VR and AR: The future of CAD?

In any technology focused industry, those involved will always keep an eye on the future. When it comes to computer aided design (CAD), eyes will certainly be locked on the developments in virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR, respectively).

Both VR and AR, while still in their technological infancy, could soon overhaul how designers and engineers approach the design process.

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Understanding the differences: AR vs VR

These two technologies, while both sharing 'reality', are quite different. Virtual reality (like the Oculus Rift) focuses on completely shutting out the real world, presenting users with a digital alternative. When working with CAD software for example, you could view your model in its intended environment.

Augmented reality (like the Microsoft HoloLens), on the other hand, focuses on overlaying digital elements in the real world. After putting on a headset, you'd be able to view 3D models on your desk.

With both technologies, users can manipulate models and see them up close, without the barrier of a screen. It's a novel approach to design, and certainly the next evolution of how designers and engineers will tackle the process.

Ccompanies with large IT budgets are starting to utilise VR with CAD.

The next frontier

While AR and VR headsets aren't yet a common sight both in homes and businesses, they're certainly on the way.

Microsoft is set to sell the HoloLens headset to developers in the very near future, while Oculus and HTC are preparing to sell consumer versions of their virtual reality headsets. They won't be perfect products: it's important to remember that these are the first generation releases of nearly entirely new display technologies.

When the headsets finally reach second or third generation releases, however, CAD uptake is certain to increase.

The start of something significant

Already, companies with large IT budgets are starting to utilise VR with CAD. SOLIDWORKS expert Alex Kok explained that while it's not yet mainstream, it's just a matter of time. He noted the industry has certainly already come a long way.

So while you won't be able to pick up a VR or AR headset and get to work using CAD software right now, it's not a reality that's far off.