Immersive engineering shocks us when we see how far we have advanced technologically. It is a fact that we have cycles in history that show us such evolution. We can say that the first cycle happened with the advent of computers. Stay Tuned! In this post, we will talk a little about each cycle and, in more detail, about the new cycle we are embracing: Immersive Engineering.
A little bit of history
The evolution of computers followed the evolution of society during the 20th and 21st centuries. However, the history of the computer did not begin only in modern times.
Remember that computers are electronic devices that receive, store, and produce information automatically.
They are part of our daily lives, with more and more computers being used in the world.
The word “computer” comes from the verb “to compute” which, means “to calculate”. Thus, we can think that the creation of computers begins in the old age, since the relationship of counting already intrigued men.
One of the first computing machines was the “abacus,” a primary mechanical instrument of Chinese origin created in the 5th century BC. It is considered the “first computer”, a kind of calculator that performed algebraic operations.
John Napier, a Scottish mathematician, was the one responsible for the invention of the “slide rule”. It is the first analog counting instrument capable of performing logarithmic calculations. This invention was considered the mother of modern calculators.
Around 1640, the French mathematician Pascal invented the first automatic calculating machine. This machine was being perfected in the following decades until reaching the concept we know today.
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz created the first pocket calculator capable of performing the four main mathematical calculations.
This German mathematician developed the first modern binary numbering system that became known as “Leibniz’s Wheel”.
The first programmable mechanical machine was introduced by the French mathematician Joseph-Marie Jacquard. It was a type of loom capable of controlling the making of fabrics through punched cards.
George Boole (1815-1864) was the pioneer of mathematical logic. This new area of mathematics has become a powerful tool in the design and study of electronic circuits and computer architecture.
In the 19th century, Charles Babbage, an English mathematician, created an analytical machine that is roughly speaking compared with the current computer with memory and programs.
Through this invention, some scholars consider him the “Father of Informatics.”
Thus, computing machines were increasing, including the variety of mathematical calculations (addition, subtraction, division, multiplication, square root, logarithms, etc.).
It is now possible to find very complex computing machines.
As we know it today, the computer has undergone several transformations. It has been improving over time, following the advances in the engineering and math areas. That is why there is not only one inventor.
According to the systems and tools used, the history of computing is divided into four periods.
First Generation (1951-1959): The first generation computers worked using electronic circuits and valves. They had restricted use, in addition to being immense and consuming a lot of energy. An example is the ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer), which consumed about 200 kilowatts and had 19,000 valves. It was mostly used in the industrial field.
- Electronic circuits and valves
- Restricted use
- Needed to be rescheduled for each task
- Large power consumption
- Problems due to too much heating
Second Generation (1959-1965): Even with very large dimensions, the second generation computers worked using transistors, which replaced the valves that were bigger and slower. Commercial use has already begun to spread during this period.
- Beginning of commercial use
- Gigantic size
- Very small processing capacity
- Use of transistors to replace valves
Third Generation (1965-1975): Third generation computers operated by integrated circuits. These replaced the transistors and already had a smaller size and greater processing capacity.
It was during this period that the chips were created, and the use of personal computers began.
- Integrated circuits appear
- Decreased size
- Greater processing capacity
- Start using personal computers
Fourth Generation (1975-to the present day): With the development of information technology, computers decrease in size, increase the speed and capacity of data processing. Microprocessors with less and less energy are included.
- Integrated software emerges
- Word Processors
- Electronic Spreadsheets
- Database Managers
- Communication Managers
Side story: The internet bubble
Many people are uninformed of the term “internet bubble”; however, they know that it was a very relevant fact in the technological world. When the situation came to light, technological development was not as we know it today. Few people used the Internet, and social networks were not yet part of the user’s daily lives. However, technological prospects were great, especially in the United States. As a result, many investors made large contributions to companies in the industry. The term “bubble” is a nickname given by the shareholders themselves about the market’s overheating. The sense is that a bubble usually grows and inflates, and sometimes it can explode.
Many companies, such as Google, Yahoo, and Amazon, have added unreasonable profits to the bubble’s growth. The virtual market continued to inflate, and new companies, NGOs, politicians, and so many others ended up also invading the technological world. At that time, the Internet was considered a largely promising and endless market. Precisely due to the overvaluation of the environment at the time, there was a false idea that the sector would bring an unlimited amount of profit. With that, many companies started to have their own spaces on the Internet. The image of e-commerce was that in the future, companies would earn big and incalculable profits. One good example was Nasdaq which emerged due to the bubble giant impact.
