No better group than engineers understands the value of true 3D visualization. Building virtual products mitigates the time and expense of building the real thing before understanding its feasibility. Along the virtual way, engineers can perform clash detection and appearance analysis to better understand how a part or product will fit into a space. Better yet, they can gauge customer reaction and shape the virtual product accordingly.
A two-year-old startup in Hinsdale, IL called TDVision Systems is promising to ease the production of 3D video and displaying 2D images in 3D. At the Consumer Electronics Show in January, the company introduced a 3D camcorder, new TDVisor eyewear equivalent to viewing a 72-inch screen at 10 ft; a TDV Ready PC with the company’s proprietary codec; Alterspace software for its eyewear; the DejaView media player and photo manager for viewing 3D content on a PC; and the TDVirtualCam algorithms for rendering 3D content (TDVision can’t redo its slick, but confusing website soon enough.)
“Designers don’t get to see real part until they go into rapid prototyping because they can’t get volumetric and texture information before that. With our algorithms, the designer can visualize the parts and drawing as if it was right in front of them,” says TDVision founder and CEO Manuel Gutierrez. TDVision, he says, has been awarded five patents for its technology with 12 more pending.
Director of Research Ken Amann at consulting firm CIMdata cautions that 3D is but a substantial piece to the puzzle to create products virtually. “Creating 3D from 2D is to show how a product will work is not the end all. It’s also how the volume and texture will look and how the product will fit into a space. And it’s things like clash detection analysis.”
What makes TDVision unique is that tricks used to fool the brain into visualizing 3D as we do with our eyes are not necessary, according to TDVision Director of Product Marketing Ethan Schur.
“The only way in the world to view 3D is to emulate the way we really view the world without out trying to trick the brain. Previously with 3D emulation, your brain was doing a lot of work to create your image. That causes side effects and stress on the brain. We emulate 3D so your brain does have any extra work to do,” he explains.
With a workforce of eight engineers and obviously untested, the young company has caught the attention of SolidWorks executives who consider TDVision’s suite of products as a valuable add-on. “They are a research partner and are aspiring with commercial marketable products. I believe they have something very close that could go to market,” says Chris Salmers, SolidWorks partner technical marketing manager. He adds that SolidWorks has about a thousand partners of various levels and stripes.
So far, the products TDVision has released have been largely prototypes, says Schur, who adds that TDVision has worked with unspecified military contractors on a helmut-based eyewear. The company, he says, is also working on medical applications with the University of Iowa Ophthalmology Dept. In addition to military and medical applications, TDVision is targeting its products at videogames, video capture and playback, medicine, the military, education, training and simulation, and custom plug-ins and add-ons.
TDVision licenses its product suite to companies, which want to incorporate its products in their own, but does not discuss specific pricing. “You can’t walk into BestBuy and get them,” he says, acknowledging the pricing would have to be under $1,000 or even $500 were such a retail push to succeed. However, the products will go retail “as soon as humanly possible.”
Writing about 3D technology does not do it justice, according to Schur. “Seeing is believing. It’s like you’re there and going from black & white to color.”