This week SIGGRAPH, an annual event focused on breakthroughs in computer graphics, artificial intelligence and simulation is taking place in Vancouver. While the event is usually packed with announcements of the latest research into visual effects, simulation and modeling, this year’s SIGGRAPH also comes with the announcement of a major new release of Omniverse, NVIDIA’s 3D development platform. This new release may signify that Omniverse has matured from an interesting side project to a major focus of future development - and comes with tie-ins to many existing software platforms.
Originally announced in 2020, Omniverse is destined to be a computing platform that is powered by cutting edge in computing power, simulation physics, and processing. It is built on the Universal Scene Description (USD) format, which was originally pioneered by Pixar for use in visual effects, but is emerging as a potential to be a unifying format for 3D assets in the metaverse. The aim of Omniverse is to provide a central place to develop “virtual worlds” which can mean anything from digital effect environments for gaming or media, to digital replicas of real-world locations, from scenes to buildings to cities and, in some cases, to the entire planet.
New Connections to 3D scanning and Digital Twin Tools
The announcement at SIGGRAPH includes new developer frameworks, tools and plugins for Omniverse, many of which will be familiar to those working in 3D across a variety of industries. Omniverse is already connected to many 3D development platforms, including a close collaboration with Bentley Systems’ iTwin platform. 3D scanning software Prevu3D also received a mention during the address for their recent adoption of the USD format.
Among the many companies contributing to and supporting USD are Adobe, Autodesk, Pixar and Siemens.
“Autodesk has been closely involved in the development of USD from its early inception as a means of standardizing the exchange of 3D data in animation and visual effects workflows,” said Raji Arasu, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Autodesk.
“We have long understood the importance of 3D interoperability and have already begun extending USD’s applications beyond media and entertainment to design, engineering and industrial applications. We are excited by the momentum behind USD from partners like NVIDIA, which we believe will help better realize the concept of the metaverse and all the workflows it unlocks for our customers.”
Connectors are also now available in beta for PTC Creo, Visual Components and SideFX Houdini, and new Omniverse Connectors are now in development for Unity, Blender, Autodesk Alias, Siemens JT, SimScale, the Open Geospatial Consortium and more. These new developments join Siemens Xcelerator, now part of the Omniverse network, welcoming more industrial customers into the era of digital twins.
Advancing the use of USD
To accelerate USD development and adoption, the company also announced the development of an open USD Compatibility Testing and Certification Suite that developers can freely use to test their USD builds and certify that they produce an expected result. The company is also providing hundreds of on-demand tutorials, documentation and developer tools to help spread USD education.
“Beyond media and entertainment, USD will give 3D artists, designers, developers and others the ability to work collaboratively across diverse workflows and applications as they build virtual worlds,” said Rev Lebaredian, vice president of Omniverse and simulation technology at NVIDIA.
During the special address, the company also announced a broad initiative to evolve the USD format to become the foundation of the “open metaverse”. While the “metaverse” part of this vision may still be many years away, there are practical ramifications for pursuing this course that may hit the ground sooner. These initiatives include support for geospatial coordinates that has the potential to enable city-scale and planetary-scale digital twins, as well as real-time streaming of IoT data that will enable the development of digital twins that are synchronized to the physical world.
“Working with our community of partners, we’re investing in USD so that it can serve as the foundation for architecture, manufacturing, robotics, engineering and many more domains,” added Lebaredian.