Side Story: CAD’s invention
Another good story we can talk about is the appearance of CAD. With this software, the visualization, modeling, and construction parameters have been revolutionized in such a way that we can associate them with the immersive engineering that we will talk about shortly.
CAD software, also known as Computer-Aided Design, refers to software that helps engineers and designers in the creation, modification, analysis, technical documentation, and optimization of a project that replaces manual drawing with an automated process in two dimensions (2D) and three-dimensional models (3D).
American computer scientist Douglas Taylor Ross invented the term CAD. He saw how important the use of these tools could become.
CAD software is used to increase productivity, improve design quality, improve communications through documentation, and create a manufacturing database.
The beginning of CAD / CAM occurred in 1957. When the “father of CAD / CAM” Dr. Patrick Hanratty developed PRONTO, the first commercial numerical control system (CNC).
The accuracy, versatility, and editing power of CAD / CAM designs have revolutionized the engineering, architecture, and manufacturing landscape. Some industry analysts consider that 70% of all mechanical 3D CAD / CAM systems available today have their sources back Hanratty’s original one.
With the introduction in 1957, it took a couple of years before becoming accessible for computers to run the software. That is, pencils and paper would remain the main way for the “designer” to create designs for over 30 years. But the groundwork was predicted for the future when CAD software would become a key tool in architecture, interior design, mechanical engineering, and several other branches of industry.
AutoCAD was a breakthrough in the evolution of CAD, setting the movement for the development of other CAD competitors. However, it was still predominantly based on 2D. All of that changed in 1987 with the launch of PTC’s Pro / Engineer, a CAD program based on solid geometry and parametric techniques with features to define parts and assemblies. It worked on UNIX workstations, as PCs did not yet have the resources required by CAD programs.
CAD / CAE / CAM systems are now broadly accepted and used across the industry. These systems were moved from expensive workstations based mainly on UNIX PCs to off-the-shelf. 3D modeling has become a pattern and can be found even in applications for the general public, such as modeling 3D buildings on Google Maps.
The modern CAD era has been characterized by improvements in modeling, including analysis and management of the products we create, from design and engineering to manufacturing, sales, and maintenance, mostly called PLM or Product Lifecycle Management
The current century also brought another evolution in the computing platform. With the introduction of PCs, smartphones, and tablets on a large scale, CAD has become available in cloud, web, and mobile technologies. It is now possible for engineers to work with CAD on any Mac, Windows, or tablet. Naturally, the availability of CAD has also increased the use of this software by the consumer public.
Nowadays, CAD systems are compatible with all major platforms – Windows, Linux, UNIX, and Mac OS X. Some systems even support multiple platforms.
Also, the interaction between man and machine has been changed. Typically, designers make use of a computer mouse with CAD programs. However, designers can also use a pen and scan a graphic tablet. Besides, there has been much development in the interaction of the CAD-human interface – from touch screens to Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality (AR).
Let’s talk about Immersive Engineering
As we move along with 2020, we are into a transformation; Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR). A new immersive technology that already allows us to interact with others and experience the world like never seen before.
Virtual reality is not only a videogame thing. It is the future of every business and service connected to the Internet. It represents a fundamental and global transformation in the way we interact with millions of people and in diverse areas such as health, retail, education, real estate, military, live events, entertainment, and engineering.
Leading technology companies such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Sony, and more are investing billions of dollars to make immersive technology something “real” in our lives.
VR and AR are more like two points on a spectrum that will be combined over time. Shortly we will have AR glasses that can increase your entire field of view and VR glasses that can create photorealistic digital representations of your environment in real-time and, of course, the combination between those two devices. Once technology advances to this point, the distinction between VR and AR will be much less relevant today. What about Mixed Reality (MR)?
Mixed Reality reality removes the boundaries between real and virtual interaction via occlusion. Occlusion means that computer-generated objects can be visibly obscured by objects in the physical environment – like a virtual robot that runs under your desk. MR is very interactive.
Extended Reality (XR) refers to all real and virtual environments generated by computer graphics and wearables. The ‘X’ in the XR is simply a variable that can represent any letter. XR is the category that covers all the various forms of computer-altered reality, including Augmented Reality (AR), Mixed Reality (MR), and Virtual Reality (VR). When will all this be ready?
We are still at the beginning of immersive computing. What happened to the cell phone will happen with VR and AR. The sky is the limit! Capabilities will improve. Devices will become cheaper and easier to use. There will be advances in user interfaces and applications. As value increases and costs decrease, immersive computing will make sense to more and more people. So is obvious: it’s not a question of “if”, it’s a question of “when”, so we need to build extraordinary and humanized applications, the implementation of AR and VR is going slowly. Still, it is happening in such a way that we are seeing integration taking over in every corner of our lives. The certainty about the future is that it will shake the present. We will have the opportunity to create infinite scenarios and modify them into anything we can think of.
