upFront . eZine

t h e    b u s i n e s s   o f   c a d


Issue #714 |  November 29, 2011 

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In This Issue

1. Infinite Z's zSpace

    - zSpace Product and Branding
    - Q&A


2. The Cloud is Dead? I Respond


3. Out of the Inbox, and other regular columns.


Infinite Z's zSpace

"No one contemplated manipulating objects in free space," Infinite Z ceo Paul Kellenberger tells me. The company has been around for five years, spending the first few on researching and developing the parts of the zSpace system. At Autodesk University this week, they unveiled it for the first time; I interviewed Mr Kellenberger last week.

zSpace Product and Branding

The zSpace device consists of a 24" 1920x1080 LCD monitor running at 120Hz. It has to run at that speed so that each eye sees smooth motion, 60Hz each. The monitor is mounted on a stand that tilts it up by about 30 degrees.


Looking down at the monitor, you can see 3D model as a 3D image. You can work on top of the 3D image or inside of it. The company has found that beta testers using software like Maya tend to work closer to the screen; those using CAD tend to work further away from it. For instance, you can orient parts in assemblies precisely in 3D. Another example: you can draw 3D curves around and below objects, without having to change UCS or viewpoint.


You interact with drawings using a wired stylus. For determining its location relative to the screen, the stylus has optical and inertial sensors, such as an accelerometer and a gyroscope. The styles has three buttons: the primary one selects objects, and the other two are user definable. (The stylus is wired in version 1, suggesting a wireless one is on its way.)


You see the 3D image through a pair of polarized, passive glasses. These are not shuttered LCD glasses, and so do not need wires or batteries.


The tablet has a pair of widely spaced sensors that track the glasses, and then rerenders the 3D geometry in real time as you look around the model. 3D models can look like they are floating in the screen, or pop out of the screen.


The company provides an SDK that allows software vendors to interact with make zSpace. The largest number of calls involve interaction, such as with the virtual laser pointer to select and manipulate objects, use a virtual camera to do inspections, and to do 3D sketching for precise piping and routing.


upFront.eZine: Is the monitor specially made?
Paul Kellenberger:
It consists of three parts: (a) a special LCD that's made by one company in the Far East; (b) an interior system board that handles the tracking and interaction; and (c) software that makes a small number of calls to the application.


upFront.eZine: How do you select an object in 3D?
Mr Kellenberger:
You see a laser or a selection tool, depending on the application. The screen is a virtual volume; the stylus is like a 3D mouse with a virtualized selector.


upFront.eZine: Do zSpace work with 3D mice?
Mr Kellenberger:
Yes, with the Space Navigator from 3dconnexion. But we want it to work with many input devices. There is a wearable glove with sensors at fingers, and touchpads, like those Wacom, but we find people prefer to 3D over 2D. We are working on the ability to use your hand, without needing sensors on fingers.


upFront.eZine: Is there feedback?
Mr Kellenberger:
There are no haptics (touch feedback), but there is highlighting that depends on how the application implements it. You can do a cubed select: (1) draw a rectangle and then (2) pull it up like an extrusion.


upFront.eZine: How do you zoom in and out?
Mr Kellenberger:
You move the whole scene, or an object, closer or further away. You no longer have to wonder what happened in the z direction.


upFront.eZine: What will be the price?

Mr Kellenberger: The developer kit is $6,000 for everything. It plugs into a PC using the DVI or HDMI connector on stereo-capable graphics board from nVidia or AMD/ATI. We found it even works on an nVidia Quadra 1800.


upFront.eZine: When will it be available?
Mr Kellenberger:
It is in beta now, and will ship for Autodesk Showcase and Maya in Q1 [Jan-Mar, 2012]. We are working with Autodesk to implement it first, and hope to work with all major CAD vendors.


upFront.eZine: What is your target market?
Mr Kellenberger
: The initial focus is on the product design and animation markets, but we also see it in GIS and medical.


upFront.eZine: Who is your closest competitor?
Mr Kellenberger:
No one.




