Welcome & What's Cooking!
I am Anthony Frausto-Robledo, editor-in-chief at Architosh.com. I assemble the monthly INSIDER Xpresso newsletter to help us understand emerging technologies (emTech) and the social forces impacting CAD industries like AEC and manufacturing.
This month. In issue #24!
- Starter Course: The Top Five Must-Reads
- Special Feature: The M1 Mac mini vs iMac Pro vs Everyone
- emTech: Emerging Technologies -- Apple's USD 3,000 rumored VR headset; Tech Soft 3D comments on Apple Silicon and Metal and more; BIM news for Revit.
- The Briefing: Biggest CAD Industry News Last Month
Ruminations. Little birds are telling us that more developers who did not consider the Mac platform before are now considering it.
How much time do CAD/BIM users wait for the screen to redraw between operations? That's currently our research-lab question here at Architosh and we are devising a pathway to reasonably measuring it.
The Xpresso Index and Glossary are still on the horizon. It has been moved back to Q1, 2021 to align with other Architosh site development updates.
Join Our Beta Testers. Architosh will be looking for 25 beta testers for upcoming Architosh site features. All 25 participants will get several free items, including INSIDER Membership, a small gift, and a chance to win a new M1 based Mac Mini computer. If this interests you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We hope you enjoy this issue. -- AFR
The Top Five Must-Reads
I've combed the Internet to find the most interesting, compelling, or controversial stories about the AEC and manufacturing industries, and the social and emerging technological forces at play on both:
1 - Renewed Efforts for a Universal BIM Standard Is a story over at Architect magazine that discusses the technical and non-technical challenges that must be overcome to reach a true OpenBIM standard in the US. (Architect Magazine)
What’s essential in this story? AIA data says that BIM software has increased significantly since 2005, with all respondents in over 50-sized firms saying they use BIM software in some capacity. However, with the increased adoption comes more pressures for universal standards, benchmarks, and file format interoperability in any BIM compatible software. This is a good read that covers all the bases.
2 - Op-ed: Tackling Biden's climate challenge with artificial (and human) intelligence. Yale's Phil Bernstein and others take on what it would take and mean to hit US President Joe Biden's call for "zero net energy buildings at zero net cost." (Architects Newspaper)
Some highlights Designing such zero net energy buildings at costs that reflect building conventionally will be a massive challenge, but the authors warn that we shouldn't forget about making positive contributions to architecture and care deeply about the impact of architecture on neighborhoods and the urban fabric. The authors posit that AI may be the key to meeting this challenge—beautiful zero net energy buildings at zero net cost.
3 - 3D-printed home on Long Island hits market at USD 300,000. Today the news broke across the Internet on this first 3D-printed home on Long Island's North Shore that hit the market for USD 300.000. (Architects Newspaper)
First 3D-printed home in America to receive a certificate of occupancy and hit the open real estate market. (Image: SQ4D)
What is essential in this story? Just an hour east of the US's first post-WWII mass-produced suburb, a new experiment in housing is taking place. A three-bedroom home with two full baths and a spacious open plan hit the market. The concrete house was 3D printed using patent-pending technology from Long Island-based SQ4D and their Autonomous Robotic Construction System (ARCS). The house is the first of its kind in the US to obtain a certificate of occupancy.
In other related news, L&T Construction made India's first 3D printed two-story building. And this story here discusses why 3D printing in construction is one of the fastest-growing segments in the construction industry.
4 - Boston Dynamics introduces new Spot Robot products. The robot dog is clearly a hit and recently we shared that it was now living with Foster & Partners working in the field as a good little robot. (Equipment Journal)
What is new? Boston Dynamics is now offering Spot Enterprise, Scout, and Spot Arm. These new products add value and abilities to the robot dog. Spot Enterprise is a new version of Spot with greater capabilities. Scout is a web-based software that enables control of a fleet of Spots. Spot Arm enables users to act on data insights.
