Microsoft HoloLens and Autodesk Fusion 360 are helping improve collaboration across the product development process, enabling engineers and designers to iterate together in real-time.
The brands are partnering on a new collaboration platform called FreeForm, inspiring Autodesk’s Garin Gardiner, the company’s Fusion 360 business developer manager, to comment that “The future of augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) as seen in movies like Minority Report, Star Wars and Back to the Future (to name a few) is rapidly upon us.”
Gardiner explained in a blog post, “Working in mixed reality is far more than just putting a holographic 3D model in front of you. It changes every aspect of how you work with your data, environment, peers and customers.”
And as Microsoft HoloLens studio manager Ben Sugden commented on Autodesk’s role in his blog post, “Fusion 360 is the ultimate cloud-based 3D design collaboration tool for product designers and engineers. A natural partner for HoloLens–which we think is the best 3D content visualizer on the planet.”
Fortune elaborated on the partnership,
The tech giants have partnered to experiment with new ways industrial designers, mechanical engineers, and others in product development fields can benefit from using Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality (AR) headset and Autodesk’s Fusion 360 cloud-based 3D CAD (computer-aided design) tool. The joint project, called FreeForm, focuses on how companies can improve collaboration, rapid iteration, digital prototyping, design reviews, and client presentations by blending real-world objects with digital AR content. This mixed reality is just around the corner.
“The single biggest challenge for designers and engineers is really just being on the same page,” as Autodesk industrial designer Michael Sagan comments in the video below:
HoloLens, revealed by Microsoft in January and launching to developers in early 2016, uses mixed reality to bring holographic 3D content into the real world so designers can view HD content, real-size and scale to real-world objects. It also means more efficient and effective 3D models, which means fewer physical prototypes.
With Autodesk bringing its 3D modeling expertise to the platform, the future of digital and physical design is “accelerating.”
“When we first saw HoloLens, we immediately sensed the possibilities for 3D engineering and industrial design,” said Gardiner to
VentureBeat. “And after spending a bit of time with HoloLens, I realized how limiting it is to view 3D objects on a relatively small, flat screen rather than being able to use my entire real-world workspace for 3D design projects.”
“Similar to how we saw the shift to the cloud give us increased collaboration, mixed reality takes this one step further by allowing us to interact directly with the environment in which we’re creating—in 3D,” Gardiner also commented to Fortune .
As Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella stated at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partners Conference in July, the integration of HoloLens with Autodesk’s Maya 3D animation software — a popular graphic art and design program — “will fundamentally change how people think of what is possible with computing.”
In addition to Volvo and Autodesk, Microsoft’s other partners exploring the possibilities of HoloLens includes NASA, which is currently testing the technology onboard the International Space Station. As Popular Science reports, ISS astronauts are exploring “two possible working situations: going through a list of procedures, and interacting with space station equipment.”
Case Western Reserve University, meanwhile, is excited by its potential to transform the teaching of anatomy and our understanding of the human body to help to prepare the next generation of doctors.
Volvo, for its part, is using HoloLens technology to help its designers envision “the soul of the car.”
As Gardiner told VentureBeat, “It is the future of where product design is going.” Or as an Autodesk blog post describes it mathematically, “Microsoft HoloLens + Autodesk Fusion 360 = Mixed Reality for Product Design and Engineering.”
While FreeForm is still in the proof of concept stage, Gardiner told Fortune that early tests have been promising and users are enthusiastic about its potential.
“When a designer dons the HoloLens headset, he or she instantly understands how to use it,” Gardiner stated. “With the Fusion 360 integration, the designers and engineers are still using the software and computer accessories like a mouse that they are already familiar with—but now they can see their design as a physical object in space. They can investigate it from any angle, and, for example, solve clashes in a much more intuitive
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