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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

Theorem Solutions Democratizes Different Realities

November 2nd, 2017 by Jeff Rowe

It seems that everybody wants in on the action in the various “realities” game. Case in point — Theorem Solutions, a company known largely for its product data interoperability and PLM has launched a Multi-Device Visualization Experience App for Augmented (AR), Mixed (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR) devices and markets.

Traditionally, Theorem’s products and solutions have enabled companies to leverage their CAD and PLM assets in other parts of their business, primarily in data sharing with downstream processes and suppliers, and now in the emerging Augmented, Mixed, and Virtual Reality sectors.

The Visualization Experience app forms part of Theorem’s Digital Realities product family, and has been specifically developed for users to engage and interact with their Engineering and Manufacturing data. It is one of the first to offer a single solution for all three different technologies in a single application.

What are Virtual and Augmented Realities?

The Multi-Device application is a single application built from the ground up using the latest graphics gaming engine, producing stunning graphical representations of your data, which is a real game changer to the world of traditional CAD graphics and visualization.

Supported devices include:

  • Augmented Reality – Windows 10 and Android Tablets and Phones
  • Mixed Reality – Microsoft HoloLens
  • Virtual Reality – HTC Vive and Oculus Rift

Being Multi-Device, the application allows users to use the same data, in the same visualization application, on all the different low-cost devices.

Theorem’s multi-device applications allow you to use the same data in the same visualization application on all of the different low-cost devices at the same time.  Your data only needs to be optimized and prepared for use once using Theorem’s Optimization and Experience Servers’ and then delivers the same visualization experience across all supported platforms helping to save money on data preparation, training, and support.

The app enables users to view, manipulate and interrogate CAD and PLM data using a combination of touch, hand gestures and voice controls-depending on the device- with each device suiting different use cases and scenarios.

“Today, we rely so much on technology – it simplifies our existence – but at the same time, we don’t fully utilize what’s available to us,” said Stuart Thurlby, CEO of Theorem Solutions.

“Some Engineering and Manufacturing processes are still not harnessing new technology or finding new ways of performing established tasks, but technology has evolved and needs to be embraced in order to keep up with, and be ahead of, the game. We see Augmented (AR), Mixed (MR) and Virtual Reality (VR) running on the new low cost devices to be that game-changer!”

With new low-cost devices and technologies for Augmented, Mixed and Virtual Reality emerging for the consumer markets, the natural progression into the commercial arena is beginning.

Augmented Reality

On hearing the term Augmented Reality (AR), many people still think of low-cost interactive children’s gaming apps. While these games have brought the idea of AR more into the public domain, there are many more practical use cases for the new technology, such as healthcare, education, engineering and manufacturing. Theorem’s focus is in the engineering and manufacturing domains.

AR is an overlay of digital content on the real world (Digital Twin). Using a tablet or smartphone, the camera shows the real world, as it normally would, and then using a marker as a point of focus, the digital content appears on the screen, on top of the real world.

Augmented Reality is a different experience to Virtual Reality (VR), it combines the real and digital worlds utilizing CAD and PLM data. It is not immersive like VR, you are in the real world and can see everything around you, but with digital content overlaid. The digital data can be text, 3D graphics, sound and video, in any combination. Presented on a tablet computer, smartphone or even a laptop, overlaid on the real world through the devices camera.

The basic benefit is the technology enhances an individual’s experience of physical reality by adding digital content. The digital content is overlaid on the real world as an aid to informing, understanding and decision making.

The Visualization Experience for AR application supports Microsoft’s Windows 10 and Android smartphones and tablets. These enable users working in engineering and manufacturing industries to experience their CAD and PLM assets in an interactive Digital Realities environment.

Theorem’s AR Visualization Experience enables you to move freely while interacting with the device, allowing you to “touch” and explore data in the context of its physical setting.

Mixed Reality

Augmented and Mixed Reality have come to prominence lately, with the prediction that the use of these digital realities will take over from current commonly used technologies in both commercial and consumer worlds. Virtual Reality has been mainstream in Caves and Powerwalls for many years and more recently on low cost headsets, Augmented Reality has already taken off in gaming and publishing, but it is Mixed Reality (MR) that is really generating interest within the Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing worlds and has the capability to change the way we interact with data and reality.

