MCADCafe Weekly Review October 21st, 2018

Some Second Thoughts About Onshape and Magic Leap
October 18, 2018  by Jeff Rowe

Last week I covered the new partnership between Onshape and Magic Leap with a 3D design app for Onshape’s spatial computing initiative. The new CAD app is being developed for the Magic Leap One Creator Edition, a lightweight, wearable computer and headset for a unique mixed reality user experience.

When wearing Magic Leap’s Lightwear headset, which allows users to see contextually aware digital objects in the real world, engineers will be able to bring life-size 3D CAD models into their physical surroundings and collaborate on design changes. “We’re excited to bring the many benefits of modern CAD to engineers in the Magicverse,” said Onshape CEO, Jon Hirschtick. “For more than a half-century, CAD users were confined to working on a flat screen. The Magic Leap One will push product design into a whole new stratosphere.”

It seems that Magic Leap’s focus with LeapCon was software over hardware. Given that the platform is in need of content, that’s probably a good idea.

All of this might be OK for developers (such as Onshape) and early adopters, but I don’t think it’s very consumer-friendly at this point for reasons I’ll discuss below. Having thought it over, I think healthy skepticism seems appropriate at this juncture.

As great as it initially sounded, I reflected on exactly what was meant by the announcement because it’s such a new development platform and few details were provided. With that in mind, I contacted Onshape about any enlightenment they could provide about the announcement.

Below are some responses to questions I posed to an Onshape spokesperson regarding the technology and partnership:

Can you provide any details on what the app will actually do?
Onshape: The vision is that this app will extend Onshape’s full capabilities to the Magic Leap platform, just like we have with our iOS and Android mobile apps for phones and tablets. This will NOT be a simple CAD-viewing tool. When this app is released, engineers will be able to model and edit within the Magic Leap mixed-reality universe – and collaborate with their design and manufacturing teams, and outside partners, just like they currently do with Onshape.
When will the app be available?
Onshape: We have not announced a release date. Jon Hirschtick’s presentation at Leap Con was an industry preview of the app and the first public announcement of the Onshape-Magic Leap partnership, which has been in stealth mode for many months.
What will the app be called?
Onshape: “Onshape for Magic Leap”
Approximately what will the app cost?
Onshape: This app is still in development and there has been no announcement about cost.
How does Onshape envision the app working for multi-party collaboration? 
Onshape: Collaboration through the “Onshape for Magic Leap” app would work exactly the same way as collaboration works with Onshape currently. Every member of a team would instantly see design changes in real time as they are made. The only difference is that Onshape users would be able to their life-size models in a richer, more immersive environment than they do on the flat screens of their laptops, phones, or tablets. 
How about a public demonstration on how this all works?
Any public demonstration will depend on our development cycle, which isn’t public.
So there you have it from the source. While my questions cleared up a couple things, I thought about the bigger picture and the implications of the partnership.
Needless to say, Onshape was not the only technology demonstrated at last week’s conference. In fact, the demonstrations were all over the place, ranging from Star Wars to porgs to controlling in-home devices, such as speakers and lamps.
Of course, if you buy in, you’ll have to lay down $2,295 for the privilege of wearing the computer and headset. Any way you look at it, that’s a lot of money for a product still in its early stages. Although corporations could afford this, much as the CAVE walls of the past, I don’t see this as affordable and accessible enough for the masses yet.
The announcement that Onshape made last week with Magic Leap  does indeed mark a real advancement for product design on what could be regarded as a new development platform that combines mixed reality and CAD. Onshape has been at the forefront of cloud-based design, but the announcement shows that they may really be on to something that truly sets them apart in a space that is becoming increasingly crowded with “me-toos,” but that remains to be seen.
Honestly, though, at this stage of development and price point, I’d consider the Magic Leap device experimental and out of step with reality (pardon the play on words). However, done right, this technology and those that will will follow, the possibilities for mixed reality experiences are almost endless.
Of course the company says that the technology could be used for just about everything, but from what I’ve seen, read, and heard, there is still a long way to go.

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