Testing the eDrawings Virtual Reality Prototype with Google Cardboard

In the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, the mobile products team demonstrated a prototype of the eDrawings mobile app, with support for Virtual Reality via Google Cardboard.

Cardboard is an inexpensive, open source virtual reality viewer, meant to be used with apps on your phone. An alternative to expensive VR rigs like the Occulus, Cardboard uses the high-quality graphics, accelerometers, and processing power already in your pocket. Inexpensive Cardboard headsets are available available from many outlets, such as this one from Amazon.

The eDrawings team has worked quickly to integrate this technology into their product, and were able to demonstrate a functional prototype at SolidWorks World 2016. The prototype was hosted on an iPhone 6 Plus, but the team assured me that iOS and Android versions are being developed in parallel.

Viewing a model in eDrawings virtual reality allows you to add an extra layer of immersive realism to your design, using the movement of your head, rather than your finger, to manipulate the model.

Similar to other Cardboard apps, the VR function of eDrawings mobile generates two images of the object being viewed, with a slight offset to account for stereo vision, making the object appear three-dimensional. Convex lenses in the Cardboard headset resolve the two images into one, and make it appear farther than a few inches in front of your eyes. The accelerometers in the phone also track movement, so the object moves and rotates, changing your perspective as you move your head.

 

As a prototype, the new eDrawings VR mode I tested was certainly unpolished, but the basic functions – stereo imaging, head tracking, etc. – were implemented well. However, more functions will need to be added to make VR viable, rather than foregoing the goofy-looking box and simply using your finger.

If all goes well, the team hopes to release the VR feature update sometime this year (possibly alongside the release of SolidWorks 2017). Be sure to stop by the SolidWorks area in the center of the Partner Pavilion at SolidWorks World 2016, to try out the Cardboard prototype, along with a bunch of other great projects now under development.

The incomparable Michael Lord modeling the Cardboard headset

Google Cardboard Kit

What’s New in SolidWorks 2015 – Chapter 10: eDrawings

Congratulations! You’ve made it to double-digits! eDrawings is SolidWorks’ solution for sharing 3D data in a 2D world. Every standard communication tool we use today is made for 2D files. Emailing images, PDFs, and even videos only tells part of the story. The eDrawings Free viewer lets designers communicate with their clients, who don’t have or need access to a full-fledged CAD tool, but still need to get their point across quickly and accurately.


Honorable Mentions

Support for SolidWorks MBD

Last year, eDrawings added the ability to view DimXpert dimensions and annotations, and we predicted the coming of full Model-Based Definition capabilities. Now that SolidWorks MBD is finally a reality, the functionality has been integrated into eDrawings Professional Desktop and Mobile versions. eDrawings now supports 3D Views and Annotation Views created by the SolidWorks MBD product. To show a 3D view or Annotation View, those views must have been created using the MBD product. Simply select 3D Views or Annotations from the bottom toolbar, and select the desired view.

In the Annotations or 3D Views menu, if you select the dot button, it shows the annotations in each view. However, if you select the view name, it shows and orients the annotation view. Multiple annotation vies can be shown at once, even if the orientation is changed.

 

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SolidWorks 2014 What’s New – Chapter 11: eDrawings

The list of enhancements to eDrawings is about as short as it can get. There’s additional content available on the iPad app, and the ability to view SolidWorks 2014’s enhanced explode steps. Additionally, there’s an important step towards full Model-Based Definition.


Honorable Mentions

3DContentCentral on iPad

According to the What’s New document:

You can use eDrawings to view 3D ContentCentral on iPad. 3D ContentCentral is a free service for locating, configuring, downloading, and requesting 2D and 3D parts and assemblies… Start eDrawings on your iPad and click www.3dcontentcentral.com/.

I assume this feature is still forthcoming, because I haven’t seen it on my version of eDrawings yet.

Update: I’ve discovered that the What’s New document is (again) worded very poorly. What they mean to say is, 3DContentCentral is now available on the mobile Safari browser, and components can be opened in eDrawings directly from the mobile site. All standard eDrawings tools (section, measure, configure, etc.) are available to parts opened via 3DCC.

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Viewing Rotational Explode Steps

Now that rotational explode steps are available in Solidworks 2014, it only makes sense that the eDrawings viewer should be able to view them.

Winner

Viewing DimXpert Dimensions From SolidWorks Part Files

You can now view DimXpert dimensions from files are saved in SolidWorks 2014 or later. It’s a small enhancement, but what this means is that all geometric information is now available in the eDrawings format. This is the next big step necessary for making 2D drawings obsolete.

 


Check out the video below for even more eDrawings 2014 enhancements:

SolidWorks Catches Mobile Fever! eDrawings Pro for iPad

This morning, DS Solidworks released its fourth new mobile app of the year. In the last 8 months, they’ve released n!Fuze, the wildly successful SolidWorks World 2012 app, and an entry-level version of eDrawings.  After that initial release of eDrawings, there was plenty of excitement, but also lots of room for improvement, and the community didn’t hold back.

“I have a feeling that the app will continue to grow over the next few months and years, as SolidWorks realizes that it’s users need more mobile functionality.”

“…lack of markup, measure, section, and other basic review tools.  SolidWorks needs to realize that the goal of any mobile app, however unattainable, is to replace a computer completely, and if some brave engineer is going to bring only his iPad to a design review halfway across the country, he’ll need more than rotate and explode. “

“Personally I would like to see more focus on the features that made eDrawings my de-facto tool for communication by adding markup and measure capabilities. There are a number of things that are missing from the iPad.”

