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SketchUp aims to transform industrial design using holograms with new Microsoft HoloLens app

Google acquired popular 3D modelling tool SketchUp back in 2006, before selling it to Trimble in 2012. Today, Trimble and Microsoft announced the launch of SketchUp Viewer, bringing holographic mixed reality tools to professionals in the architecture, engineering, construction and operations (AECO) industries, through Microsoft's HoloLens headset.

SketchUp is a firm favorite among AECO professionals, as well as product designers in many market segments. The software allows them to easily design in 3D, but the new HoloLens effort brings those 3D designs into the real world. "Mixed reality enables an entirely new way to experience your project models," Trimble explains, "right in front of you, holographically virtualized in physical space."

SketchUp Viewer is "an entirely new version designed for mixed reality", according to Microsoft. Lorraine Bardeen, Microsoft General Manager for HoloLens and Windows Experiences, explained:

With this new solution, Trimble is taking 3D modeling as part of the design and construction process further and into what they call experiential review. SketchUp Viewer on HoloLens allows people to inhabit their designs in the most natural way possible – either as a holographic scale model on a tabletop, or through an immersive experience from within a digital building model. Viewing models in this way will enable designers to better understand the choices and tradeoffs in their projects, which can help shorten the cycle between design iterations.

Trimble said that the use of mixed reality is already transforming the way people work in AECO industries, creating "new workflow processes", and helping designers and engineers to get closer to their designs than ever before, long before construction begins. The company said:

The combination of SketchUp with mixed reality ushers in a new paradigm: Experiential Design Review—the ability to inhabit and experience design and construction projects in the most natural way possible.

With SketchUp Viewer and HoloLens, Trimble says designers will be able to immerse themselves into their designs and see them come to life, reducing the reliance on building costly and time-consuming physical models, and they can even share these experiences with others:

Real-time, remote and co-located collaboration are key elements to the experiential design review process in SketchUp Viewer. With multiple HoloLens devices, a group of users can load the same model, engaging a “see what I see” collaboration mode. Remote collaborators can communicate via real-time audio and use mixed-reality visualization ‘sight-guides’ to better understand who in the group is looking at what.

Key features of the new SketchUp Viewer app for HoloLens include:

  • Open models that have been published to your HoloLens device from SketchUp Desktop.
  • Search, browse and open models from 3D Warehouse.
  • Sign in to Trimble Connect to browse your project folders and open SketchUp & DWG files.
  • Create or join multi-user collaboration sessions. Collaborators can be collocated in the same place or distributed across remote offices.
  • View and interact with your 3D models as holographic scale models.
  • Navigate your projects in a 1:1 immersive mode. Since the HoloLens device is untethered, users are able to walk freely throughout their project models.
  • Users can move, rotate, and scale 3D models.
  • The Scenes panel gives users the ability to navigate to specific locations in the model by choosing from any of the pre-saved scenes that were created in SketchUp.
  • The Layers panel gives user the ability to toggle the visibility of contents that have been assigned to Layers in SketchUp.
  • The Entity Info feature gives users the ability to view component attribute data.
  • The Tape Measure tool gives users the ability to measure point to point distances within the model.
  • The Map Navigator is especially useful while in Immersive mode. It gives you the option to get around in your model by choosing a specific point to jump to.
  • The application interface has been designed to give users the ability to "Pin" various aspects of the user interface to surfaces in their physical environment.

Those wishing to purchase the app will of course need a HoloLens headset, which is priced at $3,000 in the United States. Pre-orders for the headset are now available in six new markets - you can find out more pricing and availability in those markets here.

SketchUp Viewer launches today, and will be available to buy from the Windows Store. Indeed, it's also the first commercial app to launch for HoloLens on the Store. A single user license is priced at $1,499, but alternative rates apply to team purchases. Further details on SketchUp Viewer are available from Trimble at sketchup.com.

In September, Microsoft announced a major partnership with global industrial engineering giant thyssenkrupp, which is equipping 24,000 of its technicians with HoloLens headsets in an effort to transform the $44 billion-a-year worldwide elevator industry. Today's announcement is a further example of the company's growing success in persuading business customers of the value that mixed reality can offer to a wide range of industries and market sectors.

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