This thesis explores the potential for creation of three-dimensional, parametric computer aided design (CAD) models using augmented reality technology. The current standard – a flat screen – can only display two dimensions of information, which constrains the display of three-dimensional geometry as either perspective, parallel, or orthographic projection. Each projection type has trade-offs, resulting in distortion, inaccurate scale, or the need of multiple planar projections to capture three-dimensional space. Augmented reality technology overcomes the limitations of the flat screen – for the first time, holographic, truly three-dimensional display of geometry is possible and can be integrated into a real scene by using a head-mounted AR/Mixed Reality headset, affording a CAD display that imparts better understanding and accuracy during the entirety of the product development process. Using current devices and adapted practices, I developed a prototype mixed reality solid modeling environment to simulate the experience of using such a tool, and test how we might interact with it. This thesis documentation reflects the process of creating the interactive demonstration and reflects on the lessons and feedback gained from the students, enthusiasts, and industry professionals who engaged with it.
In short, what if we could use Augmented Reality technology to go beyond merely inspecting 3-D models as holograms and actually create professional-grade, solid models in mixed reality with the precision we’ve come to expect from current CAD tools? To explore and study this idea, I made an interactive HoloLens demonstration of what that system might feel like.
Our current flat screens do a disservice to our creative process in representing three-dimensional data on two-dimensional screens.
Mixed Reality (the entire spectrum of virtual and augmented reality) is here now and is typically powered by 3-D models that were originally designed on screen-based CAD systems and ported over to synthetic environments. While experiencing three-dimensional CAD models in these Mixed Reality environments we are afforded a much more natural understanding of their attributes because they are presented in a way that is similar to physical objects in the real world.
My hypothesis was that, for the sake of creation:
“Designers who develop three-dimensional products in simulated environments could instead use mixed reality to better understand and interact with their creations—experiencing virtual designs blended into real environments at full scale and with realistic perspective change relative to gaze and point of view.”
-from ARCAD Thesis, 2018
I began by surveying every 3-D screen- and VR-based design program that I could access. I studied their workflows, iconography, visual attributes, signifiers, and features. Building upon my Industrial Design experience and what I had learned during my masters program, I built my own interpretation of a modeling program in Unity 3D specifically for use on the Microsoft HoloLens.
Demonstrations of the system to a variety of design professionals, academics, and students were concurrent with its creation. With feedback and examination, the system went through several iterations, the result of which came to look like this:
After months spent researching and creating the demonstration, many of the assets from the Unity scene were ported over to AfterEffects with Element 3D and Cinema 4D and layered atop external footage of me operating the demonstration. This footage was combined with on-board footage recorded by the HoloLens and edited in Premiere to create the video that appears at the top of this page.
Finally, the thesis documentation was written to compile and publish the various lessons gleaned from the research that I had done. My thesis chair asked for a document that would provide an introduction and head start to students interested in Augmented Reality prototyping; so that is what I wrote. This thesis taught me a lot about translating professional-caliber CAD models into holograms, working with new input methods, and creating interactions for a new spacial-computing approach. An extended description of the background, processes, and research findings can be read in my ARCAD thesis documentation. For a copy of the entire document, contact me using button below.
Many thanks to Ronin Motorworks for providing the motorcycle CAD file.