5 - Xerox Takes on Supply Chain Complexity and Fragility with Metal 3D Printing. This manufacturing story at Forbes discusses how Xerox has entered the 3D additive manufacturing industry with new 3D metal printers, addressing both complex changes afoot in manufacturing, including new supply chain pressures brought about by the global pandemic. (Forbes)
The Xerox ElemX 3D printer. (Image: Xerox)
Big Picture? Xerox is following HP's lead in 3D printing. Here we have two conventional 2D printing giants entering the 3D printing industry very late but acquiring smaller companies already in the space.
Five More Stories
6 - What is a Construction Control Room and Why Do You Need One?
7 - The Architect of Modern Algorithms
8 - Israeli Farm Prints First 3D Steak for Eating
9 - A new Hub for Danish Robot Developers
10 - Exploring the use of artificial intelligence in architecture
These additional stories and our analysis, commentary, and images are all available to yearly INSIDER Membership subscribers, inside our upcoming "Member Access—(emTech) Section+" feature. Lands on 14 February 2021.
More (emTech) Below Our Special Feature
The M1 Mac mini vs iMac Pro vs Everyone
The Apple M1 chip is an inflection point in the computer industry, marking a third and hopefully final chip transition in Apple's Mac platform history.
IT WASN'T THAT LONG AGO THAT AMD stole Intel's single-core performance crown with its Zen 3 chip architecture in the new Ryzen 5000 series CPUs. Now, less than a year later, Apple has come out with a chip (M1) that delivers a stunning performance of its own, and at least by one benchmark is the new reigning single-core performance champion.
But just how powerful is the M1 as compared to rival hardware options out there? And how well might this chip perform in CAD and 3D application environments? These were the questions I sought to answer ever since Architosh obtained a new (late 2020) Mac mini with an M1 processor.
I already knew Apple Silicon was a possible game-changer. And I had heard stunning praise from CAD industry software developers. But could a sub-1000 dollar machine really be a serviceable CAD/3D machine for professionals? After many benchmarks and real-world app tests (under Rosetta 2.0 no less), the short answer is "yes!"
Introduction: Tests and Machines
To back that "yes" up, I want to note that single-core performance is of the highest importance in the CAD world, particularly in AEC.
That is why the workstation folks over at BOXX aim architecture and engineering customers to high-frequency hardware solutions. For example, when speaking of Rhino, they say, "because modeling is its primary function, Rhino is a frequency-bound application, a key factor to consider when determining your Rhino 3D hardware requirements."
"FP performance is important to both 2D and 3D in Vectorworks. It should help out in basic operations such as transformation, tessellation, projection of geometric entities in Vectorworks, as well as inside the Parasolid modeling kernel." --- Dr. Biplab Sarkar, CEO, Vectorworks, Inc.
This is not to disregard multi-core processing. The M1 delivers very respectable multi-core performance, as we will see below. However, its single-core performance—thanks to Apple's Firestorm cores—is quite astounding, besting AMD's Ryzen 5000 series top-flight chip on Geekbench 5 scores.
The next most important thing to focus on is the M1's GPU performance because today's BIM solutions are more dovetailed with leading photo-realistic and interactive rendering programs. I wanted to focus on two aspects to see if the M1 could meet the minimum hardware requirements for Enscape (if that program ever comes to Mac) and meet the minimum specifications for standard VR headsets.
All in the Name
For industry benchmark testing suites, I only used those that are M1-capable (no Rosetta usage). For CPU, these included the well-regarded Geekbench 5 and Cinebench test suites. For GPU, I tested extensively on the GFXBench and Basemark test suites. There are other benchmarks Architosh has utilized in the past (like Blender Benchmark, Novabench, Unigine Heaven, XBench, et al.), but we are limited with those that are M1-native. One final note, we also did the browser application Speedometer 2.0 benchmark.
To test some real-world apps, we have some standard testing models for SketchUp (a frequency-bound, single-core oriented app) and some Vectorworks Architect test files. This last app utilizes the Parasolid modeling kernel, the most popular geometry modeling kernel in the world. Both of these apps were tested under Rosetta, giving the M1 a disadvantage.
One final point. We did not have the latest iMac Pro to test against, so we are testing against the first generation iMac Pro (2017). We also tested against some circa 2017 HP Xeon and i7 workstations—all of which give us a pretty good idea of how a USD 700.00 machine stacks up against workstations costing many thousands of dollars.
