6 Nov 2017

Check Out the Autodesk Forge Technology Preview of an Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality Toolkit

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Augmented reality (AR) is an enhanced version of reality created by the use of technology to overlay digital information on an image of something being viewed through a device such as a camera on a smartphone. When an Autodesk Gallery exhibit overlays contour lines on a pile of real sand, that's augmented reality. On the other hand, virtual reality (VR) is an artificial world consisting of images and sounds created by a computer that is affected by the actions of a person experiencing it. Most first-person video games are examples of virtual reality and typically require special hardware like a headset or holder for a smartphone. So unlike augmented reality, in virtual reality, everything is virtual instead of real.

Autodesk Forge is our collection of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) that we use to develop our own web services. As part of our Forge efforts, we share those APIs (including documentation and code samples) with customers and 3rd-party developers (the Forge community) that want to leverage years' worth of legacy and current data associated with projects.

Forge is defined by 4 groups of APIs:


  • Design Automation API

    The Design Automation API gives you the ability to run scripts on your design files, leveraging the scale of the Forge Platform to automate repetitive tasks. The API currently works with DWG files, but we have plans to expand to file types generated by other design software. This is a handy way to publish thousands of drawings to DWF or PDF. "Ordinarily, you would have to download all the files, run a script on them in the AutoCAD desktop software, and then potentially upload them all back to the cloud. Your efficiency would be bottlenecked by the processing power of your computer and your network bandwidth, and you would have to instrument logging and retry logic in your code to ensure that the entire job completed. With the Design Automation API, you can offload all that processing to the Forge Platform, which can process those scripts at a much greater scale and efficiency." [Forge]

  • Data Management API

    The Data Management API gives you a unified and consistent way to access your data across BIM 360 Team, Fusion Team, BIM 360 Docs, A360 Personal, and its own Object Storage Service. The Object Storage Service allows your application to download and upload raw files (such as PDF, XLS, DWG, or RVT). Coupling this API with the Model Derivative API, you can accomplish a number of workflows, including accessing a Fusion model in Fusion Team and getting an ordered structure of items, IDs, and properties for generating a bill of materials in a 3rd-party process. Or, you might want to superimpose a Fusion model and a building model to use in the Viewer. [Forge]

  • Model Derivative API

    The Model Derivative API lets you represent and share your designs in different formats, as well as to extract valuable metadata into various object hierarchies. 60 different file input formats are supported. With this API, you can translate your design into different formats, such as STL and OBJ, but the key one is that you can have it translate your designs into SVF for extracting data and for rendering files in the Viewer.

  • Viewer

    The Viewer is a WebGL-based, JavaScript library for your use in 3D and 2D model rendering. The Viewer communicates natively with the Model Derivative API to fetch model data, complying with its authorization and security requirements. The Viewer requires a WebGL-canvas compatible browser:

    • Chrome 50+
    • Firefox 45+
    • Opera 37+
    • Safari 9+
    • Microsoft Edge 20+
    • Internet Explorer 11

    This is a hassle-free way to share your company's data to your customers without having to deal with all of the peculiarities of these various browsers.

The team wants to work with Forge customers on how to connect their existing data to new augmented and virtual reality technology. It's kind of like a wedding: something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue — well, maybe not the blue part. The toolkit is intended to give 3rd-party developers who have design data in Forge a set of possible technology paths that they can use to build immersive AR/VR applications around their Forge data. The main paths that the team is focusing on currently pass the design data through either 3ds Max Interactive or through Unity 3D for visualization.


Here is where you come in. You can get involved with a beta of the Autodesk Forge AR/VR Toolkit.

  • The public Beta of the new Forge AR/VR Toolkit will be demonstrated exclusively at Forge DevCon in the Reality Playground exhibit on Monday, November 13, 2017. For those attending Forge DevCon, come and play with our live demos and talk to one of our Forge experts about how you can start using the Toolkit in your own workflows. The Forge Reality Playground is open only to Forge DevCon attendees. But don't worry, it is not too late to get tickets.

  • Soon, you will be able to request participation by completing a short survey and agreeing to the standard pre-release software testing agreement.

  • You can try it for yourself.

  • The project has a discussion forum where you can share your comments, criticisms, and suggestions, as well as see the feedback from other participants.

We look forward to your participation. Remember that when it comes to betas, trying something, liking it but not telling us is the same as not trying it. We need your affirmation to advance the technology. As we say at Autodesk, "your experience shapes the future of our technology."

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