always good to have like-minded company when you’re on an exciting journey.


Watch here the Real-time 3D magic!

Completely rendered in Unity engine,
world's most widely used real-time 3D development platform

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About Winfried Schwan
Senior Consultant, Atos
Winfried has been working as a consultant and developer in the IT industry for over 30 years. At Atos Information Technology, he did quite a few Siemens PLM Teamcenter projects in the last 10+ years, helping global automotive and manufacturing companies to customize and streamline their Teamcenter PLM landscape. He loves to share his passion for all things 3D, is excited by anything AR/VR and loves tinkering around with gadgets. He's not even afraid of soldering things. In his spare time, he’s having fun with Unity but also enjoys hiking and riding his vintage motorbike. He lives with his wife near Cologne, Germany.