The M1 -- CPU Performance
All this testing is quite extensive. This article in Xpresso will not cover the full extent of our testing. A follow-up on Architosh.com will dig deeper, particularly with real-world applications, which we recorded and timed.
We will go through the testing results as briefly as possible and unpack these results with analysis. Do click on the charts to see data larger.
Cinembench R23, Single-Core CPU Test. Winner: M1 Mac mini defeats iMac Pro (2017). (Image: Architosh)
This benchmark focuses on single-core and multi-core CPU performance, using a CPU-bound renderer (Cinema 4D technology). The M1 Mac mini easily defeated my three-year-old iMac Pro in single-core tests, but the 2017 iMac Pro with an 8-core Xeon chip was approximately 26 percent faster at multi-core rendering. However, on single-core, the M1 was dramatically faster. (see image above and below.)
Cinembench R23, Multi-Core CPU Test. Winner: iMac Pro (2017) narrowly defeats M1 Mac mini. (Image: Architosh)
While Cinebench offers a sound sense of CPU performance, it doesn't allow us to peek under the hood at various CPU performance aspects, like floating-point, an area critical to CAD, 3D, and scientific and engineering computing. This is where the GeekBench 5 test suite comes in handy.
Recently, I have come across some information from Nuvia, a young semiconductor design company headed by Gerald Williams, Apple's former Chief CPU Architect, for nearly a decade. Williams led Apple's A-series chip architecture designs. When he founded Nuvia in 2019, he took two other senior Apple chip design leaders with him, in Manu Gulati and John Bruno. I mention this not because I think Apple will suffer without Williams—not at all—but rather because these guys really know what they are doing. And they are big believers in Geekbench 5.
More than that, they have mathematically determined how to calculate very accurate approximations of SPEC CPU2006 and 2017 scores vis-a-vis Geekbench 5 scores. This an activity for a future article.
The Nuvia folks have written that Geekbench 5 scores are a good benchmark not only across platforms but also valid for server CPU load tests of a "comprehensive general nature." In a nutshell, then, we should put excellent stock in the following Geekbench 5 numbers on the M1.
Geekbench 5 Single-Core Test. Winner: M1 Mac mini defeats the field. (Image: Architosh)
Again, we can see the M1 excels at single-core CPU performance, with a Geekbench 5 score 59 percent faster than the iMac Pro's Xeon chip and 38 percent faster than today's fastest single-core Intel Mac, the 27-inch mid-2020 iMac Retina, which uses the top 15th ranked single-core chip.
As a point of reference, Geekbench Browser lists top chip scores (reflecting averages of at least five unique results) with the AMD Ryzen 9 (5950X) 16-core chip obtaining an average score of 1685, slightly lower than the average of my M1 Mac test results. However, an iMacPro1.1 system is listed on the site with a score of 2278, using the same chip. We assume that Apple has built test units using AMD processors, but we can't be sure.
Geekbench 5 Single-Core Test. Winner: M1 Mac mini ties iMac Pro 2017. (Image: Architosh)
Again, we see that the M1's weakness is its multi-core processing power, where four of its cores are dedicated energy-efficient Icestorm cores. It essentially ties Intel's Xeon in the 2017 iMac Pro. As a point of reference, the fastest performer is AMD's top 64-core Threadripper.
The M1 -- GPU Performance
This respected test-suite is M1 native, giving us the ability to test M1's graphics performance. We ran tests that could work on both Metal on the M1 and Metal on the iMac Pro. We looked at Driver Overhead, Texturing (fill rate), and ran the modern-game like Aztec Ruins test. In these tests, we offer various scores along with the two Macs and will explain why below.
GFXBench Aztec Ruins 1080 (normal tier).
This benchmark tests a modern graphics API across a game-like environment with real-time global illumination and deferred rendering combined with physically-based shaders. This test is highly applicable to not just games but "game-engine" based rendering tools. Some game engines support both forward rendering and deferred rendering paths, like Unity, which has partnered with Autodesk on many fronts, including its Revit application.