Mixed Reality (MR) is similar to Augmented Reality (AR) in that it is an overlay of digital content onto the real world, but the biggest distinction between AR and MR, and what makes MR more exciting, is that the MR content appears in the form of a hologram which sits within the real world. With MR headsets, the digital content appears in front of you and, using hand gestures and voice control, the headset allows you to manipulate and interact with the data as if it were a real object, you walk around it and look inside – (digital twin).

Like Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality enables you to see your physical environment and digital content at the same time opening up a raft of potential new use cases.  It combines the real world and digital text, 3D graphics, sound and video but the digital content is displayed as a hologram, rather than on a conventional screen e.g. a tablet or smartphone.

Whereas on a tablet to see the object you pan, zoom and rotate, with a hologram as in the physical world you walk around it to view it from different positions, walk up to it to get closer to see detail. The digital objects appear to be there, it’s as if they are physical objects.

Virtual Reality

While many still associate Virtual Reality (VR) with gaming, VR has been used in engineering and manufacturing industries for a long time. But predominantly by large companies who can afford to install expensive Powerwall or Cave systems. Recent developments in VR technology, and the release of a number of low cost VR Headsets (such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift) have gone a long way to democratize the technology, and have opened up a variety of use cases that sees the technology being integrated into everyday engineering and manufacturing workflows.

With Digital Realities, Theorem have created a solution which can be integrated in to existing processes, and can be the ‘visualization pipeline’ in support of your existing systems and processes.

Virtual Reality is a 100% virtual, immersive and digital experience. VR headsets cover the user’s field of vision, effectively cutting off the real world around them and making them feel as though they are actually inside the scene being displayed.

VR enriches virtual prototyping, product build and assembly, along with service and training use-cases. It enables engineers to view their design in a “real” context, from any angle without having to spend time and money on producing physical models.

It is what it says “virtual,” it is a computer generated experience and is immersive. In the past immersive meant standing inside a Cave with a headset on, or in front of a Powerwall.

Today a range of new low cost headsets are available, such as Samsung Gear, HTC Vive, and Facebook’s Oculus Rift. You are immersed within the headset that is you can only see virtual design data, that is, digitally generated data, and you cannot see the real world.

Using Existing Assets

“VR has been available for many years in the engineering and manufacturing space, but it has always come with an enormous price tag and only a few are in the ‘privileged’ position to fully be able to utilize the technology for visualization” Stuart said, “But now the ability to use existing CAD and PLM assets in all of the latest devices without the price tag is actually a reality.”

The Theorem server architecture enables the CAD and PLM assets server to talk to other servers and prepare data so it can be streamed to a device. Existing CAD and PLM data assets from CATIA 3DEXPERIENCE, CATIA V5, CREO, Inventor, JT, NX, SOLIDWORKS, and STEP formats can be utilized.

Data is optimized and prepared for use once, and then delivers the same Visualization Experience across all supported platforms, saving money on data preparation, training and support.


Where Does the Technology Come From?

These new devices and technologies are not coming from the Engineering and CAD/PLM industries, but from the gaming and social media industries.

Combining gaming technology with engineering CAD and PLM data in a single application creates an interactive user experience, and becomes even more powerful when combined with metadata from MES, ERP, CRM, and IoT systems.

Theorem’s Visualization Experience is used for the Digital Twin area of the IoT, design reviews, Manufacturing Build, Quality Control, Service applications and training, and even sales & marketing, with the ability to tailor the experience to a specific use case.

The Visualization Experience integrates into existing workflows. Data can be dragged and dropped onto the server, populated via a PLM Release/Publish trigger or saved directly from CAD applications.

Theorem’s Visualization and Digital Reality products offer a key component to enable the ‘Visualization Pipeline’ and help to democratize AR, MR and VR throughout your organization.

“What Theorem are offering in the Visualization Experience is a framework, combined with consultancy, enabling you to build your own specific experiences.” Stuart Thurlby explained, “We have ensured that your data and device neutrality is there, which will protect your investment as this world changes. It is effectively future proofing your CAD and PLM assets”

“Ultimately, the Theorem Visualization Experience presents new and innovative ways of performing existing tasks, or creating entirely new processes and methods of delivery.”

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