AR/VR Accessibility in AEC

September 28, 2018 Vince Daniele

Augmented and Virtual Reality have been a hot topic recently. It seems like every week we are getting more and more calls from companies interested in hardware recommendations, training, or just general insight about AR and VR. So, I figured I’d send out a blog post to answer some FAQs:

We primarily use Revit to create our models and are interested in presenting them using VR, what are our options?

  • The easiest path to VR—I’ll call it VR Lite—is to set up a camera view in Revit and use the Render in Cloud feature. If you choose the “Stereo Panorama” option, your view will be rendered in the cloud as a split 360° image that you can view from a smartphone using a cheap stereoscope (Google Cardboard) via a weblink.  The great thing about this is if you want to make quick iterations, the standard quality at 1024px doesn’t chew up any of those coveted cloud credits!
  • Revit Live. With Live you can publish your models from Revit to Live (part of the AEC Collection and requires no cloud credits).  Live processes the Revit model and creates a navigable interface to explore you model.  It also supports an immersive VR experience using the HTC Vive or Oculus Rfit…more on those later.  Ultimately, this provides the user a more immersive experience to move around and explore their model, but it does require some beefy hardware.
  • The long route…you can export your models from Revit to 3ds Max and then use a gaming engine like the included 3ds Interactive, Unity, or Unreal to configure your model for VR or AR. This process takes a much higher level of expertise and tends to be very time consuming.  The advantage is that you have full control of your materials and can really customize the experience with animations, sound effects, and a whole bunch of other cool stuff!

We’re interested in Revit Live for getting our models in to VR, does IMAGINiT offer a training course for that?

No, we do not offer a training course for Revit Live.  It’s a really easy process and when you go to publish your model the Revit Live plug-in inside of Revit will notify you if there are any issues that you need to correct before you “Go Live.”  I have done several demonstrations on this process and we’re more than happy to set up a lunch and learn or a quick support session for companies that are interested in Revit Live.

What are the hardware requirements for AR/VR?

The answer to this varies based on the approach that you take.  First, for a Revit Live experience, currently the only compatible headsets are the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, both of which require the user to be tethered to a computer.  Beyond just having the headset, your computer needs to be robust, specifically the GPU.  Both companies have their hardware requirements listed on their websites but here’s a quick hardware summary:

HTC Vive

Graphics Card: GeForce GTX 970 or AMD Radeon R9 290 or better.

CPU: Intel Core i5 4590 or AMD FX 8350 or greater. (recommend i7)

RAM: 4GB or more. (recommend 8+ GB)

Video port: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2, or better.

USB port: 1 USB 2.0 or faster port.

Windows 7 SP1 or newer. (recommend Windows 10)


Oculus Rift:

Video CardNVIDIA GTX 970 / AMD R9 290 equivalent or greater.

CPU: Intel i5-4590 equivalent or greater. (recommend i7)

Memory: 8GB+ RAM.

Video Output: Compatible HDMI 1.3 video output.

USB Ports: 3x USB 3.0 ports plus 1x USB 2.0 port.

Windows 7 SP1 64 bit or newer. (recommend Windows 10)

For an untethered experience, you could opt to go with an Oculus GO or for AR the Microsoft Hololens.  The GO is nice because it comes in at $200 for the 32GB unit and doesn’t require anything other than a smartphone to set up and configure the hardware.  The drawback is that there are a limited number of apps that allow you to publish your Revit models for viewing and those apps will come with a hefty monthly fee to host your models.  There are some free viewers that turn the GO into a real nifty stereoscope for viewing 360° panoramas, but at that point it’s still just an advanced stereoscope with a $200 price tag.  The Hololens has a lot of the same limitations but it is an augmented reality platform, so advanced experts can build environments through the Unity game engine to create augmented reality experiences using the Hololens.  In my experience, the optics with the Hololens are subpar and the field of view is very limited, but I guess that’s what you get for a self-contained, untethered unit.  Hololens comes with a hefty $3,000 price tag for the base unit.

We’ve explored our options and want to purchase a headset…we’re trying to decide between the HTC Vive and the Oculus Rift, which of the two do you recommend?

This is up in the air and everyone you talk that has used both headsets will give you their own take.  However, both units have similar pros and cons but the outward facing sensory cameras on the HTC Vive, and the fact that it only requires 1 USB port (as opposed to the 3 required from the Rift), I give a slight edge to the Vive.  I have also spoken to people that specialize in VR training environments and their choice, hands-down, is currently the HTC Vive.  Do your own research and see which one will fit your use and budget best.  Also, don’t be surprised if a new solution comes out within the next year that blows both options away 😉

I only scraped the surface and answered the most frequent questions that we have been receiving.  As this technology progresses, more and more developers are releasing solutions and I don’t have the time (or insight) to write about everything out there!  I hope this post helps to clear some of the air about AR/VR accessibility in the AEC space.  Please reach out to us if you have any additional inquiries!

About the Author

Vince Daniele

Building Solutions Team Manager<br><br>My area of expertise is focused in the AEC industry, training and consulting clients with Autodesk software optimization and implementation. I have worked directly with many large companies and individuals.

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