Within 4 months, SolidWorks delivered. Today, eDrawings Pro for iPad was released, and has many of the features that the community has been asking for, including measure, markup, and section view. I could gripe about the fact that they’ve saved the best features for the more expensive version, but honestly it’s just good business.  

I was able to test the three major enhancements of eDrawings Pro:

Measure

To measure, you drag a cursor to the appropriate spot, and tap it to select a point, edge, or face. The mouse-like interface is useful for selecting small details of complex models, but not exactly intuitive on a multi-touch device. Luckily, the help section is easily accessable and explains everything well. Filtering is completely intuitive, since the filter toolbar appears whenever measuring. There even appears to be a distinct filter for holes, but it was consistently greyed out for me (even when viewing parts with holes). This is also the feature that caused the most crashes. Although the iTunes description promises increased speed and stability, my ancient iPad 1 crashed constantly.

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Markup

I was pleasantly surprised with the wide functionality of markup. It’s so much more than adding standard text, but even that part is well done. You can type text and enclose it in a box, ellipse, or cloud, and edit the text by double-tapping. You can add multiple leaders to a note, and the drag points of the leaders are a good distance from the arrowheads, so you can actually see where you’re dragging them. A nice little feature that could have easily been overlooked. What I’d like to see next is automatic text wrapping for long comments, based on the current field of view.

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You can also add markups using multi-touch. Using your finger, you can draw out your suggestions and revisions. However, this feature isn’t yet sensitive enough for writing out text, even with a stylus. It came out jagged, like it was only capturing input a few times a second. You can even choose your markup color using RGB values from the settings menu.

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The next markup tool is a dimension marker, which works in much the same way as the measure tool. However, there seems to be a couple big issues. Since markups have to be in one distinct view, you can’t rotate the model one you start this command. This makes it difficult to measure from the front to back of a part. Also, there is no filter toolbar for this command, even though it’s so similar to the measure tool.

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The next two markup tools are my favorites. eDrawings Pro allows you to insert pictures directly into the file you’re viewing, either from your photo library, or using the camera on late-model iPads. So if you find inspiration for your design while looking at funny cat pictures on your iPad you can just save it to your library and insert it into your model. Or, if you drew a napkin sketch during lunch (while also looking at lolcats), just take a picture with your iPad camera and put that in the model.

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Finally, you can delete any of your own markups by tapping the trashcan symbol, and then the markup.

Section View

Section view, while trapped on the three orthogonal axes, still has a moderate number of features. You can choose the section direction, show the cutting plane, and show or hide the endcap, and drag the section location using either a slider in the control panel, or the section plane in the graphics view (section plane must be shown for this). What it’s missing is a colored section cap, and the ability to adjust the angle of the plane.

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So there you have it, SolidWorks’ next big step in mobile computing. Does this downpour of mobile apps mean that something bigger is over the horizon? Only time will tell. Until then, if you want to get your hands on eDrawings Pro for iPad, it’s only $4.99 on the App Store for the next 90 30 days, before reaching its regular price of $9.99.

eDrawings for iPad: The Difference 3 Months Can Make

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As most of you probably already know, SolidWorks has finally released a mobile eDrawings Viewer. It came hot on the heels of the widely disappointing mobile n!Fuze app, and many would agree it’s been a long time coming. But those people would also agree that it’s better late than never.  It’s ironic, though, that SolidWorks’ tagline for this product is “You asked. We answered.”  We all hope that this is SolidWorks’ first foray into a true mobile CAD platform.

Get it on the App Store ($1.99)

I was actually lucky enough to get to alpha-test the app during a Product Dev session at SolidWorks World 2012. And believe me, a lot has changed. First, and most obviously, every other action made the thing crash, and from what I can tell, that doesn’t seem to be a problem anymore. (My copy seems to have trouble dealing with files larger than about 4 MB, but I think that says more about my iPad 1 than the app itself. Moving on.)  Secondly, the layout is completely different, and much cleaner. In the original version, several buttons performed the exact same command, and the labeling was much poorer.  Now each button has a unique function, and a symbol that follows either the SolidWorks or Apple standard.  One tweak that I especially like is the Home button. It used to return the model to an isometric view, but now returns it to whichever view the model was in when it was imported.  It also wasn’t possible to hide the upper bar (CommandManager?) and side window (Task Pane?), and the UI felt much more cramped. 

A problem that has plagued eDrawings since I can remember is still present: Edited appearances are not carried over (such as brushed aluminum with a color added in, as below) 

SolidWorks Original: 

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eDrawings for iPad:

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Finally, the most important change is the ability to import models into the app.  When I was testing the early version in January, it was hinted that the ONLY way to get models into the mobile viewer would be to go through n!Fuze. I stopped the testers right there and asked what they were smoking and where I could get some.  I would LOVE to be that far removed from reality for a day.  Thankfully, that’s not the case, as the app allows iOS to recognize SolidWorks, eDrawings, and AutoCAD files, and they can be opened from any app that hosts them, such as Mail, Dropbox, Evernote, etc. Even models embedded in Powerpoint can be opened.

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Overall, the app could prove to be very useful. The motion is smooth and the UI is easy to use – especially with the addition of a short help section – and  overall the app looks very professional. I have a feeling that the app will continue to grow over the next few months and years, as SolidWorks realizes that it’s users need more mobile functionality. A few consistent gripes among the rest of the SolidWorks community are the lack of markup, measure, section, and other basic review tools.  SolidWorks needs to realize that the goal of any mobile app, however unattainable, is to replace a computer completely, and if some brave engineer is going to bring only his iPad to a design review halfway across the country, he’ll need more than rotate and explode. 

Keep up the good work!