VR realism launched with full component control
Investigating the next generation of virtual reality experience, which has an application for the footwear industry.
In mid-2018, Ian Ravenshaw Bland and Charles Flückiger were discussing the possibility of creating a computer-generated virtual reality (VR) experience with representatives from a leading VR production studio. During the conversation, they learned just how much effort goes into creating a realistic-looking object and getting it to behave in the virtual world just as it does in its physical existence.
The object being discussed was an axe, which had taken two people no fewer than three weeks’ work to look good, to include the proper physics and to run smoothly in the scene. Seeing what was possible was described as a ‘Eureka moment’. This led to an idea – why not use computed tomography (CT) technology to scan physical three-dimensional (3D) objects and then convert them to digital 3D models?
In July of the following year, the SO REAL company was founded in Wabern bei Bern, Switzerland, with Ravenshaw Bland as chief executive and Flückiger becoming chief operating officer. Its declared mission is to provide global access to immersive experiences for virtual sampling, entertainment, education, art and cultural heritage, training and a variety of other applications. According to SO REAL, this technology will contribute to global economic recovery by making 3D and immersive eCommerce possible in the form of ‘vCommerce’ – virtual commerce.
Why use CT?
Between them, the SO REAL founders are said to have more than 50 years of experience in X-ray technology, and were instrumental in making 3D CT the ‘gold standard’ in the areas of airport security and non-destructive testing – mostly connected with the aerospace, automotive and electronics industries. Being aware of the speed and precision of CT, they saw huge potential in using this technology to create digital versions of physical objects.
SO REAL claims to be the first company to use CT scanning for the creation of digital ‘twins’ of physical products. As CT uses X-ray as its light source, it reportedly produces accurate models of a physical object. CT is often used for metrology (the scientific study of measurement), and this technology is being marketed as allowing all critical dimensions and volumes both inside and out to be taken without having to destroy the object under consideration. This has the potential for projects involving scanning, digitally segmenting and measuring shoes at various points in their lifecycles.
How it works
As mentioned, this innovation – which has a patent pending – can create a digital twin of any object. The project begins in the CT scanner, with data sent through the company’s ‘CT2VR’ software pipeline. This process produces photorealistic 3D digital twins (the ‘product’) ready to be implemented into virtual sampling, XR-experiences, eCommerce, virtual try-on apps and games – complete with metadata (such as materials parameters, part numbers, sustainability certifications and everything needed for simulations).
There are several versions of the SO REAL system. The simplest produces a photorealistic 3D model that can be used in an eCommerce shop’s web 3D viewer. This includes only what would be visible to the eye were a consumer to hold the physical object. At the other end of the spectrum is the most versatile version – the full digital twin – which the company has named ‘4D+’. This is described as a photorealistic model in which all components have been segmented and textured. It is said to include everything needed for interactivity in VR, mixed reality (MR) experiences and games.
Some of the key target markets for this technology include producers and retailers of footwear, bags and apparel. SO REAL works on the basis that fashion goes beyond perception to become a product of craftsmanship, expertise and premium materials. The company believes that brand owners need to interact with their customers by providing details that are both informative and attractive, and that when photorealistic 3D models are used, their customers are able to inspect, experience and interact with footwear and garments in the virtual world. Thus, they claim, fashion is allowed to speak for itself.
For designers or brand owners, conveying intricacy in a digital form can be a significant challenge. By using this CT technology, they are reportedly able to unveil the finest details of their products right down to the fibre structure. Intricate products can be digitally ‘taken apart’ to show every layer that contributes to the quality and expertise involved in their design and manufacture.
What are the possible areas of application for the fashion industry?
Product and supply chain optimisation via virtual sampling. Using virtual sampling, brand owners can explore designs and possible variations of their collections before mass production. There is no need to make a large number of examples of each model – perhaps even hundreds – when only one is required, after which it can be scanned, twinned, and sent as a digital version to all stakeholders. This reduces costs and is considerably more eco-friendly.
Media production. Brand owners can showcase their ranges with videos and, as previously indicated, they can segment their footwear and garments without touching them.
Cloud-based collaboration for digital asset development. This enables real-time feedback, optimisation and refinements before final product manufacturing.
Current modelling methods mostly consist of a developer manually building the object from scratch in 3D modelling software or from data generated via optical scanning methods such as ‘photogrammetry’ – described as ‘the science and technology of obtaining reliable information about physical objects and the environment through the process of recording, measuring and interpreting photographic images and patterns of electromagnetic radiant imagery and other phenomena’.
According to SO REAL, a whole shoe can be scanned within one hour, of which 40 minutes are spent on the scan and 20 minutes are required for processing. Batch processing is also possible, so that in theory it would take one hour to twin many different shoes at the same time.
This new technology is claimed to provide high-quality digital twins ten times faster and four times cheaper than current methods. SO REAL reports that 30 to 40 per cent automation has been achieved.
How can we help?
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss the application of this technology.
This article was originally published on page 38 of the September 2021 issue of SATRA Bulletin.