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Q&A: Autodesk’s Chris Bradshaw

Revit Live and game engines

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Last year, Autodesk launched an online service that allows users to create an immersive, interactive 3D visualisation, direct from a Revit model, at the click of a button. BIM+ talks to Chris Bradshaw, senior vice president of Autodesk Media & Entertainment, about its potential to change how architects see and use game engines.

How do you anticipate game engines and Revit Live will be used?

People have been trying to intersect game engines with architectural models for a long time. This hasn’t been easy, as game engines have traditionally been quite complex for architects to use, and are not particularly well equipped for the type of experience that they’re trying to create.

To combat this, we must firstly be able to extract the data from the architectural model and input it into the game engine, and secondly, create a user experience for architects that don’t necessarily have any programming skills.

Revit LIVE allows companies to do just this, by creating an interactive environment that can immediately be pumped out to the device of your choice, including Google Cardboard.

In the medium term, I believe that we will see more people using it as a design tool. So much of an architect’s job is to imagine something that doesn’t exist yet. Even though Revit gives a clear impression of the building, you are not physically in the environment. With game engines, architects can fill the building with different things, such as people.

This gives architects, contractors and clients a closer, more detailed impression of what it is like to be in a space and understand it.

What are the future potential uses for game engines?

First, architects and designers can experience their own designs in a simulated environment, exploring different ideas and approaches in an immersive way. For example, we can pull a fire alarm and watch how 500 people will react.

If we could ensure that the modelling of the crowd is fire marshal accurate, then we could potentially gain fire certification through modelling. The aim is to make the people as realistic as possible, which is tough, as people do not act rationally when panicked. To achieve this, we need to use algorithms that give people multiple layers of complexity.

Crunching this amount data is made possible by using the cloud: simulating hundreds and thousands of different environmental variations requires significant compute power, which the cloud can provide.

Second, game engines enable architects to place their clients into the designs, so they can better understand what it looks like from the angle they want to see it from. This is a very different experience to looking at still renderings or viewing an animation that someone else has put together.

In turn, this enables them to provide more detailed and accurate feedback on which elements of the design they like, and which aspects need tweaking.

What is Revit Live adding to the VR/AR/game engine party? 

VR and AR are simply additional platforms on which to distribute Revit Live. There are very few commercial AR headsets being shipped at the moment, and while VR is a little further ahead, we are still in the very early stages of it being deployed on a wide scale. This is because it is only really available to those who are investing in the very high end hardware and individuals with the skills required to drive that hardware in a virtual environment.

Architects are already using game engines to create realistic walkthroughs, but the level and amount of work is pretty high. Revit Live allows people to convert from Autodesk Revit to a game engine at the click of a button. The process then depends on the size of the model. It can take from a minute to an hour – the average time at the moment is eight minutes.

Our aim for Revit Live is to make it available not only to the large firms, such as Zaha Hadid and Foster + Partners, but also to make it more broadly available to small and medium sized firms looking to create interactive and immersive experiences with their designs.

What advantages does Revit Live have over other game engines?

Revit Live is less of a game engine, and more of a capability. However, its advantage over similar systems is that we’re able to automate the process of bringing BIM data into interactive environments. This enables doors and windows to be automated; materials, such as stone or glass, to be brought into the model, and more intelligence into the design as a result.

What has the uptake of Revit Live been so far?

Uptake of Revit Live has been very successful so far, with thousands of models processed through the service, and more than a 95% success rate for every one of these jobs.

Can you edit the model in Revit Live?

At the moment, you can’t edit the model you can only interact with it, however, there is no reason why this won’t be possible in the future. If the Revit model was also in the cloud, then a change made in the game could be passed back to the model.

Designers can experience their own designs in a simulated environment, exploring different ideas and approaches in an immersive way. For example, we can pull a fire alarm and watch how 500 people will react.– Chris Bradshaw, Autodesk