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The Cloud is Dead?
I Respond

It's been interesting to watch the title of my piece 'The Cloud is Dead' from http://www.upfrontezine.com/2011/upf-709.htm#a spread as a meme, popping up here and there in the CAD world. For instance, reporting yesterday from Autodesk University, #martynday wrote, "Is Ralph Grabowski in the audience? I think his 'cloud is dead' view is getting beaten to death with a big stick."


The title is, of course, a riff from other literary exaggerations in the generic media, such as "Is God Dead?", "The End of History," and even in technology press, like "RSS is Dead" and "The End of the Email Era."


The dramatic titles signal that a significant change is underway, not that these things are literally dead. For instance, Time magazine's infamous 1966 cover < http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19660408,00.html > actually referred to liberal theologians for whom God had become dead. For anyone else, such as an atheist, God was never alive and cannot die; for the theist, God always exists, and cannot die.


I wrote the 'The Cloud is Dead' title after thinking about what Steve Johnson and his readers were saying on cad nauseam < http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com>. CAD vendors like Dassault Systemes and Autodesk had been promoting the promise of the cloud for three years by the time Mr Johnson began his series in which he methodically examines the pros and cons of the technology.


As I read his series, it struck me that there are w-a-a- y too many problems for the cloud to work well for CAD users. Readers who got beyond my provocative title know that I made two primary points:

- It takes a maturing process to determine if new technology is useful; its use should be appropriate, not merely because it is new. Second Life, anyone?
- The cloud is as meaningless to heads-down drafters as is object-oriented programming.

The title "The Cloud is Dead" emphatically signaled my discontent with the concept; of all the niches in the computing industry, CAD has the most serious difficulties operating on a cloud -- technical, and legal.


As Mr Johnson illustrated clearly in his columns, CAD on the cloud has some beneficial aspects, but then suffers from flaws that are so serious that it could be rejected entirely. You can read the problems and benefits at Mr Johnson's site, http://www.blog.cadnauseam.com. He ably airs many of the issues, pro and con -- just as dozens of readers from both sides of the debate have aired their opinions in this newsletter.


I consider it significant that (a) only two of the large CAD vendors interested in the subject; and (b) neither addresses concerns raised by enlightened users.


(I feel that "enlightened user" is a better term than "denier," the word used by the representative of a cloud-vested CAD vendor. "Enlightened," because it is crucial to think through the many aspects that surround new technology. In contrast, cloud proponents appear to be the ones in denial, as they cheerfully bypass speaking to the drawbacks, even cheering it with emotional terms like "infinite" and "unlimited"; one even describes it with the word "love.")


There is one issue, however, that I want to emphasize: Trust.


Corporations much larger and much more important than CAD software vendors have dealt with the issue of trust quite effectively. Without trust, banks could barely operate savings accounts, process cheques, provide credit cards, accept debit cards, and perform other transactions. Financial institutions are backed by governments to guarantee against certain types of losses; credit card companies guarantee against fraudulent use. This creates trust. Only risky investments are not guaranteed.


Cloud-vested CAD vendors scoff at the enlightened with this analogy: "We use our credit cards to make purchases over the Internet, so why not do the same with our data." Left unsaid is that they provide no guarantee against loss. Publicly, they talk of the security of Amazon EC2, of server buildings surrounded by barbed wire. Their terms and conditions, however, state that there is no guarantee for the security of your currency, data.


I understand why they don't want to the risk to become an issue, because they are gambling hundreds of millions of dollars and euros on unproven technology.


Sure, I use the cloud, like Google Mail and SugarSync. But not for anything that's critical.





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Out of the Inbox

Autodesk updates AutoCAD WS with the ability to view 3D drawings (no word on whether 3D can be edited), access GPS data from mobile devices, and plot to HP's ePrint & Share service, which in turn works with Web-connected HP Designjet printers. Release date is "coming soon." http://www.autocadws.com


ProgressSoftware hires Jay Bhatt as president and ceo as of Dec 5. Mr Bhatt is the former senior vp of AEC Solutions at Autodesk.


