All about our software developer journey

Category: Events

Forma Hackathon 2024

Last week, the first Autodesk Forma hackathon was organized.

Charles and I had already met some folks from the Forma team during DevCon 2023 in Munich, and then again during AU in Las Vegas. We were encouraged to test Forma as developers and were asked to try creating extensions and provide feedback on the SDK.

Unfortunately, we were very busy with our daily work towards the end of the year and did not have time to delve into this product.

This event provided a real opportunity for us to dedicate time to Forma with the assistance of the engineering team.

The event kicked off at 9 am, and we were then all invited to pitch our ideas. Ours was quite simple – “Make Augmented Reality from Forma”.

After some discussions with familiar Autodesk faces, we began our work.

A few days before the event, I started reading the documentation and discovered from one of the examples that we were able to get triangles from the elements. That was our starting point, but after some discussions with the engineering team, they convinced us to use the Forma API – which allowed us to access the data without using an extension – and thus without opening the Forma web page.

We decided to give it a try and began making API requests to extract Forma data. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that this API was still new and needed some tips/hacks to obtain certain values.

Our biggest challenge, however, was not only competing against great teams but also against time. While we could accomplish a lot in two days, with introductions, breaks, discussions, setup, and preparation of materials for the presentation, we realistically only had about 5-10 hours of actual coding time.

Discovering the API, parsing responses, and creating recursive functions is not very complicated but can be quite time-consuming. In this case, we were not sure if we would be able to achieve our goals by the end.

Returning to our initial approach, we quickly set up a Forma extension, and with a few lines of code, we were able to retrieve the geometry of our buildings. With a basic websocket server, we could then send this data to other clients.

Next, we created a fresh Unity project – our game engine of choice for easily prototyping and developing AR apps – and added a websocket client to receive our data.

Unity is very useful for creating augmented reality apps. With the help of the ARFoundation package, we only needed to drag the necessary components into the scene to have an AR app that we could deploy on our iPad.

Now came the trickiest part: model placement. Usually, we work with markers or detected plane intersections to establish a real-world origin. However, for this example, we decided to use geolocation (the accuracy should be sufficient for this use case).

This part involved two different steps:

  1. Converting the GPS coordinates of the model to placed and the device to Cartesian coordinates.
  2. Finding the true north of the device to orient the model.

Because we were working inside the building, we did not have easy access to the outdoors, and our GPS data were not perfect. Also, due to the time limit, we streamlined this process a bit and assumed the orientation, for example, by placing the device in the right position at launch.

In any case, our presentation and work impressed the judges, and we were one of the three winners (which was amusing for us as we weren’t sure if we would even compete!).

Our source code is publicly available here:

Our presentation slides are also available here:!Anrq2_ANoVNNjP0QKUYY9PdwVxhapQ?e=2Ijl0o

We concluded the hackathon with a drink and took the opportunity to have further discussions.

Thank you to all the Forma team for organizing this event. We were very pleased to participate in this hackathon and would like to express special thanks Daniel and Håvard.

We were also happy to see Kean, Petr and Denis. I took the opportunity to chat with them about some APS-related questions.

Our return flight was on Thursday evening, so we had some time to visit Oslo.

Olso bay view from Akershus fortress

We found a boat leaving just 10 minutes later for a 2-hour cruise, which was a great opportunity to see Oslo’s surroundings and gain a different perspective.

As avid lovers of French cuisine, we were a little disappointed to limit ourselves to Norwegian food such as pizza and sushi, so we sought out a local meal. We found a great restaurant focused on seafood.

Delicious fish and vegetables meal

It was already time to fly back to Nantes and return to our projects.

One last picture under the snow!

Laval Virtual 2023

Working on Extended Reality since 2017, it would be a shame to miss one of the best European event about XR.

The last time I participated in this event was in 2019 and it was held in a different place which was located in the center of Laval and was not very easily accessible. Since 2021, they have been using the pretty new Espace Mayenne which is really great for this kind of event.

