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Autodesk: XR in Conceptual Design

22 August 2018 | by CDN Team


Immersive computing is revolutionising the world around us and has the potential to transform the creative process significantly. What started as a spark of imagination decades ago has ignited an inferno of technology-driven creative opportunity today. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the automotive industry, where augmented reality and virtual reality technology (AR/VR) continues to deepen and expand its impact on creative design.

Designers can use AR and VR (or XR as the combination is often called) to express, capture and communicate their ideas faster than ever before. This increase in productivity is enabled by the sense of scale and 3D position afforded by the tracked stereoscopic displays found in VR headsets (known as head mounted displays or HMDs) combined with the highly accurate motion controllers that have become standard peripherals with systems like HTC Vive, Oculus and Windows Mixed Reality.


Immersive tools open an entirely new chapter in the way humans interact with computers. Never before have we been able to step inside the machine and interact with our 3D data as if it were real. In the early conceptual design phase, this opens new possibilities like sketching in 3D space and intuitive, natural modelling workflows that allow for rapid shape exploration, closer to traditional sculpting than technical modelling, all with the ease and comfort of traditional sketching.

At the conceptual stage, it is now possible to harness this new superpower to explore form and shape in full stereoscopic 3D (with VR, each eye is fed a unique viewpoint on the 3D scene), enabling designers to see their designs at full scale within the headset as they work.


Enter Project Sugarhill
Project Sugarhill from Autodesk is a technology preview of immersive conceptual design workflows. Our goal with this early prototype is to explore the user experience and methods of shape creation that most effectively allow designers to leverage the power of this new technology, to more efficiently capture their ideas directly in 3D.

This ensures that the conceptual artist can accurately describe their design intent without the need to interpret 2D drawings into 3D models. By starting directly in 3D, the designer can bring their vision to life with higher accuracy and efficiency.

These advantages are not limited to the conceptual phase. From concept all the way through to the factory floor we see XR technology playing a key role moving forward.


As designers spend more time immersed, user comfort becomes an increasing concern. Some improvements will arise as HMD makers update their products (with lighter and more comfortable head straps, improved optics, etc), but software can also contribute.

As the experience replaces the user’s entire field of view and audio inputs seal them off from the rest of the world, it becomes clear that software is now more than just 2D chrome on a monitor. We are now designing a physical place in which the designer will live while they are working. This is a massive shift in how we think of traditional software and one that will transform the industry forever.


While virtual reality continues to offer the high-fidelity, fully occluded experience required for lighting studies, environment evaluation, and similar tasks, augmented reality is poised to change the way we perceive the world around us on a day-to-day basis. As AR hardware continues to find its way into increasingly small form factors, we approach the point at which the technology effortlessly integrates itself into our everyday perception of the world.

The smartphone transformed us into creatures perpetually gazing into tiny handheld portals. AR will bring our gaze up from these devices as the data, once separated from the world, is placed in context around us.

Thomas Heermann, Sr. Director Automotive & Conceptual Design Products
Dan Pressman, Sr. Product Line Manager, Conceptual Design