ClearEdge3D's EdgeWise automated feature extraction plug-in for AutoCAD and Revit extracts 3D geometry from laser-scanned data inside the CAD systems. Demo version available from http://www.clearedge3d.com/#!try-it-free


StrucSoft Solutions says they are close to releasing a floors-and-ceilings framing module for Revit. http://www.strucsoftsolutions.com


Reverse engineering? It's all the rage. The beta version of T-Splines v3.3 for Rhino fits t-spline surfaces to scanned data. http://www.tsplines.com


Intergraph releases PV Elite 2012 with new features and code updates for vessel and exchanger design: ASME Section VIII Division 1 and 2, PD 5500, wind/seismic codes, and more. http://icas.intergraph.com/content/PV-Elite-Release-2012

Earlier in the year I wrote about MassMotion, and now Simon Lister tells me that Oasys is out with v4.5 with evacuation events, an IFC importer, the abilty to turn off graphics for faster simulation runs, and is faster at loading models with ICE Actors. "Please note that MassMotion now only supports Softimage 2012, so you will need to upgrade if you are still using 2011," he adds. http://www.oasys-software.com


Research firm Cambashi figures that Vietnam will out perform India, second only to China in the region, when it comes to "growth in technical applications for manufacturing across Asia/Pacific region." http://www.cambashi.com


At $8,000, Microsoft Surface is just too expensive. ExoPC says its 10-finger multitouch 40-inch EXOdesk will cost just $1,300 when it ships in 2012.


MSC.visualNastran 4D has been renamed "SimWise 4D" from Design Simulation Technologies, and is a single simulation program integrated with Windows-based 3D CAD systems for studying motion and stress on mechanical designs. Due to ship in December. Try the demo version from http://www.design-simulation.com

@DeelipMenezes (Deelip Menezes): "OK. Screw these tablets. For the ultimate computing experience while traveling use a MacBook Air. With Windows. That is all."


@DeelipMenezes: "@bcourter Didn't you sell 'the worst idea in CAD' once upon a time? ;-)"
@bcourter (Blake Courter): "I left PTC when they were already one generation behind in CAD and weren't interested in catching up."


@martynday (martynday): "Marketing folks. Why the h*ll does each company have to develop its own language? Press releases need interpretation. Plain English please"
@martynday: "All CAD companies should give their press releases to a sanity board. Stop picking a word each year and using it like a stick to beat me up"
@ralphg (Ralph Grabowski): "It seems you are suggesting that CAD solution providers collaborate more closely with their target audience verticals."
@martynday: "I have to speak their terms to do my job. I am an interpreter more than a journalist these days."
@ralphg: "Perhaps you need to speak their language: 'Your customers are telling you that a rebranding effort is needed to de-silo terms'."
@martynday: "If the CEO's mother doesn't understand the basic message ina press release it's #marketingwank"

"Bricscad for AutoCAD Users" Updated

I've updated the "Bricscad for AutoCAD Users" ebook for BricsCAD V12. This ebook tells you about the differences and similarities between AutoCAD and Bricscad in areas of user interface, commands, customization, programming, objects, and properties. It is especially useful for offices considering saving on their IT budgets by adding licenses of Bricscad.


Here's the thing: Bricsys gives away this ebook as a promotional item, and you can download it for free from https://www.bricsys.com/en_INTL/bricscad/documentation.jsp (8.6MB PDF file).


But, if you would like to support the author -- me! -- then it is available for purchase. The list price is $18.55, and the link for ordering through PayPal is here: http://www.upfrontezine.com/b4a.

What's New in This 3rd Edition

More information about this ebook is here: http://www.upfrontezine.com/b4a


Notable Quotable

@nppolitics (NP Politics): "John Moore: You can't change the world by clicking 'like' on Facebook natpo.st/trbZMT #cdnpoli"


upFront.eZine is published every Tuesday, except during summer and Christmas vacation. Editor: Ralph Grabowski. This newsletter is read by 12,000 subscribers in 70 countries. Your comments are welcome at editor@upfrontezine.com! Deadline for submissions is every Monday noon.


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Entire contents copyright 2011 by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. All rights reserved worldwide. Letters sent to the editor are subject to publication. Article reprint fee: $250 and up. All trademarks belong to their respective holders. "upFront.eZine," "The Business of CAD," and "WorldCAD Access" are trademarks of upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd. Letters to the editor may be edited for clarity and brevity. Translations and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by upFront.eZine Publishing, Ltd.

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