1 of 6
Olympic Park, Munich
Olympic Park in Munich played host to RTT EXCITE 2014.
2 of 6
One of the real driving experience simulations at RTT Excite.
3 of 6
A realistic 3D visual simulation of the interior of an aircraft.
4 of 6
The entrance to RTT Excite.
5 of 6
3DEXCITE CEO Roberto Schettler and Executive Vice-President of Corporate Strategy, Industry and Marketing at Dassault Systèmes Monica Menghini.
6 of 6
Light projection technology used on a white Mercedes.
After making my way via, taxi, Lufthansa, and the S and U-Bahn to Olympiazentrum station on the fringes of the Olympic Park in Munich, I was on the last leg of my journey to RTT Excite. As a first-timer, and as a journalist with no special expertise in software, I had come as prepared as I could be.
The walk through the park - although a touch longer than anticipated - is a fantastic way to begin and end a day at an event such as this. The green and grey landscape, although still tinged with the memory of the terrible events of 1972, remains a serene oasis in the Bavarian capital and served to contrast the dimly-lit riot of light, sound and technology that awaited inside the Event Centre.
RTT Excite does events well. As any journalist will tell you, a constant supply of complimentary drinks and snacks will score you points, but of course it is the content of these events that really must pass the test. And this line up did not disappoint. Speakers representing massive international brands like Lamborghini and Vans were there, as well as the likes of David Simon, the conceptual designer whose presentation I already had the pleasure of watching at Develop 3D Live this year, and luminaries from great institutions such as Cornell University and the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).
Of course this year's RTT Excite was a particularly special event because it marked the company's acquisition by Dassault Systèmes, the 3DEXPERIENCE company, and the subsequent rebranding of RTT to 3DXCITE.
We were welcomed by 3DEXCITE CEO Roberto Schettler and Executive Vice-President of Corporate Strategy, Industry and Marketing at Dassault Systèmes Monica Menghini on the main stage before being given the freedom to roam the halls. One of the most eye-catching displays on show was an example of using 3D visualisation technology to project light and imagery onto 3D objects, with Dassault Systèmes software carefully shaping the light so the image shone on the inanimate object appears as intended and not distorted by the object's geometry. The object in question was a stark white Mercedes that received much attention for the duration of the two-day event.
Driving a car before it's been built
Automotive applications remain 3DXCITE's single largest market, with aerospace, fashion and lifestyle goods coming as runners up. In his audience with the press, Schettler heralded the change in branding to "enable the company to move forward into a new chapter" and indicated that joining forces with Dassault Systèmes would help the company to penetrate other marketplaces, such as furniture design, engineering, industrial goods and white goods.
"The 3D master model, made in virtual reality, can be used for many different things. You can drive a car before it's been built, but not like you drive a car in a videogame. You can really test the brakes and the whole experience," he continued. "We don't think we're at the end of what can be done and with the acquisition we see a bigger activity in front of us."
Schettler explained that the company's visualisation software has continued to advance and placed particular emphasis on the reflections these programs can now apply to renders, with the lighting on a virtual bonnet picking out every surface and contour as though it was really speeding down the autobahn, perfectly simulating the nuances of that light according to the varying conditions of cloud coverage and time of day.
Menghini added to Schettler's speech by stating: "Aesthetics are one of the most important things we as consumers have as an impression on a product. That's why 3DXCITE has become part of [our] platform. It takes the consumer experience into a new brief. The platform goes beyond PLM ... 3DXCITE is a new brand but the past expertise from RTT will be coming with it."
She said the partnership between 3DXCITE and Dassault Systèmes will "help us become more mainstream".
Just the beginning
After a detailed tour of the exhibition floor, in which live demonstrations of sophisticated systems such as a vivid 3D walk-through experience of a virtual airline cabin were given, I found a seat in the main lecture theatre in time for Mallie Clark of Gulfstream Aerospace's talk 'Private Business Jets - Poised for Style'. The company uses virtual prototyping to help customers decide the configuration of their private jets, enabling them to choose anything from the carpeting to the seat configurations.
"Virtual prototyping has allowed use to do this quickly and for us, this is just the beginning," Clark stated.
His presentation was followed by Vans' Designer, Innovation and Advanced Projects specialist Tinnie Choi, standing in for Safir Bellali who was grounded stateside due to a fire at his Chicago airport. Tinnie revealed that prototyping physical trainers is time consuming and inefficient in terms of both money and environmental waste, which is why visual prototyping plays such a crucial role in the Vans production process. The company can only now use 3D prototyping software because it has reached such levels of accuracy and with thanks to innovative lighting and reflecting features on these high-accuracy programs, it can sometimes be tricky to tell the real shoe apart from the virtual one.
"All the detail people have come to expect makes it hard to realise whether it's a rendering or a real shoe," Choi stated, continuing onto how 3D visualisation programs are also used to help Vans decide on how to display their shoes and compile marketing materials.
Next followed two presentations less relevant to TCT Magazine, this is not because they were not unexciting or uninformative, but one I had already seen and the other did not seem to chime with the overall theme of 3D visualisation and utilising 3D design software. Although I enjoyed Adam Roth of the Council of Fashion Designers of America's presentation as a civilian with a vague interest in the industry alluded to in the September Issue, it was not relevant to the vast majority of journalists in the audience who had come to witness a presentation about the CFDA's innovative use of technology in fashion.
It was a pleasure to just sit and watch concept designer Daniel Simon's presentation, after scribbling and tweeting through it at Develop3D Live back in April. The auditorium was packed as Simon took us through his adventures designing the dragonfly helicopter for Oblivion with Tom Cruise, and then onto his pet project The Timeless Racer and his 3D design process behind these visual feasts for the eyes.
That night RTT Excite spoiled attendees with a night of free-flowing refreshments and good music at the lovely Parkcafé venue on the outskirts of one of Munich's numerous manicured green spaces. In preparation for the morning after, we were greeted (after a complimentary breakfast at our excellent hotel) with weisswurst, pretzels and endless fountains of coffee. The Germans know how to ease delegates into the day after a night of enjoying one of the their most famous exports.
"It's not about the product any more"
My last hours at the event began with informative presentations from Jan Meseth and Markus Lang from 3DXCITE discussing rendering with STELLAR and Nissan's Dennis Malone's speech on the evolution of digital quality rendering improvements in automotive. I was particularly interested in Capgemini's Kai Grambow and Andreas Leiting's presentation 'Cars Online 2014: Generations Connected', which talked the audience through Capemini's research into delivering business and technical solutions addressing key changes and opportunities in the market. One of the findings revealed was the significance of realistic rendering, again utilising new reflective 3D visualisation technology to create life-like designs of finished cars.
"It's not about the product any more," said Grambow. "It's about the customer. [It's] very, very important putting the customer experience in everything we do. We care about him (the customer) and lead him in being a part of the buying and enjoying experience."
After my final walk through Olympic Park, I boarded my train to the airport and watched the traffic glide alongside the S-Bahn for a while. I realised I was watching the sun's reflection on the cars as we went and it occurred to me how harnessing such an easy-to-overlook detail really can make something look real.