GFXBench Aztec Ruins, 1080p Test. Winner: M1 Mac mini defeats iMac Pro 2017. (Image: Architosh)
We can see above that today's M1 is about 30 percent faster than the discreet AMD Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics in the 2017 iMac Pro at this particular test. However, a top reference score from a machine with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti is nearly 3x faster. That result had a DirectX 11 driver. The M1 faired much better against the same card tested with OpenGL. In that case, the discreet GPU's performance fell to 1.8x faster. Interestingly, M1 is faster than an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050, approximately 1.5x times more rapid than this Pascal architecture-based discreet GPU from the fall of 2016.
Driver Overhead 1080P Test
There are many "draw calls" in this particular benchmark, which tests the summed up overhead of those calls to the CPU. The test shows how fast the software processes the various API calls. It's an area where Apple controlling the whole stack should matter.
GFXBench Driver Overhead, 1080p Test. Winner: M1 Mac mini defeats iMac Pro 2017. (Image: Architosh)
The M1 in this test is faster than the minimum AMD GPU for running Enscape (i.e., AMD Radeon R9 270 but the M1 beat a faster R9 290X GPU). It is also faster than the iMac Pro's AMD Vega 56 GPU, plus it tied an AMD Radeon D700 (score = 16,193) offered in the old 2013 iMac Pro. Recall, this D700 was essentially a modified AMD FirePro W9000 and was a beast in its day (2013), costing well over three thousand US dollars.
This benchmark approximates the texturing load of the Manhattan high-level test by rendering multiple layers of texture. It is a fill-rate test. As we can see from the chart below, this is the one test where the M1 falls behind the iMac Pro's Vega 56 GPU. So in this test, we see how many pixels (texels) the GPU can render per second is approximately a little greater than half of what the Pro Vega 56 can do and a little less than half of what the Quadro 5000 card can do.
GFXBench Texture Fill, 1080p Test. Winner: iMac Pro 2017 defeats M1 Mac mini. (Image: Architosh)
We can also see in the image below that the M1's texel fill rate is similar to what the GeForce GTX 680 and AMD R9 280 can do. Both are discreet GPUs that exceed the lesser performing sibling GPUs specified by Enscape as "minimum requirements" for powering that professional real-time renderer used in the AEC industry. The M1's texel fill rate also exceeds that of the GPU performance in the NVIDIA Quadro P2000 (considered a baseline GPU for powering HTC Vive VR headsets). It also exceeds that of AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100 and the AMD D700 used in the 2013 Mac Pro.
GFXBench Texture Fill, 1080 M1 results in comparable scores to other GPUs—most are discreet GPUs, including a few that set minimum GPUs for Enscape. (Image: Architosh)
This GPU benchmark is built on top of the Rocksolid proprietary rendering engine coded in C++. The Helsinki-based software company touts the objectivity of this benchmark for multiple operating systems. Rocksolid Engine architecture abstracts resources and rendering, effectively neutralizing the comparison as all tests run with the same workload regardless of the operating system.
BaseMark GPU Test Winner: iMac Pro 2017 defeats M1 Mac mini. (Image: Architosh)
In this test, the M1 was easily defeated by the Pro Vega 56 GPU in the 2017 iMac Pro. It also was less performant than the previously mentioned Quadro P2000, which was nearly 50 percent faster in this test. We suspect the abstraction layer in the C++ codebase neutralizes the streamlining benefits between silicon engineered for Metal's code and vice versa. This would apply to all graphics APIs, and we can see their importance in GFXbench results where graphics APIs are reported along with the same card at different scores for different APIs.
Speedometer 2.0 Web Benchmark
We tested M1's web browser performance using Speedometer 2.0. This measures browser web app responsiveness by running simulated user interactions common to web applications.
Speedometer 2.0 Test Winner: M1 Mac mini defeats everybody. (Image: Architosh)
As noted here at Anandtech.com, Apple's CPUs in mobile have dominated in browser-benchmarks. Now having that ARM-based architecture on the Mac platform brings superior web application performance to Apple Silicon-based Macs. This is important because more professional applications happen via browser-based SaaS tools. (see emTech section below and comments by Tech Soft 3D)
As we can see, the M1 Mac mini has blistering web performance, more than 2x the 2017 iMac Pro performance. The M1 is also 55 percent faster than the AMD Ryzen 9-5950X (based on an Anandtech.com score). Apple has highly prioritized web browser performance, as can be seen in even the iPhone 12 Pro (A14 chip), obtaining a 202.2 score (based on Anandtech.com score). As a further point of reference, my Touch-bar, 2016 MacBook Pro with 2.6GHz Intel i7 received a score of 85.8, about 22 percent slower than the iMac Pro.
