Fraunhofer software allows the sharing of complex 3D data across all devices

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

Researchers from Fraunhofer have developed ‘instant3DHub’, a web-based software platform that is said to enable the sharing of 3D data across devices. They say that their software could increase the use of, for example, virtual reality and augmented reality in industry.

Documents and pictures can be shared between different devices by sending them in PDF and JPG formats, but there is no similar format for 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. He added: “The data volume is growing faster than the means of visualising it.”

Fraunhofer IGD’s instant3DHub software is claimed to allow engineers, technicians and assemblers to use spatial design and assembly plans, enabling them to inspect industrial plants or digital buildings, etc. in real time on devices from smartphones to VR headsets.

Because of the huge volumes of data that have to be processed, such an undertaking has thus far been either impossible or only possible with a tremendous amount of effort. Users had to manually choose in advance which data should be processed for the visualisation, a task then executed by expensive special software, which was expansive and time-consuming.

The web-based instant3DHub 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, Dr Behr explained: “Out of some 3.5million 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 can be transmitted from a central database for a model 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, 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.

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 Industrie 4.0, because it constantly compares the digital target situation in real time against the actual situation as captured by cameras and sensors,” explained Dr Ulrich Bockholt, head of the Virtual and Augmented Reality department at Fraunhofer IGD. “The solution is of interest to many sectors, even in the construction and architecture field, where it can be used to help visualise building information models on smartphones, tablet computers or data goggles.”

BMW, Daimler and Porsche already use instant3DHub at over 1000 workstations, and medium-sized companies such as SimScale and thinkproject have successfully implemented “instantreality” and instant3Dhub and are developing their own individual software solutions on that basis.

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