But after all, why did we talk about CAD?
In this post, we discussed the history of CAD, where it originated, and its progress. We analyze the evolution of technology and the industries that use it. But what will the CAD of the future be like? Check below the main trends that are set to explode in the next decade.
CAD integration with Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)
Most people have been exposed to AR apps (one good example is Pokemon GO or Quiver) or enjoyed a roller coaster simulation in virtual reality. But, have you ever questioned what your 3D design would look like in augmented and virtual reality? Augmented Reality is a technology that allows real-time visualization of CAD models in the real-world environment. The current AR software makes use of devices such as smartphones or tablets, capturing the environment with a camera and placing a digital effect on it to visualize the model. Augmented reality is a different experience than virtual reality. It combines the real and digital worlds using CAD and PLM design data.
On the pretext of additive manufacturing and product design, VR digitally simulates a product or environment. The user can interact and dive into it using a headset. While with Augmented Reality, the digital product is designed for the background of the real world.
Augmented reality is not immersive like Virtual Reality, because you are in the real world and can see everything around you, but with overlapping digital data. Digital data can be text, 3D graphics, sound, and video in any combination.
AR has many CAD applications, such as allowing designers to view their CAD models from different angles before they are even produced. VR, which is also useful in CAD, allows designers to interact directly with models.
In the future of CAD and its tools, designers and engineers will be able to send customers products that can be appreciated in an original format using AR – before the product is manufactured. Designers can also run CAD software, such as SolidWorks, AutoCAD, and SolidFace, with a virtual reality headset and, essentially, create models like virtual sculptures, entirely by hand (just like Iron Man did on the Avengers building remodeling)
VR and AR help refine and optimize designs at an early stage, so concepts and options can be revised and modified quickly. Digital models can also be virtually tested, analyzed, and activated. The result is fast-paced design cycles and, consequently, products with outstanding quality and performance.
Besides, VR and AR enable animated simulations, improving your design with factors such as access, appearance, and ergonomics. Anyone can understand a realistic simulation. More complex 2D engineering drawings and 3D models can be difficult to interpret if you don’t have a technical background.
Finally, VR and AR help in communication and the final result of the product, reducing the technical risk.
Cloud-based CAD is already being used by some CAD companies – with many more focused on it shortly. With this trend comes the possibility of never having to worry about software updates again.
With cloud-based CAD, the software will be available in your browser, without the need for updates or downloads.
Cloud-based CAD will also help improve project collaboration, meaning that users will have the ability to work together on a single model, have access based on the design element, or access reproduction – as in an image editing tool video – of the history and ramifications of changes made throughout the project.
CAD and Generative Design
One of the main trends of CAD of the future is the concept of technology capable of “thinking” – anticipating a designer’s next move and making an alternative move accordingly.
This means that software is not simply documenting projects created by humans. They are creating it on their own. This concept is what we call Generative Design, the new era of CAD.
Soon, designers will be able to use computers as design collaborators to choose the best solution and create an ideal design. That’s because cloud-based Generative Design technology can provide almost unlimited design options and has the potential to spur innovation, improve manufacturing capacity, and improve quality. Thus, designers will tell the computer what they want, instead of how to do it.
With Generative Design, designers and engineers insert design goals into the software and parameters such as materials, manufacturing methods, and cost restrictions. Using cloud computing, the software explores all possible permutations of a solution, quickly generating design alternatives.
A fifty computer generation?
Specialists are saying that we are entering into a new generation (even if some doubts). Things are moving and growing so fast that they believe we are in a new technology wave. All of these promises and evolutions we talk about it are part of the “fifty generations.”
- Office automation
- Commercial and industrial automation
- CAD / CAM and CAE w/ immersive reality
- Virtual image Multimedia
- Online era (Internet communication)
- Generative Design
We separate these topics to show the entire evolution of technology.
It is always a good time to remember history as a way to understand the future. VR, AR, MR, and XR’s tendency is growing each day with small steps but with a promise of wonderful things, especially CAD’s issues. In a not distant future, designers and engineers will manipulate all these technologies to create and build projects in no time. We will wait anxiously for all of it!
What about you? We want to know your opinion about it! Do you believe that we are into a new technological generation? What do you think and expect about the future? Do you think it will be something good or not? Leave your comment at the end!
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