Company Spotlight does exactly what it says on the proverbial tin. Learn all about the history, BIM journey and latest Building Information Modelling developments of some of the industry’s most-recognisable names. In the spotlight today are Scalable Display Technologies, a Massachusetts-based immersive displays company. Scalable provide “camera feedback” technology solutions to harmonise with the more popular HDR (Head Mounted Display) augmented and virtual reality products seen on the market.
Scalable Display Technologies was born out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology over a decade ago. Scalable enables the creation of large, high resolution, immersive displays that can be of major importance to Building Information Modelling professionals wishing to engross themselves within their BIM models as much as possible, allowing clients to come along for the ride too. The unique and patented technology that Scalable brings to the market is a “camera feedback” technique for merging or blending multiple projectors together into one seamless display regardless of screen shape or size.
Scalable’s initial market was military simulation where the company has established itself as a world leader. Over the past several years however, Scalable has seen growing market awareness that immersive, high resolution screens are required to visualize large data sets in commercial markets. One specific market that is seeing a high ROI from large display is BIM.
There are many benefits of large display for the BIM market:
• Pre-sales Customer briefings: The large immersive screens are ideal for capturing the prospects imagination of what a new space and building will look like. The pure scale of the display makes the storytelling function much easier, especially when the displaying the design at a life-sized scale.
• Large group collaboration: users of Scalable’s large screens have found that conducting clash detection sessions in a large group format is the most effective way to see and fix the clash issues. This is a particularly high ROI function.
• “Walk downs”: during the construction process the large display is very effective for walking the customer through the next stages of the construction process to ensure that their expectations align with the reality of what will be happening next on the job site.
“The ability to combine the various applications makes installing a larger display solution easier to justify from an ROI standpoint,” explained Andrew Jamison, CEO of Scalable Display.
HMDs and Scalable Displays
Head Mounted Displays are often considered an alternative to the large immersive display. In fact, the HMD is an ideal complementary technology. While HMDs provide a wonderful stereoscopic view of the BIM environment there are several critical limitations that are addressed by a Scalable display.
• HMDs are often not welcomed by senior executive who wish not to be seen with the large display on their faces. That barrier of feeling uncomfortable is removed with one of Scalable’s solutions.
• HMDs totally obscure vision of your surroundings, thus eliminating the social interaction and visual clues of effective communication. In the sales and design process it is critical to see your colleagues’ reactions to ideas and information. Thus, it is important to have a shared visual experience supported by face-to-face interaction… this is only possible with a Scalable display type solution.
Jamison explained more on this increasing popularity: “The HMD frenzy has a great ‘halo effect’ where customers are now seeing the benefits of various complementary solutions that also provide the 3D visualization they desire.”
A Scalable Solution
Scalable’s solution is in fact “scalable”. An unlimited number of projectors (of any resolution) can be blended together to create a large high resolution display. The practical limits are often set by the PC and graphics cards in the workstation. A typical configuration includes a single workstation equipped with several high end Nvidia Quadro GPUs each of which drive three or more projectors. Fortunately the graphic cards can be synched together to ensure a smooth frame rate across all projectors eliminating any flicker.
Another development that has helped to propel Scalable in the BIM market has been the recent availability to high quality, solid state (laser or LED) projectors that operate in 3D. The addition of “stereopsis” (the stereoscopic effect) adds greatly to the immersion of these displays. Fortunately the digital cinema and consumer gaming markets have helped to drive a) the technology forward b) the cost down c) market awareness up. Customers now have access to active stereo solutions that are good quality and very cost effective.
Various display configuration
Scalable has seen a wide range of customer implementations. Solutions range from simply two projectors blended on a flat wall all the way to 69 projectors blended onto a totally immersive curved environment inclusive of the floor, ceiling and back walls. Another typical solution is a CAVE (cave automatic virtual environment). These displays typically feature 3, 4 or 5 sides being projected.
Scalable have recently increased their presence within the BIM market by launching a series of “workshops” focused on the use of augmented reality, virtual reality and immersive displays for BIM and architectural visualization. The workshops are designed as hands-on sessions where participants experience first-hand the benefits of the various technologies and learn which approaches work best for which applications.
“Our first workshop was a huge success,” explained Andrew. “Participants found the application specific presentation of technology by industry professionals to be very helpful in understanding how all the pieces fit together.”
And fitting the pieces together to create the perfect solution is what Scalable are all about. We’re excited to see where their business takes off to next.