Billions of dollars are invested annually into designing and building projects to create new bridges, hospitals, communities, and other vital infrastructure. Unfortunately, no matter how much planning and conceptualizing is done during the design phase of projects there are often unforeseen issues when projects enter the build phase. Examples of design phase issues would be a staircase is in a poor location, taller workers hitting their heads on equipment built too low, or nurses charting stations being built where their ability to monitor patients is inhibited. Issues like these are problematic and typically very expensive and time-consuming to fix as they are often discovered during and after the build phase. Catching design flaws earlier in the development process allows for reduced costs, improved functionality, increased satisfaction, and decreased time to completion.
The prevailing solution being explored for this problem was through the use of Virtual Reality (VR) headsets. VR allowed for immersive experiences to bring design concepts to life prior to the construction phase, however, building VR models is a laborious and expensive process that does not allow for quick, rapid iteration. Historically, this mean that VR headsets were a ‘gimmick’ used during the selling phase of a commercial property.
Virtual Reality also has a number of draw backs – participants could only go one at a time, they were confined to a small space, and many users would get nauseated while in the virtual world.
Kelowna Software wanted to know how to utilize technology to iterate quicker and make this a faster, more flexible, and cost-efficient process, to provide a solution to a wider range of projects including those with smaller budgets.
Kelowna Software determined that in order to improve the design phase of projects and create fast, flexible, effective models they needed to develop an augmented reality (AR) solution.
Compared to VR, AR is less detailed, allows for increased flexibility, faster edits, and lowered cost, yet still provides the opportunity for interactive walkthrough experiences that allow for improved building design validation.
It also allowed Kelowna Software to create a shared world, where multiple participants could wear headsets and talk about the project together, simultaneously. Since AR headsets aren’t tethered to a computer, participants were free to walk around, and the technology could even go onto a build site where clients could see the final project as it would look in the real world. Lastly, users did not experience the same nauseating effects in AR as they did in VR, making more users open to and willing to utilize the technology.
Kelowna Software developed Shadowshot Systems. Shadowshot is a custom software that utilizes Microsoft HoloLens hardware and creates immersive models that provide the opportunity for people to walk through designs. The software allowed for modelling that could be developed 30-50x faster than VR, at 2% of the cost, also allowing for rapid iteration of the design.
In order to validate Shadowshot, Kelowna Software worked with McElhanney (a company that provides surveying, engineering, GIS & remote sensing, community planning, landscape architecture, and environmental services) to test their software. McElhanney used Shadowshot to create a mixed-reality experience of a bridge that was being built in India, and were able to have multiple people experience and test their designs prior to construction.
Pioneer Log Homes of the Timber Kings TV show on HGTV was one of the first businesses to utilize Shadowshot technology. The solution allowed their customers and prospective customers to physically walk through custom log homes during the design phase increasing confidence and satisfaction in their designs.
“This is the future”Bryan Reid Sr – Pioneer Log Homes of BC
Microsoft got wind of Shadowshot Systems and invited Kelowna Software President, David Herrington to Microsoft HQ, where he demonstrated the capabilities of Shadowshot Systems and taught Microsoft staff about the software his team created.
“I wish I had you on my team when developing the HoloLens”Edo De Martin – Microsoft Vancouver
Approach (The Technical Stuff)
Shadowshot Systems consisted of 3 separate software products. A design tool, a control app and a runtime engine.
The design tool is where users could import their 3D CAD models into the 3D engine and scale, rotate, place jump-to positions, and even add things like hedges, trees and fences. The model was then persisted in a local database where it could be loaded by the AR headsets. The software was written using Unity 3D engine and C#, with an API and back end using Microsoft ASP.NET Core and Microsoft SQL Server. 3rd party tools included SpeedTree, Polygon and Autodesk VRED.
The second software application was a control app that managed all the rooms, opening of files, moving around within a scene and user height adjustments. This software is meant to be run on a tablet and held by the presenter to control all aspects of the presentation. This software was written using Unity 3D engine and C#, and 3rd party libraries including the Mixed Reality Toolkit.
The third software application was the software that ran on the AR headset and communicated with the control app to keep all the users in the session synchronized together. Each participant saw the 3D model anchored in the same spot in the real world with surprising accuracy. This software was built using Unity 3D and C#, with 3rd party libraries including the Mixed Reality Toolkit.