Autodesk, one of the world’s largest platforms for digital content creation and visual effects (VFX), announced on Friday it had inked a deal to buy out extended reality (XR) firm The Wild along with the latter’s The Wild and IrisVR tools.
The Wild provides professionals in architecture, engineering, and construction (AEC) with collaborative, agile tools, working in interactive and immersive environments, at any location and time globally.
Autodesk’s acquisition would enable the San Rafael, California-based firm to tackle rising demand for virtual, augmented, and mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) technologies in the AEC industry and back its over 700 clients amid their project delivery lifecycles, the company said in a statement.
Learn more about this acquisition and Autodesk’s XR journey here: https://t.co/OnKfmhb9kF.
— Autodesk (@autodesk) March 24, 2022
Speaking to the media, Nick Fonta, General Manager for XR at Autodesk, said that he saw XR playing a “key role” by changing how people worked, leading to their accelerated digital transformation.
Autodesk also envisioned innovations such as professionals working seamlessly across traditional mobile and XR devices, using continuous access to “the latest data for their project” with automatic geolocation to manoeuvre between virtual and physical worlds.
Such experiences facilitated “better decisions in the shortest time,” regardless of user location, he said, adding Autodesk aimed to expand into the “make and operate worlds” with digital twins and the Metaverse, experienced in XR with mainstream, affordable, and comfortable devices, Fonta added.
Autodesk staff envisioned a future for XR where data interaction and project collaboration was fully revolutionised, allowing customers greater efficiency, creativity, and immersive access to data, he said.
He explained the acquisition to reporters, stating,
“To help us achieve this vision, we looked at build, buy, and partnering options [and] kept going back to The Wild for its interactive and immersive platform, including IrisVR, both widely known and used across the AEC industry. [The platform is] reliable and trusted, and led by a CEO who has a clear vision of the future and a shared vision for the future of XR”
Autodesk’s acquisition of The Wild and IrisVR would provide both “technology and talent” to its operations, Fonta explained, adding the assets would integrate into Autodesk’s existing tools.
Into The Wild
Responding, Gabe Paez, Founder and Chief Executive of The Wild, said the move was the “culmination now of over five years of work at The Wild” and the acquisition was “truly humbling” for his team as it integrated with Autodesk’s ecosystem.
Speaking further, Paez said the Portland, Oregon-based firm’s solution allowed people to manipulate environments with hand tracking tools in real-time “at the speed of thought, rather than the speed of construction.”
IrisVR’s immense capabilities provided coordination workflows, issue tracking, and explored information modelling (BIM) data, he explained, adding his company leveraged the data as an experience “rather than just trapping it behind a screen.”
He added The Wild’s products ran on Mac and Windows desktops, standalone and tethered VR headsets, AR-capable devices, among others, and aimed to “stitch together and integrate” workflows between data on Autodesk platforms such as Navisworks and Revit, creating a full XR experience.
Concluding, Paez said,
“It’s really a hub model where we’re trying to be at that centre of that workflow, and ultimately, like a workspace for our customers, rather than trying to recreate or reproduce any of the functionality of those Autodesk products, and that’s why we fit really nicely into the Autodesk ecosystem”
The Future of XR Collaboration
Brian Melton, Veteran Chief Technologist at Black & Veatch, explained how his firm began adopting The Wild and IrisVR for its workflows.
Black & Veatch has operated for over 100 years to develop innovative, sustainable infrastructure with a 9,000-strong workforce, Melton told reporters.
📽️ Watch 📽️
Providing clients with innovative sustainability solutions is what we do. #InvisibleInvaluable
— Black_Veatch (@Black_Veatch) March 23, 2022
Speaking on the need for collaborative VR tools, he added his firm was an early adopter of the technology and lauded The Wild and IrisVR’s native integration, adding,
“Simplifying the movement of data between design and VR to keep pace with change and design iteration was very important. We really gravitated towards the multi-user aspect. That collaborative approach to VR was was very beneficial and voice-to-text commenting — these things really created tangible value for us on our journey, and really did help us move the needle from something that was just cool to something that was useful for a business”
Black & Veatch received increasing values for customers as VR provided “unmatched” scale and presence within immersive spaces, leading to better feedback for teams and clients.
He concluded, stating,
“I think you know, looking ahead a little bit, I’m certainly looking to a future where we’ve got VR on everybody’s desk as an employee, just like a monitor and a keyboard. I think that future is probably coming. We’re certainly looking for opportunities to more formalise VR processes within the projects that we execute [which will] be something that helps us deliver projects successfully, but also stay connected as employees as a global company”
An increase in remote working in recent years led the company to explore new use cases for the technology, allowing teams and employees to stay connected, he said, citing high engagement levels while using Meta Platform’s Horizon Workrooms app.
Thoughts on The Metaverse
When asked by XR Today how Autodesk would promote interoperability across the XR ecosystem similarly to firms such as Qualcomm, Intel, and others, Fonta explained that his firm “absolutely” wanted to facilitate integration.
Fonta told XR Today,
“We have a strategy and a position to be more and more open in Autodesk, and it’s true from a software and partner standpoint as much as it is from a hardware standpoint”
He added Autodesk would aim to integrate with software firms and partners, as well as with many “valuable hardware” developers as possible for his company’s solutions.
Speaking on the Metaverse to reporters, Paez explained how the rising spatial communications platform could connect individuals across the world into shared spaces as well as ideas.
The Metaverse would also allow digital technologies to “live on our terms rather than us living on its terms” by facilitating more human, shared experiences, adding,
“It’s truly exciting the opportunities that can hold if we embrace this technology and find ways to allow it to make us better”
Melton added the Metaverse would create a lot of “positive disruption” on the content firms could provide, adding it was important to have both data and good interaction with data. VR headsets allowed users to interact with data in a more accessible manner compared to current trends, he added.
Fonta concluded by stating the Metaverse was about connecting data and people to break workflow silos and build “new novel and more efficient ways” to work, leading to transformative outcomes.
The news comes as the global XR industry increasingly adopts new solutions for enterprises, allowing workers greater access to cheaper, versatile, and agile remote collaboration solutions. Firms such as Meta, RealWear, Holo-Light, Taqtile, NextechAR, and many others have begun developing solutions to expand XR ecosystems and develop Metaverse platforms capable of facilitating the new digital frontier.