The jury agreed how Z Space and other technologies like it were about to alter 3d design forever. By enabling people to design in true three dimensions, the design process would become less abstract and thus more accessible to the untrained.
zSpace is a remarkable new 3D visualization tool that enables designers, engineers, and film makers to build, manipulate, and view objects in 3D. Unlike 3d TV, zSpace objects are created and displayed in 3D with CAD in real-time high-definition. Your creations float magically in front of you as you imagine, develop, change, spin around, and fly through them. Using a proprietary stereoscopic LCD display, trackable eyewear, and an interaction stylus, virtual objects appear “solid” in open space, with full color and high resolution.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
We had several challenges:
- Integrate many finicky pieces of technology that made this system work, especially two head tracking cameras (tells computer what you see), and two stylus tracking cameras (tells computer exactly where the stylus is and how it is moving). We also had to incorporate a 24″ stereoscopic display and several computer boards. This all needed to be packaged as efficiently as possible.
- Because zSpace was a brand new experience, and the interaction between user and machine was much more dynamic, the ergonomic challenge was formidable. All operation sequences, interaction elements, and pain points needed to be understood and solved.
- Our challenge was to package this magic in a great design, with aesthetics and functionality that could cater to professional design and engineering, even military surveillance needs.
When we first saw this technology we were blown away. High definition holographic objects floated in front of us and we could manipulate them completely. It was a designer’s dream. CAD came alive and felt so immersive, no longer limited by a 2D interface on a flat screen. We needed to invent a new form factor for such a unique set of problems. We also recognized that since zSpace was to be the foundation of a new virtual environment, it needed to seamlessly integrate with the operator’s environment. It needed to be easy to understand, foolproof, and not distracting when its virtual 3D workspace was active.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Function, technology, and optics drove much of the design. From the beginning we were posed with a multi-layered challenge requiring a configuration of an ever-changing bundle of components into an efficient package. We conducted numerous human factors studies where functional elements of the zSpace system were positioned in a way that they would be most effective for 5th to 95th percentile users. These mockups were made with working components of the zSpace system, positioned in sweet-spot areas in common human factor ranges, and were used to test our theories. Functional camera and sensor configurations were positioned in most optimal viewing windows for head and stylus-tracking optics.
We were able to determine that 2 infrared head-tracking cameras would be needed; that their position in the center top of the device would allow for a large range of viewability, precision (data from both cameras is compiled), and redundancy (should one of the cameras’ view become obstructed). We also learned that these cameras only needed to view a specific spectrum, which allowed them to be hidden underneath an infrared-transmissive cover. As a result, the user need not be bombarded with the presence of optics. Two additional cameras were positioned in the top corners; to track the stylus position over the display, providing a fail-safe should one camera become obstructed. These cameras needed to view more spectrums of light to work, so we chose to leave their lenses exposed.
Returning to our human factors studies, we also addressed that the 3-dimensional effect was greatly influenced by the angel of the display. Initially, we knew that some test subjects preferred a display positioned flat on a desk, and that Infinite Z had indicated that a small group of its potential market would request the device to be wall mountable. However in our studies, we discovered that realistic 3-dimensional depth perception is greatly influenced by the angle of the display. When properly positioned, the field of view increased and images appeared to recede infinitely into the display, creating a “virtual environment”. We found that sitting users preferred a 30 degree display, while most standing users preferred the display at 15 degrees. These positions essentially made objects look like they were floating above and inside the screen. Rather than recommending an infinitely adjustable kickstand, which would have posed a number of ongoing calibration issues between the software and the position of the 4 optics, we simply recommended 2 kickstands to address our findings that two display angles would address the needs of the majority users, while keeping a secure and fixed position for the display. We included VESA standard mounting holes on the back for wall mount as well.
Next, we developed a form and its details to make all these adjustable features easy to access and use. We made the frame soft and friendly, and appropriately contoured to package the various position specific components. All of these features needed to cater to the needs of professionals, where little to zero user fatigue was a must.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
zSpace enables designers, engineers and film makers to create more effectively and realistically than ever before. This new experience and technology warranted a new type of design unlike anything prior. It is paradigm shifting in the CAD industry, because the user is no longer limited in their interaction with CAD via flat displays, mice, and keyboards; only connected to the CAD model via command lines and menu navigation. With zSpace, the user simply uses a stylus to interact directly with a virtual 3D representation of their design. It’s as simple as that!
In fact, much of the industrial design of zSpace was created using a prototype zSpace system!
zSpace works in conjunction with an ever-growing base of 3D CAD software packages including Solidworks, Alias Design and Maya… the leading software packages for engineering, design, and architecture professions. We worked hand-in-hand with the Infinite Z, a team composed of CAD system pioneers, professional animators, and experts in 3D display technologies. Thus, we gained ongoing professional insight and usability analysis through every step of the design development process.
Perhaps the most excellent thing about the zSpace design is that it never gets in the way of the user’s experience. It supports and enhances the experience because it is low profile, understated, functional, comfortable, and clean. The end result is that engineers and designers can work more intimately with their CAD projects, and in-turn, more efficiently.
Every once in a while a product comes along that changes the game. zSpace does just that.