Issue: Volume: 23 Issue: 3 (March 2000)

SPOTLIGHT: EAI Advances Immersive Prototyping

EAI developed the software in conjunction with automaker General Motors. Among the companies' primary goals was to make the virtual prototyping experience as believable as possible so that it could replace more expensive physical prototyping in much of the design process. The 1:1 scale is a mandatory part of the illusion, according to EAI, and adding to it are stereoscopic views, reflection maps, mock shadows, and SGI's ClearCoat 360 technology for realistic painted surfaces.

In order to reduce the lag and artifacts common to immersive design scenarios, VisConcept features a new technology called LIFT (Load Independent Frame-rate Technique) that comes into play during compute-intensive operations-when, for example, a user makes a design change to an image. LIFT helps maintain consistent image quality no matter what the rendering load while allowing the system to continue running at 20 to 60 frames per second.

VisConcept consists of two modules: VisConcept Layout, which provides a 2D GUI for creating presentations on a basic workstation, or even a laptop; and Vis Concept Presenter, into which the presentation can be loaded and viewed in an immersive environment. The software also supports two modes: presentation, in which an active user delivers images and other information to passive users; and informal, in which multiple users interact with images in the immersive space. Head tracking, stereoscopic displays, and multisite collaboration are all supported by the software, as is Fakespace's Neowand, in conjunction with which VisConcept was developed.

VisConcept runs on SGI and NT platforms. Later versions will be available for Sun and HP operating systems. The cost of VisConcept depends on the configuration. It is currently under evaluation at General Motors, and will be available for general use in May. (EAI; Ames, IA; 515-296-9908;