Real-World App Tests
Typically Architosh does real-world performance tests with a series of files we have accumulated or built over a decade and a half. These files are used during our product reviews to look at performance from version to version.
We test using the Timer app (a digital stopwatch with 1/10 a second indicator) and the Apple Developers tool, Quartz Debug, which includes a Frames Per Second (FPS) meter. And we record the whole thing in QuickTime. After clean restarts, only these tiny apps plus the "test app" are running. The apps are loaded into the system in the exact same order: (1) test app, (2) QuickTime, (3) Timer, and finally (4) Quartz Debug.
Our test files are a series of SketchUp and Vectorworks Architect files, two programs we have most been asked (and performed) product reviews for. As a result, we have built up some test files.
Importantly, both of these tools were running under Rosetta 2 because they have not been re-coded for Apple Silicon Macs yet.
In our SketchUp 2021 tests, the M1 ran reasonably well under Rosetta, but it was outperformed by the native SketchUp for Intel on the iMac Pro 2017.
In the top row in the image below, our Turning Torso tower model (a quite complex but repeating geometry) runs through four scenes and turns. We calculate achieved Frame Rates per Second using Apple's Quartz Debug app. The iMac Pro achieved 70+ FPS in the first scene transition, compared to the M1 Mac mini, which only reached 40 FPS. (M1 on upper left, iMac Pro on upper right).
An image of four QuickTimes running together to review results. Note, each test took place independently, so don't be misled by this image. (Image: Architosh)
On the Falkestrasse model, an odd but well-published creation by the architect Coop Himmelblau, the M1 Mac mini achieved greater than 50 FPS scores during its scene transitions. But again, the iMac Pro with its Pro Vega 56 GPU card achieved greater than 80 FPS. (M1 on lower right and iMac Pro on left).
Both models are simple OpenGL shaded models with transparency (glass), with the Falkestrasse containing some limited texture mapping. We noticed that when the scene passes over the texture-mapping section of the Falkestrasse facade on both machines, the FPS speeds up noticeably.
In our third SketchUp model with intensive photographic landscape props, the M1 Mac mini performed exceptionally well and was on par with the iMac Pro. Overall, we think Rosetta 2 is impacting a penalty on the performance, but even under Rosetta 2, SketchUp on the M1-based Mac was more than serviceable—it was quite good.
Vectorworks Architect 2021
We have three files for Vectorworks testing. One area that seems to tax Vectorworks performance in regular 2D work is when a file utilizes many external references on a "design layer" in viewports on that layer. The application is incredibly flexible in the creation and use of viewports, internally and externally referenced. That's a good thing. However, many of them on a visible layer (including iterations of the same viewport) cause a noticeable impact on performance.
In our test, we save different scenes with different combinations of viewports visible. Going from scene-to-scene and using the pan tool to move the screen around represents real-life user-interaction scenarios where screen drawing is taxed.
An image from a QuickTime recording showing how panning around multiple Xref viewports on a design layer can tax the screen-redraw. This image of the M1 Mac mini shows a flawless performance. (Image: Architosh)
In this particular test, the M1 Mac mini performed a bit better than the 2017 iMac Pro. Although Vectorworks 2021 was running in Rosetta 2 on the M1 Mac mini and not natively like on the iMac Pro 2017, the screen redraws performance was quite solid.
Our other test files include a 2D scroll-test file, and a RenderWorks render test file. We will cover those results in depth in our version of this story on Architosh coming up in about a week.
So the M1 chip inside the new Apple Silicon Macs is currently posting the fastest single-core Geekbench 5 scores in the world. Only the AMD Ryzen 5000 series post scores over the 1600 range nearing the 1700+ M1 score. This matters in the CAD world because most apps in AEC, in particular, are still frequency-bound (single-core oriented).
