Love the gestures and touch interface of your iPad, but need the full functionality of your favorite design tool or CAD suite?
Maide Inc., a small startup founded by engineering students from the University of Waterloo, is pitching an app that lets users drive desktop 3D modeling applications like Rhino and Google SketchUp using the multitouch interface of the iPad.
Touted as making CAD "simple, collaborative, and intuitive," Maide Control functions similarly to a 3D mouse, letting users employ increasingly familiar gestures like two-finger scrolling, swiping, tapping, and pinching to pan, zoom, and orbit 3D models. The app, available for $4.99 in the Apple app store, also lets users change views to fit the model to the screen, while leveraging the same gesture commands to access tools and commands more easily in programs many contend are hard to learn and navigate.
Maide Control taps the iPad to let users drive 3D modeling tools with multitouch gestures like swiping and tapping.
As far as the collaboration promise, Maide Control allows other iPads to be synced up, paving the way for real-time collaboration on a single model. The software also takes advantage of WiFi and ad hoc networking, so users can grab screen shots and share them via email to present models to customers, for example, or as part of an informal design review. "Today, you can have 12 to 15 architects or designers sitting around and talking about a design with one CAD user driving the session -- with [Maide Control], everyone could have their own iPad and collaborate," Oleg Kostour, Maide's founder, told Design News. "It really sets up for better flow for a collaborative work session."
Maide is also making a pitch to combine the app with a traditional mouse, using the iPad for camera control and command selection while using the mouse for precision modeling.
For iPad zealots, Maide Control provides a good excuse to break out the Apple device and put it to good use during the regular workday. But for those who haven't been bitten by the iPad bug and haven't been convinced tablets or mobile apps can fit into the engineering workflow, Maide Control may deliver just enough added functionality to be an eye-opener.
Rather than trying to translate full-blown CAD or rendering tools to a mobile platform, Maide is smart to leverage the app platform to zero in on the little things in life that can alleviate pain points or just make something in an engineer's job easier. That's likely the best way for tablets and mobile apps to gain traction among this audience.
The iPad app supports SketchUp and Rhino on Windows and SketchUp on the Mac. Support for Maya and 3D Studio Max is around the corner, and the Maide team says it's evaluating adding support for other 3D modeling tools based on user feedback.
In addition to the app, users need to grab the free Maide Connect desktop software to allow communication between Maide Control and the 3D modeling tools.