Image courtesy of André Doumenc

Validating product designs in virtual reality with MeshroomVR

August 21, 2020
Real-time technology is increasingly leveraged for design review across industries from architecture to automotive. But why should it stop there? The interactivity, immediacy, and collaboration that real-time tools bring can be used to validate the designs of any number of products. 

This is the thinking behind the software developed by Meshroom3D. Built on Unreal Engine, MeshroomVR enables product designers to jump into a 3D scene, edit materials and environments, and validate 3D model proportions—all in a virtual reality environment. Whether it’s a model of an electric guitar, a motorcycle helmet, or a helicopter, anything can be brought into the tool for design review. 
 

MeshroomVR was conceived out of a recognition that 3D data is playing an increasingly important role across all industries. With many rendering solutions catering for those well versed in 3D content creation, Meshroom3D wanted to provide super-simple tools for people who aren’t 3D experts. “In this way, people from project management, ergonomics, marketing, or sales can interact early on in the project, saving time and money by helping to avoid big conceptual mistakes,” says André Doumenc, CEO and Co-Founder of the company.

Reducing prototyping errors with VR

Doumenc is well placed to understand the pain points involved in developing new products. He worked as a product designer for ten years, during which time he tried almost every CAD and rendering tool on the market. 

Doumenc’s notion of how product design should work was upended back in 2016. “I used a VR headset for the first time and it opened my eyes to the benefit of seeing 3D models at a one-to-one scale to avoid mistakes,” he says. 

Back then, VR viewing systems were complicated and came with a hefty price tag. Doumenc did some research and discovered that his best option was to dive into Unreal Engine and import his files himself. “That’s how MeshroomVR was created,” he explains.
As well as their VR-based solution, the software development company offers Meshroom Studio—a tool for design review on desktop. Users import 3D files, drag and drop realistic materials and environments, and review their project in real time on a monitor. They can also shoot videos in seconds to share projects with the rest of the team. 

A standard workflow between the two tools is to use Meshroom Studio for model preparation or design review, showcasing different designs, colors, and trim choices, then switch to VR to check ergonomics, shapes, and proportions. The ability to walk around models at one-to-one scale in VR significantly reduces the conceptual mistakes that can be made during the prototyping phase of product design. 
Image courtesy of André Doumenc

Real-time ray tracing to enhance realism

The ethos behind Meshroom’s software is to make design review accessible to anyone in a company, whether they’re technical or not. Realism is key to bringing non-technical people on board. “The less people are 3D experts, the more they need to watch realistic scenes to feel at ease with the visualization,” says Doumenc.

For this reason, the company decided to build its tools on Unreal Engine. “It’s the most realistic real-time rendering engine on the market,” says Doumenc. 
 
Image courtesy of André Doumenc
To achieve the highest level of realism they can, the company leverages real-time ray tracing for its visualizations. By mimicking the physical behavior of light, real-time ray tracing delivers much more photorealistic results than the traditional method of rasterization. “The quality of our software depends on the performance of Unreal Engine ray tracing,” explains Doumenc.

Meshroom3D has big plans for software, with animation tools in the pipeline for Meshroom Studio, and an ambition to create an Unreal Engine plugin.

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