Autodesk is adding to its tool kit for XR professional workflows.
Autodesk has announced plans to buy The Wild, an XR platform company focused on the AEC market. The Wild includes its own cloud-connected XR product and also IrisVR, makers of the Prospect VR tool for AEC. The Wild has 700 customers worldwide across their two platforms, and their tools enable real-time collaboration in an immersive environment.
Autodesk CEO Andrew Anagnost summed up the deal’s value to Autodesk saying, “Our acquisition of The Wild reflects the rapid transformation taking place in the building industry, from the complexity of projects to the geographic diversity of teams who design, construct, and operate them.” Anagnost says XR is an important part of Autodesk’s Forge platform vision. Forge is Autodesk’s cloud-based developer platform.
In an interview with AEC Cafe, Nick Fonta, Autodesk’s general manager, XR division in Montreal, describes the deal as a talent acquisition as well as a technology acquisition. He points out that Autodesk has its own XR tools including VRED, a high-end visualization and rendering tool with support for XR that has a solid base in the automotive industry as well as support for XR in Fusion. Fonta says the tools in Prospect and from The Wild solve real problems in the AEC industry. He sees the deal as an opportunity for the Autodesk platform, including Forge, BIM 360, and Autodesk Construction Cloud, to be naturally extended into XR.
The Wild integrates with Revit, SketchUp, and BIM 360, and supports a range of headsets including the Meta Quest, HP Reverb, Pico Neo, and HTC Vive, as well as Apple AR tool kits, Macs, and PCs. Participants in an XR session can include a mix of people with headsets and desktop devices. It includes native sketching tools for review and ideation, support for speech to text, and support from BIM metadata in Revit.
For background, IrisVR was founded in 2014 by CTO Nate Beatty and CEO Shane Scranton for the AEC industry. The Wild, led by Gabe Paez, came on the scene in 2017, and the two companies competed until 2021, when they decided to unite and build on the obvious need for better collaboration tools for remote workers in AEC with the disruption of COVID and the rise of remote work.
The Wild describes its tools this way:
Prospect is a VR BIM coordination and design review tool for the building industry, which integrates with AEC design tools including Navisworks and Rhino.
The Wild provides VR and AR collaboration for teams through a shared virtual workspace. The Wild’s focus is on real-time collaborative workspaces across multiple platforms, while IrisVR provides BIM coordination workflows.
The obvious plus for Autodesk is that The Wild’s tools have been developed with an understanding of BIM workflows and specifically for Autodesk’s BIM tools. But Autodesk also believes that the deal is a plus for Autodesk’s ecosystem of third-party developers because it adds to the available tool set.
Autodesk has not revealed details of the deal, nor its plans for packaging these new tools.
What do we think?
This announcement comes on the heels of the AWE XR conference in Santa Clara, which starts June 1, and it highlights the importance of professional applications to the future of XR. After decades of booms and more busts, it’s still difficult to make a living in XR, but the professional sector now offers a path to the growth that is sustaining some companies.
Even before the pandemic propelled remote workflow tools into the mainstream of our work lives, the AEC industry was well on its way to embracing remote workflows, and specifically XR. Its value in connecting people on-site to all the stakeholders in a project was already obvious.
There have been professional XR tools like those of The Wild and IrisVR, including Varjo, VSpatial, and WorldViz, and they’ve advanced the development of XR in practical ways, but The Wild makes a strong case for specialization in a well-defined professional community like BIM.