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Keeping it current

Navigating through complex 3-D models can now be done anywhere in the world over the internet.John McKenna reports.

The idea of designers sharing the most intricate details of their grand plans with others outside their businesses is nothing new, with project extranets and shared servers now standard practice across the industry.

But until now, the thought of sharing 3-D models would have raised more than an eyebrow.

Sharing such models has always meant sending huge files and depended on the client, or whoever wanted to view the plans, having the same expensive 3-D software.

As well as their cumbersome size and the massive outlay in expensive software required to be able to view them, these files would mark a point in time in the planning process and would leave no room for revisions.

But new software developed in Norway is helping Scandinavian designers overcome these difficulties by placing their 3-D models on the internet.

The software, myVR, is now being distributed in the UK by 3DtoGO.

Company director Richard Hales says: 'If the designer, say, tries to send the plans on to others involved in the project, like the contractor or the architect, there can be revision problems.

'But whenever you look at your designs on the internet, it's the current version, ' he explains.

'The reality is that while it has been possible to design in 3-D for some time, it has never before been available over the internet.' Designers can post their live models to a website hosted by them or 3DtoGo.

Once a client has access, it can walk or fly around and through the model.

And anyone wishing to view a model can download a free viewer or plug in module for their web browser.

Making the plans for your next big project available for the world to see may seem like commercial suicide, but not according to Hales.

'There isn't a security issue, because if all you are screening are graphic elements of your plans, competitors can't get hold of it.' Models are streamed over the internet in real time using myVR.

While the software has yet to be used on any British projects, in Norway it has been put to good use, allowing clients and the general public to view designs for proposed schemes.

These range from a single building in a town centre, to much larger projects like the construction of the Bouvika E-39 highway.

The price for jumping aboard is £20,000 for a whole 3-D package. This may not seem much to larger fi rms, but 3DtoGo also offers a bespoke service which can be a lot cheaper, suiting those with more constrained budgets.

Hales says: 'You don't buy the whole product, just buy what you need.

'You may only have to pay a few pounds if you just want us to host your model to show your client.'

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