In 2001, when the use of 3D technology on a mass scale was limited, I was asked to help with a research and development project together with Silicon Graphics. The goal of the project was to explore and expand the use of 3D design in decision making and communication. Prior to this, information had typically been distributed and viewed in 2D, leaving the information open for interpretation by the end user who received the design. However, it was soon realised that if the design could be sent in 3D, there would be no room for interpretation, as communicating in 3D allows for the same level of understanding between the end user and the design creator. The project was cancelled due to a lack of proper distribution and viewing technology, leading to the birth of myVR Software in 2003.
At that time, mobile technologies were in their infancy. While flip-form laptops had been around in technology circles since the 1980s, the early 2000s really marked the rise of the laptop’s popularity, and we knew they would ultimately become a commonplace technology. So, as a new company, the first question we asked ourselves was, “How can we take a high-resolution design and display it on a standard laptop?” We focused on developing some ground-breaking adaptive and predictive streaming technologies that allowed us to be more intelligent in selecting the types of data to be streamed to the device in use. The data conversion and selection methods worked well enough, but we knew the streaming process needed to be quicker – there was no way someone was going to wait 12 minutes to view a 3D design on their device. We decided the maximum wait time would be 10 or 15 seconds, and if the process didn’t meet this requirement, we would ditch it and try the next thing. Finally, we developed a process we were happy with.
We began working in the oil and gas industry, facilitating the display of high-res 3D models on a multitude of devices, but then moved into the urban planning and architecture, as well as construction and engineering. In 2008, myVR segued into mapping, working with partners like Sweden’s C3 Technologies to set new standards for 3D mapping in the consumer space. We would later begin the acquisition process with Hexagon.
Although myVR has only been a part of Hexagon for the past two months, our team has already begun laying the groundwork for enabling all of Hexagon’s systems to utilise our mobile capabilities, especially in terms of mapping. We all have our ideas about maps, and sometimes we are a bit limited in how we think about access to the various data types and how they are presented. Often maps are a flat thing, a rectangle. But, what if you introduced round or even free-form maps? What would happen if you were able to mix the different types of data – DEM/DTM/ortho photos, LiDAR images, street views, obliques, sensor inputs? And, what if you could view all of this via a mobile device using a standardised approach? The benefits of using this open data while in the field are vast and will undoubtedly open the door for use in areas that we haven’t even thought of yet. After all, when you look at the history of data access, there are always more opportunities than you even realise at the time. It’s all about allowing the data to flow more openly, and giving more people access to it.
Without a doubt, the time to seize this opportunity is right now. There are far more mobile capabilities today than there were even two years ago. There are 3G and 4G networks in place. Wi-Fi is everywhere. The internet has offered greater access to data, and laptops, tablets and smartphones are now much better at handling these data. Furthermore, there is also a lot more open data awareness in the market, and people are now educated about the value and the need for this.
It’s not that we’re the only company with mobile offerings – there are several. The problem is, when you look at our competitors, their offerings are not focused on the end user. Mobile applications have to be easy to access and easy to understand. They need to work for my grandma and grandpa, not just the technology developers.
We have the power to achieve this, and as part of Hexagon, we will.