This week we attended the hugely popular Maker Faire event near San Francisco where we introduced Visualizer, a virtual camera in SketchUp® based on our PowerVR Ray Tracing technology. The Visualizer extension helps SketchUp users create and visualize their 3D creations by rendering photorealistic models in real time.

Visualizer for SketchUp_1Introducing the new Visualizer for SketchUp

SketchUp is a unique, fun and easy to use 3D content creation platform for architects, engineers, designers, educators and construction professionals, as well home DIY enthusiasts and members of the global hobbyist maker community. Available in both free (SketchUp Make) and paid (SketchUp Pro) versions, SketchUp is the most widely used 3D modelling software in the world today. Since its release, the SketchUp has enjoyed a fantastic user growth, seeing over 30 million unique launches per year and several million active users every week.

Visualizer for SketchUp: A simple and clean UI

Our new Visualizer extensions enables SketchUp users to take photorealistic snapshots of their work instantly. Visualizer for SketchUp is unique because it delivers photorealistic results without requiring the user to learn or adjust any complex settings whatsoever. It works just like a point and shoot smartphone camera and has a novel user interface that allows for camera like control without annoying sliders and settings.

SketchUp users have for years enjoyed access to the world’s largest online repository of 3D models called the 3D Warehouse. Since we’ve taken an innovative approach of making Visualizer infer as much information as possible for the SketchUp scene without having to apply custom materials and lights, models from the 3D warehouse can now be inserted into your scenes and still look mostly photorealistic, with no additional effort. If you don’t want to do any real modelling, you can just search and grab common furniture items and place them at will to build up your scene.

Visualizer for SketchUp_2Visualizer for SketchUp is a fun and easy way to preview photorealistic models in real time.

Visualizer for SketchUp makes photorealistic visualization of 3D models fast and easy. We’ve built a product that everyone already using SketchUp can adopt straight away, even if they are largely unfamiliar with rendering or do not have time to produce photorealistic 3D images using specialized software.

Innovating with PowerVR Ray Tracing

But why is Imagination, as an IP provider whose customers are generally semiconductor companies and OEMs/ODMs, bringing our ground-breaking ray tracing technology into the SketchUp community – a consumer audience?

We believe that ray tracing technology represents the future of graphics across all consumer platforms. Our customers will increasingly integrate our PowerVR Wizard ray tracing IP cores into their hardware platforms. Our recent agreement with Unity is another example of bringing PowerVR Ray Tracing technology to the game development community. With Visualizer for SketchUp, we are bringing this technology to an even wider audience of creative people all over the world.

Expanding the market of people who can take advantage of ray tracing for more than just games is an important step. Just like iMovie and YouTube enabled high-end film editing and distribution to be democratised to a much larger community, Visualizer for SketchUp now offers millions of people the ability to produce stunning photorealistic pictures of their work, a process typically limited only to small number of advanced users or to particular projects with the budget to justify the effort.

Visualizer for SketchUp uses a method called path-tracing which simulates the path of light throughout a scene entirely using ray tracing. In contrast to the hybrid ray tracing methods used in the Unity demos during GDC, path-tracing works entirely using ray tracing and requires significantly more rays to produce an image, but has the benefit of producing a truly photorealistic result naturally and requires almost no user intervention. Both the Unity hybrid rendering demo and Visualizer share the same underlying PowerVR Ray Tracing platform but with different GLSL shader programs.

Visualizer for SketchUp_3PowerVR Ray Tracing at work

Communities like SketchUp are an open field for innovation in this area, since there is not a strong bias for rendering preferences and most of its users have not tried to render images before. We chose to model the behavior of a smartphone camera that many are already familiar with. This requires high performance underlying ray tracing technology; to make the plugin really behave like a camera, no corners on image quality can be cut and everything must be fully real-time.

CEO of Aerotestra Sean Headrick has been using SketchUp for several years, and recently added Visualizer for SketchUp to his menu of essential plugins

With the creativity we have seen from the worldwide SketchUp community, we can’t wait to see their work displayed anew using Visualizer.

You can try this now for yourself at no cost by going to our website.

Make sure you follow us on Twitter for the latest Visualizer product announcements (@getVisualizer) and news and announcements on PowerVR Ray Tracing (@PowerVR_RT, @PowerVRInsider, @ImaginationPR).

About the author: Alex Kelley

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Alex Kelley has over 20-years of sales, marketing, and general management experience in 3D computer graphics and has worked in the USA and several countries in Asia. Since joining Imagination Technologies Alex has launched the Visualizer brand, which has most recently brought a photorealistic virtual camera to SketchUp transforming the way people view 3D models. Alex was a Vice President at Caustic Graphics, a start up acquired by Imagination, and before that held Vice President roles at Autodesk and Alias. Alex is fluent in Japanese, and holds a B.S. and M.S. degree in Computer Science from Arizona State University.

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