to See vies to become standard object technology for CAD
At only 19 kilobytesthe
size of a short e-mailthis o2c model file can still
be shown in alternate modes, such as with a transparent
roof, seen in the lower view.
For the past few years, objects and object technology have
been hot topics of conversation as ways to make CAD drawings
more intelligent. Although several object file formats were
developed throughout the 1990s, none has yet enjoyed widespread
acceptance as an industry standard. This may change with the
advent of Objects to See, or o2c, a highly compressed 3D file
format developed by the German firm mb Software specifically
for Internet-based communication. More than ever, o2c
is making 3D feedback more immediate and meaningful,
says James Horecka, AIA, an architect practicing in Winchester,
In the same way that the portable document format (PDF) files
have become universal for online viewing of printed documents
and formssuch as tax returns and reports with lots of
charts and graphicso2c will become the 3D PDF,
predicts Richard Morse, AEC product manager of the DataCAD
DataCAD has hitched its wagon to this technology by allowing
direct import and export of o2c-formatted files from its programs.
While other major CAD vendors have yet to follow suit, free
utilities are available to convert Autodesks 3D Studio
objects to o2c. Similar converters for the DWG format are
soon to follow. In addition, a free o2c player for Microstation
users was recently released.
But the real beauty of o2c is that it requires no specific
CAD program to view, manipulate, or render 3D CAD objects
or models. Just as the PDF file format grew in popularity
due to the free and widely distributed viewing program Adobe
Acrobat Reader, o2c files can be viewed with an o2c Player,
a free plug-in utility (only 500 kilobytes in size) for Web
browsers that can be downloaded from www.o2cworld.com.
Although o2c is only one of several object file formats in
useothers include VRML, DXF, DWG, and 3D GIFit
has some persuasive advantages over these alternatives. First,
it creates extremely compact files that make it very practical
to attach to e-mails or post to Web pages for quick download.
A full model of a house, for instance, might be less than
100 kilobytes in size (see illustration of Le Corbusiers
Villa Savoy, left). Second, the user interface for the o2c
viewer is easy to use, employing familiar click-and-drag movements.
Third, the o2c file is a versatile format that can host a
lot of annotated information, such as specification links
or display options (e.g., alternate cabinet-finish displays
or lighting options for a kitchen design). Now we e-mail
our clients a 3D model of their building so that they can
have a real-time virtual walk-through of their new officesno
special software required, says Warren Payne of Ashton
Mitchell Architects in Auckland, New Zealand. He adds, Whats
more, the size of the o2c files is miniscule.
The file format also has heavy backing from industry leaders.
Microsoft has integrated o2c into its Word and PowerPoint
programs. Electronic models of Velux and Andersen windows
are now widely available in o2c format. And IBM is banking
on o2c for its e-commerce applications. These supporters will
likely keep o2c in the forefront in the coming years.
The same features that make o2c appealing for e-commerce
also make it appealing for architects and their clients. For
example, o2c allows people shopping for a Ferrari to go online
and view various models of the car in o2c-animated format
while choosing an an exterior paint color and interior finishes;
in the same way, architects may soon be sending their clients
designs with instant-click options such as View with
screened porch option or View with brick exterior
option. Architects and their consultants will also benefit
by using conferencing software to review o2c models online,
with ready tools such as red-lining, multiple design overlays,
and dynamic cross sections to facilitate their discussions.
The best news for architects is that o2c gives them another
CAD tool for design assistance and client communicationeven
for smaller firms and solo practitioners whose resources for
technology investment are limited. Im loving it
for quick checks of parts of things as I develop them in 3D,
says Horecka. Work a little, check it out in o2c, see
where improvements might be made, then work a bit more, check
it out in o2c its really proving fast and handy.
Fast, handy, and putting the power of object technology to