Makes large 3D files accessible
Tore Hovland, CEO & Founder Novorender
He calls himself a nerd, Tore Hovland of Novorender. It’s possible that it’s true, because the company he has established does 3D rendering in a fundamentally new way. It probably takes a lot of nerdy genes to come up with something like that.
“I became interested in cloud solutions early on and the possibilities they offer. Especially with regard to the distribution of work between the PC frontend and the cloud backend. Here, it was possible to do really cool things”.
What Hovland wanted to figure out was how to make data graphics, in the form of large data models, easy to handle.
“With infinite processing power, which is available in the cloud, it is possible. Brute force can solve such computing tasks, but it is also very expensive. The cloud is cheap on storage and expensive on processing. And when you need to scale and rotate graphics in different layers, it requires an enormous amount of computing power. And an enormous amount of money,” he says.
Hovland’s idea was to balance the advantages and disadvantages in the cloud. Here he could store very large 3D models, but they were expensive to use because it required so much computing power.
“What we did was to break up the model, often into thousands of pieces, and only compute those that need to be manipulated and viewed. It’s a bit like when Netflix streams data. It happens bit by bit” he says.
When a model is viewed, only a small number of all the pieces need high resolution. These are the ones you see up close. The others that are also visible, but further away, are rendered in low resolution. This is something new, as the traditional way of doing this is to compute the entire model.
A model, such as an oil platform, can be very large. The largest Novorender has calculated was 50 GB with four billion polygons and ten million selectable objects, each with 20 to 30 attributes per object.
“Comparing, as we often do, what a modern mobile phone can handle, it can typically handle five million polygons on a good day. Or about a thousandth of the models we work with” he says.
Compared to the model they start with, the one Novorender stores in the cloud will be between five and ten times larger. They need much more space if they are to be displayed easily and quickly on clients. To convert a very large 3D model to the right format for the first time can take up to two to three days. But it is a one-time job. Then the model in the cloud needs to be updated as the original develops. This is a much faster process that typically takes place once a day, during a few hours.
“If this were to be done in the cloud in the usual way, each user would have to have their own model that is rendered in real-time, but in any case, this is beyond the performance range of Microsoft Azure. The cost would be extreme and would increase for each user. With our solution, it is the opposite. It becomes cheaper for each new user. It pays off from two users.”
Viewing very large models is always a problem. Even the CAD tool you work in cannot be used for it. You can only work with and view small parts of the model.
In other words, this is not technology developed to work with small models. This is intended for what Hovland calls the “big asset industry,” where everything is constructed in 3D. The models can be on mobile phones, tablets, or in browsers. Devices with limited computing power can easily display whole or parts of giant models that it receives over 4G or wifi from the server.
“We are the only ones in the world so far who can present such large models as we do on clients. The fact that we use cheap storage instead of expensive processing in the cloud also means that we can connect to many clients,” he says.
According to Hovland, Novorender has a significant advantage in that they are industry-independent and support all the important 3D formats.
“We can make 3D very user-friendly even though these are giant models. The fact that people access the model via a browser or mobile phone makes it very accessible. We work with simplification such as bookmarks and highlighting. Recently, we launched a way to view data in 2D that we extract from the 3D model.”
Novorender believes that Norway is a good country to start such development. There is a mature 3D market here driven by an advanced offshore industry and a construction industry that has come a long way with BIM.
However, the international market is tempting. It is gigantic, and simple and understandable solutions are needed.
In our platform, the customer can simply upload the model to the cloud. Then they are up and running. They don’t need much support either, and we are cost-effective to use. The customer only pays for data volume. They can have as many active users as they want,” he says.
This is probably an advantage, as Novorender has only eight full-time employees and two hired ones. Two of Hovland’s companions come from the gaming industry. The technology development has taken five years, with support from Innovation Norway and Skattefunn, but it was only just over a year ago that they hired a salesperson.
“We have realized that it takes more than having the world’s best product. We also have to convince the market. That probably takes time,” he says.
“We wanted a tool that could collect all the modules we construct into a single 3D view. And it had to scale when we release new versions. Novoreder does this very quickly in a low-resource process, and everything is available through the browser on all devices. This allows us to create a lot of different documentation and guides that we can share. It was also important that this became a digital twin that could be connected to third-party systems,” says Global Head of Service and Support at AutoStore, Roald Gjelsten.
Roald Gjelsten, Global Head of Service and Support at AutoStore.
Hovland believes there are many other opportunities for the technology than the one they have been working on so far. The models they generate function as digital twins to the actual 3D construction. It will also be possible to embed such twins as components in a larger solution. He also believes that such technology may have a role in the gaming industry in the future.