Another facet of the M1's superior performance is its floating-point scores. The M1 had superior floating-point scores compared to the iMac Pro's Xeon processor, particularly in areas germane to CAD industry software—like ray-tracing and rigid-body dynamics. The subject of the M1's floating-point scores is a whole other article, but Vectorworks's CEO Dr. Biplab Sarkar noted the importance floating-point calculations play in CAD/BIM applications.
"FP performance is important to both 2D and 3D in Vectorworks. It should help out in basic operations such as transformation, tessellation, projection of geometric entities in Vectorworks, as well as inside the Parasolid modeling kernel," he said. As for the excellent floating-point values for the ray-tracing test inside Geekbench 5, Sarkar noted that "for our customers using the Cinema 4D-based render models in Vectorworks, faster ray-tracing would be quite important for still rendering purposes. Performance gains in the M1 for Renderworks render models, even on a background process, should be beneficial."
"If you look at the performance improvements, it is something we haven't seen in two decades. I strongly believe that this new architecture is a game-changer, especially for pro users." --- Istvan Csanady, CEO, Shapr3D.
The popularity of real-time ray-tracing is surging in AEC these days, and some leading players are not on the Mac. One of those is Enscape. When I first met this company at a trade show a few years ago, they were not very impressed with the Mac platform hardware-wise. Real-time rendering takes powerful GPUs and at that time Apple was lacking them.
It is notable than that in several GFXBench GPU tests, the M1 out-performed bigger sibling dGPU cards that are today listed as "minimum required" GPUs for Enscape to function. We think texture fill-rate is likely a critical piece of Enscape's requirements. Therefore, it is noteworthy to point out that the M1 exceeded the baseline GeForce GTX 660 and AMD R9 270 by exceeding or matching their bigger sibling GPUs. This was also the case in the Driver Overhead test.
This image from a blog post about Nuvia explains how custom ARM architectures offer superior single-core performance per watt. The image shows Apple's A13 chip far left in grey. Nuvia's future Phoenix chip will also hug the left side of this chart. The Intel and AMD chips above (Zen 2 included) require far more power to reach the same performance. (Image: Nuvia)
Finally, the M1 delivers stunning performance using far less power. Recall how one of its single Firestorm cores helps the M1 best the AMD Ryzen 9 5950X, making it essentially the fast single-core processor on the planet. But the difference between the M1 and the Ryzen 5000 series couldn't be more night and day when it comes to wattage. (see Nuvia chart above and find Apple chips at far left.)
The AMD Ryzen 9 5950X uses 141 watts in max active power, while the M1 reportedly uses about 20-26 watts. We can see here (above) in Nuvia's graphics from a blog post that ARM-architecture chips deliver superior performance per unit of watt energy. The M1, if drawn on the Nuvia-produced chart above, would start somewhere just to the right of the A13 chip and bank up steeply cresting to the right as it rises to above the mid-point between the 1500 and 2000 line.
Apple's M1 chip is a stunning first version chip for future Macs. As we can see from standard industry benchmarks, the M1 more than holds its own against Intel and AMD's finest semiconductors. But the bigger takeaway should be that it delivers this performance with vastly less energy.
This is huge. It means Apple has massive TDP headroom when it comes to going toe-to-toe with desktop heavyweights like HP, Lenovo, Boxx, and others who want to rule the technical and creative markets with their most powerful and profit-heavy computers. Despite this, I can see Apple taking their performance crown advantage to large enterprise accounts (like IBM). It used to be that Apple's computers were too expensive when it came to raw performance per dollar. That has suddenly changed in an instant.
Architosh's new USD 700.00 M1 Mac mini went toe-to-toe with our USD 5,000.00 iMac Pro 2017. While the Xeon-based 8-core iMac Pro did perform better in several benchmarks, the M1 Mac mini performed better in about half of them.
The A14 has 11.8 billion transistors. The M1 has 16 billion, or 35 percent more. The chip is essentially 35 percent larger as well. The next M-series chip for Apple's upcoming redesigned iMac and iMac Pro will likely increase the transistor count by at least 50 percent, given that the TDP on the current iMac is nearly 4x as large as the TDP in the M1 Mac mini. If we assume Apple trims down the future iMac—and when does Apple ever make computers fatter—it is safe to assume at the bare minimum the TDP for the future iMacs will range between 75 - 95W.
