Bloom Unit brings real-time photorealism and collaboration to SketchUp 3D models

Former Mental Images technology drives the ability to send live rendering to any connected device.

Bloom Unit launches next month as a plug in for SketchUp, offering interactive photo-realistic model rendering in real time using cloud computing. The rendering can be shared with any device on the Internet through a browser; a copy of SketchUp on the viewing end is not required.

Bloom Unit comes with an extensive illumination and materials library. (Source: Migenius)

Bloom Unit offers the ability for a designer in her office, for example, to show a client at home on an iPad the latest version of an architectural model. The connection starts by the designer sending an email to the remote viewer, providing a link which opens a web viewing session. If the client suggests a change, such as a material or color, the results can be viewed as fast as the designer makes the change in SketchUp. The remote viewer may mark up the rendering, which displays on the sender’s screen. The short video embedded below shows an example of Bloom Unit technology in use.

An example of using Bloom Unit with SketchUp, to show an architectural plan to a remote client. (Source: Migenius)

The technology is based on RealityServer and iRay rendering technology, originally created by the Mental Images unit of Nvidia. Bloom Unit is a product of Migenius, an Australian company which acquired the business and development rights to Reality Server in 2011. Nvidia continues to develop the underlying rendering framework technology used by RealityServer, including iRay. Bloom Unit is the first of several new products Migenius plans to develop, while also continuing to support other Reality Server customers from the Nvidia era.

Paul Arden, Migenius CEO, was the CTO of Luminova, a lighting technology vendor acquired in 2007 by Mental Images. Arden says he is excited to bring the physical correctness of iRay’s lighting technology, delivered by RealityServer, to the large body of SketchUp users. “This is more about decision making, not about final rendering,” Arden says, although the technology can be used to create a final “baked” rendered image.

Multiple remote users can participate in a review session. Only the host needs a copy of SketchUp or a Bloom Unit license. (Source: Migenius)

For an initial purchase of $300, Bloom Unit users will have 200 light fittings, 200 materials, and 10 hours of cloud time for streaming rendering and collaboration. When the customer uses up the initial hours, additional time is $10/hour.

The demonstration I saw at the Nvidia GTC Conference showed Bloom Unit running from a copy of SketchUp on an Intel-based netbook computer from Lenovo equipped with an Nvidia Ion graphics processor, with a live connection made to an iPad via an emailed link. In between the two was Bloom Unit’s RealityServer technology, running from an Amazon EC2 cloud server equipped with two Tesla M2050 GPUs. The connection was fast, despite both ends sitting in a convention center filled with attendees maxing out the available bandwidth. When Bloom Unit ships, the specific cloud service in use will be invisible to the end user, and may not necessarily be Amazon EC2.

In addition to realistic rendering, Bloom Unit can generate light analysis studies. (Source: Migenius)

Proving the concept

When Migenius took over RealityServer operations, they needed a proof of concept. What better than a free 3D CAD tool in the hands of 2 million active users? This could be the start of a mutually beneficial relationship between Migenius and SketchUp, which is currently being acquired from Google by Trimble. As Trimble adds SketchUp to its emerging BIM portfolio, Bloom Unit can tag along as the lighting and collaboration solution. While other final rendering solutions exist for SketchUp, they generate a final image using only a CPU; none offer the live remote sharing and GPU-fortified rendering of Bloom Unit.

With the initial price for use of $300 Bloom Unit could pay for itself in one project.

Bloom Unit is a physically correct rendering solution, which can take a wide variety of light factors into consideration, including daylight. (Source: Migenius)