Wayfinding at a time of a pandemic

April 3, 2020

We are facing a global public health crisis that is unprecedented. The effects of this event will have long term consequences in the social, economic, political and technological spheres. I have no doubt that we will emerge from these hard times sooner or later. It is up to us as individuals, workers and leaders to make sure that we learn from our past mistakes. Using wayfinding at a time of a pandemic can be a way to reduce human contact and to save lives.

Staying safe in these trying times

COVID-19 spreads through small respiratory droplets produced when people breathe, speak or cough. The virus isn’t airborne per se, but standing close to someone that is infected is dangerous. The best way to curb the spread of the virus is social distancing, washing your hands regularly and not touching your face with your hands.

How 3D wayfinder mobile app solutions can make user safe in pandemic time!

Many countries and enterprises have enacted measures to limit people’s movement and contact with varying results. People in the most affected areas like Europe and China are advised to stay home as much as possible. This in return means that e-commerce is booming. Everything from toilet paper and food to spare parts for machines are ordered online. Yet there are some instances where leaving the house is unavoidable.

Reducing risk through 3D Wayfinder solutions

You might need to visit the doctor in person, conduct business that might not be safe to do online or buy something essential that just isn’t available online. Making sure that these kinds of interactions are safe for everybody involved is of the utmost of importance. Using 3D Wayfinding solutions can be a useful tool in this regard and can make a small difference.

Using large screens or kiosks to guide people through buildings is an obvious way to reduce human contact. Although using kiosks should be done with caution, as it is a possible point of spreading the virus, so proper hygiene must be applied. Having an online version or a mobile app with a 3D model of the building, that tells people which corridors to use or where to find certain services saves time and is safer.

In addition to wayfinding, there are many ways to integrate other features into your solution to keep people safe. A mobile application used by a firm’s employees is a good way to communicate and to give urgent information to everybody or to specific people. For example, in case of a fire, it is possible to show people the safest route to evacuate. Or you might need to remotely lock certain doors or shut down electricity . This is also possible to integrate into your unique solution.

It is quite certain that this won’t be the last time that we face a global pandemic that requires social distancing to stay safe. Now is definitely the best time to think about your employees’ and customers’ safety and invest in it. Customers will undoubtedly recognize and gravitate towards companies that value their health. Using wayfinding at a time of a pandemic and beyond will be a worthy investment.

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3D Wayfinder had guests from Tartu Art school

October 2, 2017

Our office was really crowded last week when we had visitors from Tartu Art School. More than 20 people who have just started their studies to become 3D modellers.

uus

Tartu Art School is the only school in Estonia that teaches 3D modelling and visualization as a vocation. As a part of their curriculum the students visit different companies to see how their skills could be used in the future.

Since 3D models have such a big part in our work, it is also important for us to introduce our company to potential future employees or users of our app.

photo_2017-10-02_11-59-01 visitors

So we talked about what we do and how we do it and how students could use our product. 3D Wayfinder is currently used for mostly way-finding applications. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t be used in variety of cases. It’s also perfect for presenting architectural models or – why not – make a virtual art gallery.

It is interesting and useful for us to see what kind of applications the students can find for 3D Wayfinder. So we can make it more flexible and beneficial for a wider range of customers.

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Creating BIM Applications with 3D Wayfinder

June 15, 2017

3D Wayfinder is now being used for Building Information Model (BIM) applications. By creating BIM kiosk software for Estonian National Museum we have added many new and useful features to our software and improved the performance for larger models.

Estonian State Real Estate Ltd ordered Building Information Model solution from us for recently opened Estonian National Museum. Now the visitors can easily explore the 3D model of the whole construction. Also they get the overview of the building by all the details.

erm2016

What is BIM applications?

BIM model is a digital equivalent of the building. It can contain everything from doors to electric fixtures. Although BIM applications technology and methodology is more common in the design of the building. It has large potential benefits for buildings management and maintenance phase.

Estonian National Museum’s new building is meant both for exhibitions and scientific work with net area of 33 879 square meters. We received a model of a building made with Revit, Autodesk software for BIM. It contained highly detailed information – e.g. all the pipes – so it needed a lots of simplifying.

erm_wayfinder_BIM

After the adaptations we still had a huge file with close to 12 000 separate elements. It is the largest model we have had in 3D Wayfinder. It was also the reason why we changed the logic of initializing POI data to make the loading of large objects faster.

Table view for all objects in BIM model was done by using Spreadcell. Spreadcell has easy upload from MS Excel files and it provides table-view, sorting etc by webservices (in JSON format). All the objects are divided into separate groups so the final user can choose what do they want to see, hide or find.

ERM_wayfinder_BIM

Kiosk design

We also built and designed the kiosk from scratch. Since most of the modern kiosk hardware is only enough for showing advertisements or 2D wayfinding plans. The kiosk is equipped with a landscape LCD screen, a touch panel and a dedicated graphics card. It makes kiosk suitable for applications that require greater graphical computing capabilities.

