Canadian Company ICE edge Debuts New 3D Viewer
by Jeff Mottle
A few weeks ago I spent several hours touring the facilities of ICE edge and DIRTT environmental solutions in my hometown of Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Ice Edge is a software company that dedicates their time to developing visualization tools for the architectural market. A relatively new web-based collaboration tool they have developed, called ICEvision, allows companies and individuals to import common model formats into the viewer, set up annotations and predefined flight paths and then securely share the models with clients over the web. Model publishers can gain access to this powerful collaboration tool for either a monthly subscription fee of $77 or an annual fee of $900 USD. Models created in Revit, Google SketchUp, AutoCAD, 3ds Max and others can all be imported into the viewer and shared over the web. I was able to catch up with Ice Edge's head of marketing Drew Groeger to ask a few questions about the product.
Drew Groeger from ICE Edge explaining their new ICE Vision Viewer
JM: Drew, tell us a little bit about yourself and how ICE edge got started.
DG: I'm originally an Architect. I have a Bachelor or Architecture degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. I've been working in the A&E community for about 15-20 years and I've now come over to the DIRTT and ICE side of things. I started with DIRTT Environmental Solutions and now I'm working fully with ICE edge software and promoting that. ICE edge is a software company, where we create software which is product specific that you can use to design and specify. It's a front to back end software solution for companies to use not only to sell and promote their own solutions, but also to design and specify and go all the way to manufacturing. We're offering companies a complete solution when they come on board with ICE.
JM: ICE edge has several different products, but I wanted to talk specifically about ICEvision. How was this product started and what was the need you were trying to address?
DG: Within the ICE box software, we have three dimensional capabilities that we've borrowed from the gaming industry. You can fly through solutions that you lay out with ICE box software. There was a desire from existing clients and people in the field who saw the software to have that three dimensional walkthrough capability on their own, so we created a separate web based application called ICEvision. This takes the 3d aspects from our ICE software and allows people to drive through and experience the solution that was drawn up in the ICE software, but also import models from other software as well.
ICEvision Demo on a custom display table developed by DIRTT using eBEAM Technology
JM: You guys support most of the 3d softwares: AutoCAD, 3ds Max, SketchUp etc., but when the geometry is exported from those scenes, are there any limitations on what is brought across into the viewer in terms of lighting, geometry and textures?
DG: Textures and geometry are brought over and there are not really any limitations there, but lighting and shading all takes place in the viewer itself, so existing lighting and shading is not brought from the original model.
JM: Is the engine used in ICEvision your own?
DG: Yes, the 3D engine was developed here and is Java based.
JM: Once the model is imported, what sort of functionalities or interactions can users add to the model?
DG: The publisher of the model, whoever is bringing it into the viewer, can add specific preset flight paths through the model and they can add annotations along the way. There are little text boxes that pop up so they can really highlight features of the model that they want to emphasize. Then you can share that model via the web with whomever you want to view the model. On their end they can either fly around freely and investigate the scene on their own, or they can press play and go through the predefined flight paths.
JM: Speaking of the web, a lot of the software companies over the last year and a half or so have been leveraging the cloud. ICEvision does the same, can you explain how that works?
DG: We do have cloud servers where users can upload their models. This makes for a much speedier process not only bringing the models in, but then when you upload them and pushing them out to be shared. This allows you to be completely independent of having to carry those models around with you. Users can also view the models on any device.
JM: If someone does not have an internet connection, can they still use ICEvision to view the model?
DG: Users do need to be connected.
JM: You guys also have an iPhone application. Can you explain how that works and if you also have plans for an iPad application?
DG: The iPhone application works with ICEvision. Right now it's limited to very small models, which is a limitation of the phone and how much data the phone can grab. We're also looking into adding additional functionality for devices like the IPad. We don't have it yet, but we're headed in that direction.
JM: Your business model is based on a subscription fee, either monthly or yearly. Is that fee only incurred by the publisher or do your clients also require a subscription to view the models?
DG: The pricing is only to publish the model, so whoever is receiving the model, there is no cost to them. They will just receive an email with a link they can click which will launch the viewer application and then they can drive through the solution and experience the model you sent them. I kind of liken it to a three dimensional PDF where they can look, but they can't touch. This ensures if they need to make any comments or make any changes they need to get back in touch with you, which is what you want.
JM: In the future what new features and functionalities do you have in the works and in perhaps three years from now, where would you like to see the product?
DG: Great question. Right now some of the things on the near horizon are adding different shading models that you can assign to the models that come into ICEvision. Right now we only have two different shading modes. We want to give people more options for the lighting experience. Further on in three years time, we're looking into being able to bring in the lighting information because we don't want to disrupt that workflow. We don't want someone to have to redo the lighting they have set up in their
ICEvision in action
For more information about ICEvision please visit: http://icevision.ice-edge.com
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