Designers can see how sun and shadows will look on their building throughout the year.
Autodesk Designers can see how sun and shadows will look on their building throughout the year.

Not everyone is a visual thinker, able to imagine spaces and experiences from drawings or words alone. Generating architectural sketches, renderings, physical models, and digital models is crucial in winning clients, keeping them happy and up to date on changes, and even helping raise capital and support. As BIM software, cloud computing, and game engines have advanced, so has the ease of giving clients the experience of walking through their future projects—without the need for those still-clunky virtual-reality headsets.

Yesterday, software developer Autodesk, headquartered in San Rafael, Calif., launched Autodesk Live

, a visualization service that turns any thorough Revit model into an interactive, navigable, 3D environment with a click of a button. Once a designer has created a comprehensive 3D view of a model, they can send their project to the Autodesk Live cloud service, which will process it for real-time display and return an Autodesk Live file to their computer that is ready for navigation.

Users can select a landscape template to add context to their models, and convert rich, photorealistic content—people, vegetation, furniture, birds, and other entourage—into 3D objects for inclusion in the rendered environments as well.

From Autodesk’s demo videos, the virtual environments appear intuitive to navigate, pan, and zoom in and out with the mouse and keyboard. More interestingly, when one clicks on a desired location on the model to explore, such as an office or bedroom, Autodesk Live will walk you through the space firsthand via the stairs, corridors, and doors—complete with door swings—to the destination. Double-click on a location, and fly there immediately.

 Autodesk Live Overview (with Voiceover)

Autodesk Live demo courtesy of Autodesk. See the video in full screen here.

Users can also access the views they set with the cameras, or saved perspectives, imported from their Revit model, and add or delete views from the Autodesk Live interface. The program also offers a limited selection of rendering styles to de-emphasize color or material finishes for architects to focus on building massing and forms.

For Revit models that are geolocated, users can toggle on sun controls to see how their project will experience daylight and shadows at any time of the day, any day of the year. Users can also turn on electric lights, assuming their Revit model incorporates fixtures and their layout, and access the BIM information of any object in their model while in Autodesk Live.

For those important client meetings, the objective of this software, the interactive experience can be shown in presenter mode, which hides the menus and toolbars, and exported for viewing in Microsoft Windows or on the iPad with the free Autodesk Live viewer app.

Previously known as Project Expo—Autodesk prefaces the titles of any beta software with “project”—Autodesk Live culminates the company’s 2015 updates to its rendering software 3ds Max and game engine Stingray. It is currently available at the introductory rate of $30 per month per user.

Autodesk is developing the program to support VR technologies, such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, according to the company’s press release.

The Autodesk Live viewer on Windows showing a model that has been edited in Stingray and then loaded back into Live.
Autodesk The Autodesk Live viewer on Windows showing a model that has been edited in Stingray and then loaded back into Live.