Project VUE Viewing for Autodesk Navisworks was our technology preview of a Navisworks file reader that helps users import Intergraph Smart / SmartPlant 3D models into Autodesk Navisworks software. The technology preview was originally only compatible with Navisworks Manage 2015 but was then expanded to also include Navisworks Manage 2016 and Navisworks Simulate 2015/2016.
The functionality of the technology preview included:
- Support for both model geometry and data properties
- Load VUE and MDB2 files created by SmartPlant Review
- Optionally load VUE and XML files exported from S3D
- Support for obstruction volumes including insulation
- Option to include or exclude welds if desired to reduce file size and time to import
- Aggregate models including point clouds and data from various sources
- plus the many inherent benefits of Navisworks including: ease of use, navigation, searching, filtering, isolation, measurement, markup, clash detection (Manage only), rendering and cloud rendering, 4D simulation, animation, appearance profiling, data compression, Navisworks API, etc.
The technology preview ran from January 12, 2015 to May 31, 2016. During the 17 months, there were 1,164 participants, 301 forum posts, 681 email messages exchanged. The 1,164 headcount shows you the scale for technology previews. It's not 50 users. It's typically not 10,000 users. When you join a technology preview, you are one of about 1,000 people that will help shape the future of the technology of a Fortune 500 company.
The participants were very active. The 301 forum posts and the 681 email messages spread among 1,164 participants shows you the typical level of involvement. When you join a technology preview, you try it with your own data and post a few comments to a forum or send an email or two. Technology previews are not intended to be full-time commitments on your part.
In addition to email and forum feedback, some of the original participants completed a short survey. The survey results indicated:
- Participants overwhelmingly believed that the VUE file reader should graduate from Labs to become a product.
- Participants liked using a discussion forum as an easy way to suggest improvements.
- The VUE file reader successfully read their SP3D/S3D models.
- The geometry of the converted model was portrayed adequately for their companies' purposes.
A lesson learned from this technology preview was Don't make major changes to functionality on the last technology preview build. Project VUE Viewing for Navisworks was updated with a new build 6 times. On the first 5 builds, selection of objects worked as users expected. On the last build, a change was introduced. Customers were immediately confused and thought the technology was broken. Thankfully, Roger Rapp explained it this way:
- Once you make the Selection Resolution change (in Simulate or Manage), you only need to use the Shift method when picking 'Piping' objects. Picking Equipment and Structure will show SP3D properties with a single click.
- The reason it takes multiple clicks to get the same result if resolution is set to 'Last Object' (the default) is due to a Navisworks feature that a lot of people are not aware of. Holding down the Shift key while clicking an object will "cycle" Navisworks object selections, downward through the model hierarchy, and then up to the top of the model hierarchy and back down again to your clicked item.
- Perhaps this is a good time to provide further explanation of why this change was made. This was done in part because Navisworks happily added Obstruction Volumes. So the number of elements in the hierarchy that Navisworks was having to copy properties to was growing. For example, a simple pipe with 3 components and with insulation could have 8 elements needing to have a separate copy of SP3D properties. Not good.
- So the notion was Autodesk could provide some education about Navisworks object selection and stop copying properties and also potentially reduce the processing time and the file size. That is the intention.
Though making changes to improve functionality is normally welcome, this could have been done on an earlier build to gauge customer reaction before going to production.
When a Labs technology preview ends, one of three things can happen:
A technology graduates from Labs when it is available somewhere else (e.g., App Center, feature in a new product offering, new cloud-based service).
A technology retires from Labs when the preview ends, and users can't get it anywhere. It may come back as another technology preview sometime later. It may show up in a future product offering. The technology is not necessarily dead, but in the meantime, customers can't get it.
Sometimes teams decide they need more feedback, so they conduct another technology preview.
The technology preview has graduated from Autodesk Labs. It is available as an add-on for Autodesk Subscription customers in the App Center.
The last build of the technology preview expired on May 31, 2016. The App Center contains a non-expiring version that is compatible with Navisworks Manage 2016/2017 and Navisworks Simulate 2016/2017.
Though Project VUE Viewing for Navisworks has graduated, you can still join the other, active technology previews on Autodesk Labs:
A graduation ceremony is alive in the lab.