That's a lot of headroom in terms of thermals for future M1 variants for these machines. And the Mac Pros coming will have even more TDP capacity.
Apple's Firestorm cores in the M1 are unmatched. Where the M1 falls down is in multi-core performance. But with rumors of up to 32 cores in future M series chips for these higher TDP machines, Apple can capture the performance crown across both multi-core and single-core and at lower energy and lower costs.
Curated content: Emerging Technologies and their potential impact on CAD-based industries.
Apple Entering the VR-AR Headset Market – The New!
A lot of folks have been waiting for this news for a long time. You see, Apple's Macs have poor VR headset support, and it's just unacceptable.
Dan Riccio Stepped Down to Focus on AR/VR
Over at Ars Technica, they are covering a story today about Apple's hardware chief stepping down to take-over full-time leadership on Apple's long-rumored VR/AR headset.
Last month Apple announced hardware chief Dan Riccio would be stepping down to focus full-time on a special project. But Apple didn't mention what that product was. Now a report from Silicon Valley publication The Information has revealed what is really going on. (Image: Apple)
Apparently, the VR headset hit a snag under current project leader Mike Rockwell. Rockwell will stay in place but report to Riccio, who will be the top point person in charge. Apple reportedly has over 1,000 engineers focused on this new VR/AR headset device.
A few days ago, The Verge reported that Apple's rumored VR headset could cost USD 3,000. But if so, the good news is it will feature 8K displays and over a dozen cameras. The Information has a self-created drawing based on "internal Apple images of a late-stage prototype from last year," and the design features a very lightweight fabric mesh material that helps keep it lightweight on your head, plus design cues from other Apple devices like swappable Apple Watch-style headbands and a HomePod-eseque mesh fabric.
The device will apparently feature power-hungry 8K displays but not everywhere. Instead, eye-tracking technology will determine where you are looking and set the 8K resolution in just that area and render peripheral areas in lower resolution—a method known as foveated rendering in the VR world. That's a technique used by Finnish industrial-strength VR/XR-3 headset maker Varjo.
Apple's VR headset would include some AR functionality, include LiDAR technology like Varjo's recent advancement (the first to use LiDAR), and be powered by Apple Silicon (a chip as powerful as the M1 is likely). Apple's patents on its VR headset include names like Avi Bar-Zeev as an inventor. He is the creator of the Microsoft Hololens. He left Apple in 2019.
Further Analysis & Commentary: Apple's delay in producing a VR headset has never made any sense. Macs' absence of suitable VR capabilities has been a serious drag on Mac adoption in not just gaming but pro markets like Architecture. While this estimated price is steep, it is similar to Varjo's professionally-oriented headset, a device that has found a very successful market in the automotive and aerospace simulation industries.
A best-of-breed VR device from Apple that provided unique capabilities on the macOS platform would more than make-up for Apple's truancy with virtual reality hardware. I guess that this new VR device will arrive simultaneously with the new Apple Silicon-based Mac Pro machines, possibly in Q4-2021.
Tech Soft 3D on Apple, Plus M1
Tech Soft 3D is getting ready for Apple's macOS transitions, including the deprecation of OpenGL and preferential move to Apple Metal, plus Apple Silicon support.
Tech Soft 3D CTO Gavin Bridgeman said that the company is advancing on both fronts quickly to support developer partners. Moving to support Metal has been relatively smooth thus far, he says. "We already have an abstraction layer in there, so we just need to build and finish our Metal driver, our OpenGL driver, and our DirectX driver, and our tools will look at the system and determine which should be used," he says.
"We do have enough users on the Mac that when Apple switched to Metal, we wanted to lead there. So we are serious about getting Metal done because some of our biggest partners are on Apple iOS and macOS platforms." --- Erik Hultgren, product manager, Tech Soft 3D
Erik Hultgren, product manager at Tech Soft 3D, added, "so even though Windows is our dominant platform—and we are starting to see that for a lot of developers their multiplatform strategy is around using the Web—we do have enough users on the Mac that when Apple switched to Metal we wanted to lead there." He adds, "so we are serious about getting Metal done because some of our biggest partners are on Apple iOS and macOS platforms."