I started my day with a quick tour to get a big picture of the whole place. My main expectation was to discover new devices as there is such a gap with my 2018’s headsets. It was really great to see how these VR devices were improved – more comfortable, very lightweight, without cable or PC connection. But the real improvement is the video passthrough capability and tracking that allow now to do impressive AR experience with opaque headset. Accurate tracking, a good image frame rate and a nice stability are what we expect from those.

I have been following for many months the development of the Lynx R1 which is a new French manufacturer. There was a lot of people waiting to try this new mixed reality headset, but I managed to test it. Even though it is very comfortable, I was a little disappointed about the video passthrough fluidity which was a little bit laggy. I know that this kind of event is not the best condition for this kind of experience and software development can be really optimized but compared to others devices that I had the chance to try, it still needs some work to improve and become a strong competitor.

I visited myxed booth to see some friends and had the opportunity to try the Varjo XR3 with a nice airplane configurator experience. The quality and hand tracking is so impressive, but as it is VR PC, it is hard to compare with standalone devices.

Trying the Varjo XR3 at another booth with a different experience confirmed that this headset can be very good on specific use cases.

Microsoft was hosting some of its Hololens 2 partners who were presenting their solutions for industry. I was familiar with these applications as I also developed a complete HL2 solution for one of our customers.

It’s very impressive that despite people criticizing HL for its weaknesses – such as the limited field of view – it is still very competitive with actual devices, even if HL2 has been released 3 years ago !

There was so many people trying to test the haptic gloves from Haptx which allow you to add pretty convincing feedback in the hands and forearms to the VR experience. Nevertheless, it requires a huge backpack equipment plus the gloves which can reduce the applications of this purpose.

Manus was presenting their high precision tracking gloves. The Quantum Metagloves rely on sensors rather than vision to perform hand tracking, resulting in a unique experience. But I think that the required time to put on and calibrate the gloves will limit applications.

Interactive model synchronized with the associated digital twin

I finished my day with the excellent RectoVerso exhibition, which combines art with XR technologies.

Attending the Laval Virtual was a great experience once again. It was exciting to see how much the XR industry has evolved since my last visit, and to try out the latest VR and AR devices. I enjoyed meeting customers and professionals from the XR community, and learning about their innovative projects and applications. The event provided valuable insights and inspiration for my own work in XR.

I am already looking forward to next year’s event, where I hope to see even more cutting-edge technologies and applications.

BIM World 2023

Every year, BIM World event is kind of unmissable. 2h hours of train make this travel pretty easy – even with the social movements of the day, which did not affect us by the way.

Since 2019, BIM World is held at Paris Expo – Porte de Versailles which is the biggest exhibiting centre in France and recognizable by his central ring of screens.

After a complete tour of the show to see most of the exhibitors, we went to the Autodesk booth. We were happy to discuss with some “Autodeskers” about APS and products news.

We attended some great presentations around the show.

After this first day, we were invited to the “Soirée de l’Excellence” organized by Autodesk. It took place in a beautiful room near the BIMWorld, where we had a fantastic view on Paris at night.

We attended to four talks. Starting with the future of technologies in AEC, where we had a great preview of the way AI can be more integrated into current software. Followed by two different cases about train tracks construction and train station building.

Then, for the second time of the day we followed the vision of XR presentation, from the current VR products to the new developments on their roadmap.

We spent our second day discussing with some acquaintances and customers. As usual, for us the greatest value added of this event is to strengthen relationships with people we already know or have not met in person.

The focus was made on digital twins and sustainability and we were a little disappointed about the lack of great innovation of some exhibitors on these subjects compared to the previous years.

But at least some of them are trying to attract people on their booth with childhood references !

This week, there is the Laval Virtual event which is dedicated to VR / AR. I will be there on Thursday and I will give you my thought about it.

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