3D Visualization World: Interview with Oliver Davis -- 3D Visualization Accelerates Toward Mobility
3D Visualization World
concept3D has been involved in 3D visualization related work ranging from Google Earth to defense. 3D immersive map apps are a key focus for the company. 3D Visualization World magazine editor Jeff Thurston recently interviewed Oliver Davis, CEO at concept3D to learn about these efforts and what the company is currently involved in with respect to 3D and visualization.
3DVW: Can you briefly explain what concept3D is about? What are your areas of focus and which audiences does your business attempt to reach?
OD: concept3D is a software studio, media services company and leading maps developer. We’re about identifying client needs with applications and media that strengthen their brands. One primary medium is 3D visualization.
3DVW: How does 3D and visualization apply to the products and services that you offer? Are you involved in 3D simulation and virtual reality at all?
OD: 3D visualization is a big part of our offering, whether in our applications or services. The term simulation takes many meanings and our primary emphasis is tying location – maps – to the 3D media. We have been involved in simulation work using Google Earth for Defense, custom ‘simulation’ using Google Maps Streetview API, Unity3D development and more.
3DVW: How did you become involved in 3D and visualization? What challenges do you see for these technologies going forward?
OD: concept3D was founded by the same people who provided the funding to start @Last Software – SketchUp. You could say our roots are deep and the leader of our 3D team is well known in the SketchUp world. We’ve done more custom Google Earth and Google Maps projects than anyone I’m familiar with.
The challenges we see include standardization of data/formats (i.e. BIM), closed systems with high licensing costs, overly complex applications and the subsequent limitations the few leading companies create for the many.
To address these challenges we look at Unity3D as a great platform, it’s mobile –iOS- friendly, includes rendering tools, integration with a plethora of 3D apps, gaming tools, is open source and has a vast development community. We are getting more creative, winning new business, adding services and growing because of these open, flexible engines.
3DVW: A large part of your work is related to mobility applications. Can you explain your products in terms of mobility? What has changed in terms of mobility in the market since you began.
OD: About three years ago we realized that we needed to support 3D on mobile both for field functionality and to support maps. Unfortunately you can’t run most 3D apps on mobile so we took a different tack. We decided to build our ‘immersive’ 3D apps using a gaming engine and create rendered ‘3D’ maps for many of our higher ed clients. Our apps have to be mobile friendly to support tablet users and the maps we build have to work across all mobile operating systems and browsers.
Everything has changed related to mobility – for the better, Mobility has forced developers, mobile OS, and software firms to think about 3D as a mobile-friendly, less processor intensive medium. When we started in 2006, 3D wasn’t mobile-friendly. And, in a way it still has a way to go. You still can’t run most data intensive, feature rich 3D applications on mobile. That said, the shift has happened in maps and gaming - WebGL, Apple’s acquisition of C3, Google’s recent announcement. Hopefully the ‘real’ 3D applications will follow suit and Moore’s Law tells us that the mobile devices –likely tablets- should have plenty of power to run 3D natively in the next couple of years.
3DVW: I noticed that a significant amount of your work relates to energy, particularly solar related activities. Can you tell us a bit about your projects and interest in this area?
OD: We’ve been working with solar firms for over three years now and by last count helped our clients win a lot of business with 3D visualizations.
We are in the early stages of building field-ready, mobile applications for energy analysis and assessment. Our simuwatt platform will bring 3D farther into this market. In June, 2012, we were fortunate enough to win a very competitive U.S. Department of Energy SunShot award to reduce the ‘soft costs’ associated with the assessment, design and permitting of solar using our simuwatt PV tool.
3DVW: I also noticed that you have completed quite a few projects in Europe. Can you tell us about a few of those?
OD: While we are a Boulder, Colorado based company we work all over the globe and have completed work in every continent but Antarctica. Many of our custom Google Earth projects were European based, including an incredibly detailed Google Earth/SketchUp model of Disneyland Paris (1000 plus models). We also modeled the Euro Cup 2010 football stadiums and several other projects in Europe.
3DVW: What makes your efforts attractive to clients? What do you bring to the table that is unique and potential customers ought to consider?
OD: I dare say that we few things that clients like: a committed and talented team, a fair bit of creative thinking, some humility, and an earnest desire to learn and embrace new technology.
3DVW: 3D seems to be gaining more interest recently. What are your thoughts on 3D and visualization when it comes to location information? Do you see particular challenges? Are there unique opportunities?
OD: Everything is location based and all apps will be on a tablet in due time – again Moore’s Law. The opportunities are beyond gaming and maps. The next year or two will be very exciting.
3DVW: What is simuwatt? What is CampusBird?
OD: simuwatt is our mobile-based energy assessment and analysis platform. We are building data-rich, visual tools that simplify and accelerate energy analysis. The product is pre-launch and you will hear more in months to come. One of our main partners is the National Renewable Laboratory and we are very excited about the market, product and overall opportunity to make a difference with these applications.
CampusBird is our interactive maps and content management system for schools. In a nutshell, CampusBird allows schools to build and maintain custom interactive maps without any development experience.
One recent map includes: 100+ custom Google Streetview images, 40 Google Earth models over the Google Earth browser API and a custom map overlay/rendering. We also launched a tour builder feature that allows anyone to build a tour inside the map using our CMS. CampusBird is getting more and more attention and was recently featured at Google I/O along with 11 other mapping products.