Bridgeman and Hultgren said that Tech Soft 3D now has a full dedicated team working on updating their toolkits for Apple Silicon and Metal. "They are doing nothing but building out that dedicated macOS driver," adds Hultgren. He says there are actually two teams, one in France and one in America, working on it."
SolidWorks was the one company anxious to get Tech Soft 3D going on support for Apple Silicon. It wasn't SolidWorks, however, but eDrawings, the CAD tool that is supported on many different platforms that generated high interest from the MCAD giant.
Familiar with ARM Platform
"We have done work with our toolkits for supporting ARM on the Hololens, so we have done work on ARM already," says Hultgren. The Microsoft Hololens 2 is run by an ARM processor. Previously it was an X86 processor but today runs on an ARM-based Qualcomm Snapdragon 850 chip based on the ARM cortex technology.
The beauty of Tech Soft 3D and their toolkits is they isolate their partners from feeling the brunt of these OS changes. "They don't have to change a line of code," says Hultgren. "We give them the libraries, and they are up and running!"
The M1 support is in beta now out at partners, but the official release will likely be timed with their mid-summer product update.
Further Analysis & Commentary: This is excellent news for developers who rely on Tech Soft 3D and support macOS with their solutions. If Istvan Csanady of Shapr3D is correct, and the M1 is a game-changer that will broadly affect the pro markets, Tech Soft 3d's customers will have a leg-up on their competition.
ArchDaily has a good story about the Quebec Wood Export Bureau and their new free BIM plugin on Revit.
A view of Offsite Wood plugin app running inside Autodesk Revit. (Image: QWEB)
The app is called Offsite Wood and helps architects select product families that have the right dimensions, fire resistance, and sustainability profile to meet their needs.
What's Cooking: Future Xpresso Features
We have recently spoken to The Wild founder and CEO, Gabe Paez about his company's latest features and how the global pandemic has impacted AEC creatives and driven up interest in VR technologies like his company's innovative The Wild platform.
The Wild has a new feature called Tours. And it came during the pandemic with great aid to AEC pros using The Wild's VR collaboration platform. (Image: The Wild / Architosh)
The Tours features enable users to craft a story that will focus everyone around a user's desired framing. But there is so much more going on at The Wild and great perspectives from Paez about the future of this kind of technology. Don't miss next month's issue.
We look forward to sharing this story in Xpresso #25 in March.
Biggest CAD Industry News Last Month
(the biggest news and features in January!)
Feature Special: 2021 Tech Trends—CAD/3D Industry Executives Share Thoughts We discuss leading tech trends with industry executives from AEC hardware and software companies. [5-8 min. read] (Architosh). Recommended!
Feature Viewpoint: Accelerated Efficiency with Data-Driven Design
Nemetschek Group executive shares this thoughts on the data-driven design's value over model-driven design in AEC. [5-8 min. read] (Architosh). Recommended for AEC and BIM professionals.
3D News: New SketchUp 2021 Offers 'Predesign Climate Studies' Features
V-Ray Vision, Chaos Group's "game engine" is finally unleashed this fall, now available for V-Ray for Rhino in the latest version. [5 -min read] (Architosh). News for AEC Pros!
VR News: The Wild Launches New 'Tours' Feature
The Wild has launched a pivotal new approach and technology highly supportive of AEC users in pandemic times. [5 min. read] (Architosh).
AE Firm Software BQE CORE Cloud Releases Major Upgrade
AE firm management software gains significant new features—ArchiOffice and EngineerOffice are better than ever! [5-min read] (Architosh).
Corel of Canada Announces new CorelCAD 2021
The ARES-based (.dwg) native CAD program gains many new features while retaining its signature connection to CorelDRAW. [5-min read] (Architosh)
Tech Soft 3D Intros 2021 HOOPS SDKs — Apple M1 Chip Support
This is big news for the entire industry as software tools maker Tech Soft 3D adds major new BIM industry support technology plus new Apple M1 support due to customer demand. [5-min read] (Architosh). A must-read for those tracking the Apple Silicon story!
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Anthony Frausto-Robledo, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP
This is a free newsletter and companion publication to Architosh.com.
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