iPad Apps for AEC: Part 2
Three-dimensional models can be orbited to see them from different sides and zoomed to explore details or interiors. However, the orbiting does not maintain the verticality of the building since Design Review (and the DWF format) is not specific to building design but can also be used for MCAD models.
In general, I found the model navigation much better in Graphisoft's BIMx app, which has a lot more navigation controls, gives the option to fly through a building, and preserves the verticality of the building.
But what Design Review has that BIMx currently does not is a "Home" button that takes you back immediately to the starting view in case you get "lost" while navigating; the option to save multiple views for a model or 2D drawing in the DWF file, which are then available in the mobile version of Design Review and can be used for quick navigation; and the option to select an element and see its properties.
This capability is going to be very critical for a BIM model, since it has so much information captured in it for every element, which can now be very easily accessed when required.
Other capabilities of Design Review for 2D drawings and image files include the ability to add markups using a basic toolset, and the ability to access the different layers for a drawing, if this has been enabled in the DWF file.
iVisit 3D from Abvent
The app iVisit 3D is more of a design visualization tool than a 3D model navigation app. It is developed by Abvent, editor and publisher of the popular rendering application Artlantis.
Targeted especially at architects and designers, iVisit 3D allows them to present panoramas of their projects online using an iPad. The actual creation of the panoramic views is done using Artlantis Studio 4; thus, iVisit3D is more of a companion app to Artlantis.
The iVisit 3D App is available in two versions, Lite and Pro. The Lite version is free, but is limited to the selection of one panoramic view per day. For those who just want to explore the app without having created models in Artlantis to pull into iVisit 3D, the app lets you download sample models and see how they work.
The quality of the rendering is very good, and because all renderings are panoramas, you can rotate the view in order to see a model from all sides. You can also click on arrowed markers in the 3D views to jump to a different view, if required, or access the markers by opening a floor plan view. A nice feature in iVisit 3D is the additional option to rotate though the panorama by physically moving the iPad around.
Inception from Architactile
The Inception app from Architactile is very different from the other apps I have looked at so far. To start with, it is not developed by an existing brand-name vendor in the AEC field who is developing it as a companion app for its main desktop applications and can therefore offer it for free to boost the sales of its existing applications.
Also, Inception is not an app for any kind of "post-design" work, such as visualization, viewing models and drawings, project management, or field work for construction, as most apps for AEC tend to be — with the premise that the building design has been done using a traditional application on a regular computer.
In contrast, Inception is an app that is custom-built for the iPad and is available only on the iPad. Designed specifically for architects, it addresses the pre-design phase, allowing them to capture all the requirements of the project in the course of early project meetings with their clients, which can then be captured in a PDF document and sent to the client for review.
Thus, the app is intended to be a serious business tool, and is therefore not free like the other apps. Let's take a look at what it does before getting into how it is priced.
Unlike the desktop application Trelligence Affinity, which includes capabilities for space planning, programming, and schematic design, and bi-directionally links with BIM applications like Revit Architecture and ArchiCAD, Inception is designed to be even more early-stage, preferably used during the earliest meetings the architect has with the client, where the architect can pull out an iPad and use it to capture the core program requirements of the project.
The app lets you specify where the project is located, thereby impacting its cost; define the different spaces or use groups in the project, and their individual occupancy, density, quality (cost per square foot), and unassigned area to calculate their gross area and total cost; create a bubble diagram and adjacency matrix of the spaces or use groups; do a cost estimate analysis of the entire project; and create an early-stage Gantt chart showing a tentative project schedule.
As mentioned earlier, Inception also includes the capability to capture all of these data and calculations in a single PDF document that can then be sent to the client for review. An architect might develop such a document after the first or second meeting with a client, assuming that a basic program has been established. It takes about an hour to develop this document in Inception.
One of the benefits of taking a document like this to the client very early in the process is that it helps the client (and the architect) to stay focused on space and budget. By helping the client to understand the direct relationship between space and budget, the client becomes an active participant in the effort to maintain a feasible scope.
The result can be a shorter time between first contact and a signed design contract, a better defined scope for the project architect, and much more realistic client expectations. In cases in which the project simply isn't feasible, the use of Inception helps to minimize wasted time.
Not surprisingly then, Inception is not a free app, but costs $499.99, making it one of the most expensive apps in the iTunes store. When compared with the price of regular desktop applications, this seems very reasonable, given its business proposition. The question is whether architects are using the iPad as a serious business tool enough to justify purchasing a relatively high-priced app in an iPad universe where most apps are free.
Discuss this article in the Architecture Forum...