ERM_BIM_kiosk

3D Wayfinder application helps to make BIM useful for those who have no access to specific softwares themselves. For example we can integrate BIM with different management softwares. Also add the ability to write comments. In this way we make it easier for different parties to collaborate on centrally shared model.

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Guidelines for creating 3D models

June 14, 2016

We have listed some guidelines for creating 3D models, that look nice and run smoothly in web-browsers. 

3D Wayfinder uses regular 3D models, so there is no special format or way how the 3D floorplans should be modeled. As 3D Wayfinder works in web-browsers through WebGL technology, then in order to get better results the 3D models should be optimized. Read below for some useful tips and tricks on optimizing 3D models for the best performance.

For example keep the 3D geometry simple and use textures, that can be repeated:

Guidelines_for_creating_3D_models_repeating_texture

An important element of 3D floorplans are different kinds of vegetation (trees, bushes etc.). They help to make the floorplans look more life-like and in some cases are also important for navigating on the map. It is easy to use transparent textures on the simple planes, just never model out the leaves or branches:

Guidelines_for_creating_3D_models_transparent_PNG_texture

With 3D it is possible to create really life-like buildings, but when using 3D for maps, it is always good to keep the models simpler. For this we suggest removing un-important furniture and making the walls as low as possible without losing the general idea of the height of the room. This way the visibility of the visualized path is far greater.

Guidelines_for_creating_3D_models_lower_walls

You find the full list of guidelines for creating 3D models are added 3D Wayfinder page here.

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Separating materials from geometry

June 7, 2016

Until now all the materials in 3D Wayfinder have been replaced with each 3D model update. Now it is possible to keep the materials and their attributes’ values. This will save a lot of time, when creating a nice-looking 3D wayfinding application. See how to separating materials from geometry.

Separating_materials_from_geometry_in_3D_Wayfinder_software

We have added a small feature to our 3D model converter. That enables to replace the 3D models without overwriting the materials. This means, that all the changes that were made in 3D Wayfinder for the purpose of tuning materials, are not lost when replacing 3D models. See it in user manual.

3D modelling software packages are different and the way 3D models are exported also varies. In most cases you need to change the color of the materials (diffuse and ambient color). After the creation of the model to get good looking 3D floor plans. We are now supporting specular shader, transparency etc. that might not come directly from the converted models. All these material attributes can be changed in 3D Wayfinder, but these values were replaced each time the geometry was updated. Now there is the option to keep the materials and their values, when replacing the 3D model.

At the same time we have added ambient attributes to each material when uploading the 3D model for the first time or when replacing the model. So there is no need to enter the “ambient” attribute anymore, just change the color.

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Exporting 3D models from 3ds MAX

February 5, 2016

3ds Max models cannot be used directly in 3D Wayfinder, as .max format is closed file format and our importer doesn’t support it. But exporting 3D models from Max is not complicated.

3D Wayfinder supports following formats for 3D models: .fbx, .dae, .lwo, .obj and .3ds. But as we are using ASSIMP for model converting it is possible to try also other formats. With 3ds Max, we recommend to use  .fbx or .dae formats.

To exporting 3D models from Max follow these instructions:

1. When exporting models always select what You want to export and then “export – export selected”.

export_3ds_max_selected

2. Set proper export settings.

If You want to export .fbx use these settings on the picture:

fbx_export_from_3ds_max

Pay attention that “triangulate” has to be selected and up axis is “Y-up”. Otherwise the 3D model will be flipped in 3D Wayfinder.

If You are exporting .dae then use only OpenCOLLADA exporter and these settings:

export_dae_from_3ds_max

There are some minor differences with .dae and .fbx files. You just have to test, what suites better. All the materials can be tuned in 3D Wayfinder Administration panel (see the tutorial), so you don’t have to worry about ambient colors, transparency or other material properties.

We recommend that the whole building should not have more than 100 000 polygons. For kiosk applications (where it is possible to use better GPU-s) you can also have much larger models.

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Preview of inserting external 3D models to floor plans

June 17, 2015

Currently we are developing features to insert external 3D models to floor plans. With this it would be possible to add these “little details” (like escalators, benches, trees or even cars). That make the floor-plans look realistic. The best thing is, that it doesn’t require any 3D modelling skills. So all our users can detail the floor plans by themselves.

3D object library can be opened in Editor window with object thumbnails:

3D_wayfinder_add_3D_models_from_library_to_add_3D_models_to_floor_plans

Added objects appear on the 3D scene. The good part here is, that the same model can be used inside the scene many times. Therefore it doesn’t increase the downloadable model sizes as each model will be loaded only once.

3D_wayfinder_add_3D_models_to_scene

3D models to floor plans can be resized and moved inside the 3D Wayfinder.

3D_wayfinder_add_3D_models_rotate

With external 3D models. We will definitely provide common library of models we are using to detail the floor plans. For example these will include trees, cars, different indoor plants, escalators, tables, stairs and so on. See our user manual.

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