Life like Experiences to Replace Web Pages

Category: Web Exclusives
Kenneth Wong
PLM software maker proposes expansive virtualization

On Tuesday, November 9, just as the morning sun rose above SeaWorld Florida, Bernard Charles, CEO of Dassault Systemes (DS; www.3ds.com), took the stage in the ballroom at the Renaissance Orlando hotel, where more than 800 of his customers eagerly awaited. The event, Dassault Systemes Customer Conference 2010 (www.dscc2010.com), brought together executives from businesses that rely on DS software suites—CATIA, DELMIA, SIMULIA, and 3DVIA, among others—to manage and monitor nearly every aspect of their products’ life cycles, from concept and manufacture through retirement.

 
Using 3DVIA Virtools, Dassault Systemes customers may build interactive experiences, like this one from a French luxury-goods retailer showcasing a line of designer handbags.

The reunion with his customers, many of whom were fairly new, was a “very special moment, after a tough year,” Charles said. If he seemed jovial, he had good reasons to be. In late October, DS reported “strong third-quarter results [for 2010] with new licenses revenue up 54 percent,” he relayed.

For the past three decades, DS has been an advocate of “3D everywhere”—a vision to make 3D a pervasive part of product life-cycle management. Now, the company charts its course for the next phase. “Lifelike experiences—this is what we will be doing for the next 10 years,” Charles announced.

A New Kind of Window Shopping
It’s doesn’t take a leap to go from 3D to interactive showrooms and shop floors, as shown by some of DS’s customers. EspaceMax, a French luxury-good supplier, is among the early adopters of this concept. The retailer uses DS 3DVIA Virtools software to build an interactive environment in which shoppers could rotate, zoom, and drop items into a line of handbags. (To try out the application, visit http://www.espacemax.com/experience3d. Current implementation of 3DVIA-powered experience at EspaceMax is confined to just a handful of handbags and purses, so don’t expect the same features on champagne bottles and shoes).

Another 3DVIA Virtools project, the outcome of DS’s partnership with Nestle, lets your kids enjoy a roller-coaster ride wearing the dual-color stereoscopic goggles detached from the cereal box (hopefully, they finish breakfast before they play with the box). The campaign is confined to the Nestle Chocapic product line (currently available only in Europe).

If these two examples are forerunners of a widespread practice in the future, products like DS 3DVIA may have an important role to play in generating a new kind of content, known as “advergaming.”

Mannequin-Driven Manufacturing
As DS finds new markets with 3DVIA, the company may also begin promoting more sophisticated simulation exercises involving human models among its core customers, to be found in manufacturing. Whereas the DS SIMULIA portfolio provides solutions for finite-element, fluid-dynamic, thermal-electrical, mechanical, and other types of analyses engineers are familiar with, the DS DELMIA portfolio lets you simulate and visualize how humans may interact with machineries and heavy equipment in a production environment.

 
Nestle and Dassault Systemes collaborated on a marketing campaign to promote a line of breakfast cereals with augmented reality. The detachable marker and stereoscopic goggles that come with the box can be used to launch a virtual bike ride.

The digital couple that comes with DELMIA, dubbed Sia and Teo, are part of DS’s strategy to promote human-centered design, manufacturing, and maintenance among its customers. Simulation sequences performed using DELMIA may help you better understand, for instance, the ergonomic risks and benefits involved in various assembly-line configurations.

Social Innovation
As an acknowledgement that social media-inspired features have become a prerequisite for the next generation of creative talents’ virtual workspace, DS is incorporating communities into its offerings, to be tightly integrated with DS ENOVIA data management platform. The first notable community built around its free 2D product, DraftSight, is now online at http://swym.3ds.com/draftsight. Others will follow.

These business-focused communities, with greater security and IP controls, will be hosted on DS Swym, currently in closed beta. Access and services related to Swym will most likely be offered as subscriptions, the traditional licensing method for software as a service, but DS is currently not discussing pricing details.

Al Bunshaft, formerly of IBM and now managing director of DS Americas, nudged the audience at DSCC, “Social innovation and collaboration—we’re a part of that, and we think you should be too.”

Seek and You Shall Find
DS’s acquisition of Exalead, completed this past June, added something the PLM giant has never had before: search technology. Sometimes called the French Google, Exalead is known for its robust enterprise-level search and index tools. As a new owner of Exalead, DS unwillingly becomes a player in certain markets it has never ventured into (for example, financial services).


Dassault Systemes’ Swym, a community-building and hosting platform currently in closed beta, is expected to lead the charge in social innovation.

DS believes search-based applications driven by Exalead, soon to be part of its PLM products, gives its customers an edge, since Exalead search algorithms can dramatically speed up queries and retrievals of both structured and unstructured engineering documents languishing in corporate archives.

The New Mission
For the past three decades, DS and its arch rivals (primarily Autodesk, PTC, and Siemens PLM Software) have been preaching the virtues of digital mock-ups. Now that many of their customers are converts, the time has come for a new mission—to deploy 3D digital assets in a fashion that imitates how their physical counterparts are deployed in life.

Kenneth Wong is a freelance writer who has covered the digital video, computer gaming, and CAD industries. He can be reached at Kennethwongsf@earthlink.net

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