Crescendo architects virtually

Crescendo Design, an architecture firm based in Madison, Wisconsin, is doing some innovative work in virtual worlds, using the OpenSim offspring RealXtend.


Image courtesy of Crescendo Designs.

“The virtual experience isn’t right for every client, but for those who are more tech-savvy and have newer computers, the virtual experience can provide an invaluable means of understanding design ideas before construction starts,” said Jon Brouchoud in a recent post on his corporate blog. We’ve spoken to Brouchoud before, for the article Do you need a virtual world?

According to Brouchoud, clients can walk through a virtual representation of the home, see what the furniture and appliances and landscaping will look like.

“Clients can even give friends and family access to their virtual home, to hear their feedback on the design,” he said. ” For example, if you’re building a new home  in Wisconsin, but have family in Australia you want to share the design with – you can provide them log-in information.”

Brouchoud said that clients can even request changes to the home during the walk-through, and the changes can be made in real time.

“The virtual model works great for testing out material choices, paint colors and eventually even landscaping options and furniture layouts,” he said.

In fact, the tools used for making the changes are simple enough that clients can use them themselves to make changes — to change the colors or positions of objects, for example.

Check out the video below for an example of what a walk-through of a virtual house looks like.

Unlike OpenSim, RealXtend natively supports the importation of objects from architectural design software and from 3D collections such as the Google 3D Warehouse. These objects — known as “mesh” objects, as opposed to the prim-based objects used in OpenSim and Second Life — are common in computer aided design (CAD) applications and in most modern video games, since they offer greater flexibity in designing objects.

However, standard OpenSim and Second Life browsers don’t display mesh objects. In practice, what this means is that you can take a RealXtend browser and visit any world built either on the RealXtend platform, the OpenSim platform, or Second Life. But you can’t use a Second Life/OpenSim browser to visit a RealXtend world. This can be a hindrance for businesses looking for maximum compatibility.

However, in some cases the benefits outweight the disadvantages — such as when Crescendo uses these virtual worlds to do walk-throughs with customers.'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

5 Responses

  1.' Steve Nelson says:

    Another serious limitation of RealXtend is that it runs on Windows only, whereas OpenSim and Second Life also run on Macintosh and Linux, much more in line with the platform-neutral Web.

  2. Whatever is the rationale behind the NO-MESH policy of Second Life, I think that it is SL's biggest flaw. Eventually SL will either have to accept mesh import or die. That is a shame, because I have invested heavily into the prim-based business. So let us hope that SL with NO-MESH prevails for as long as possible. Still, with these sunrise technologies, the dominant market leader can change within a few months – technology and early design decisions are what makes the difference.

    With regards to Windows, most users worldwide are Windows users, so a Windows-only virtual platform can become the dominant one without the help of Mac and Linux users. Those can continue happily with SL/OS.

    I like the shadows. There are no shadows in the SL Viewer, aren't there? They are a big deal. If it can be done in games, it can be done in sims to.

  3. "These objects — known as “mesh” objects, as opposed to the prim-based objects used in OpenSim and Second Life"

    Poorly written. Very poorly written. Shame. On. You.

    "Prim objects" *ARE* "mesh objects". Prim is shorthand for PRIMITIVE as in primitive SHAPES. (Yes, you do know them: cube, cone, cylinder, etcetera.) As for mesh-level control the best Linden Lab offers natively is that archaic "sculptie" system.

    I agree that *mesh control* would be nice. Hell, NURBs would be better and spline-curves even better still. But you forget: Second Life is, for basic intents and purposes an MMORPG that is being *repurposed* for things like education, architecture experimentation and all the rest.

    It was designed on a "gaming platform" base. Might as well do your stuff in World of Warcraft.

    Stick with 3DS or Maya or whatever your preferred poison is. Second Life is what it is. But please at least write a bit more responsibly and clarify your statements. Because though many will take you at your word, those with any experience will just read and laugh.

    Sorry to sound so abrasive, not so much my intent to sound abrasive. But I prefer to just call a Duck a "Duck".

  4.' Jules Vos says:


    It is never a good idea to sound abrasive, particularly so when you're mostly wrong. The article is correct as Second Life "does not support mesh objects". Albeit a little off on terminology (so in that you are right), any fool will understand what the writer actually means.

    I agree that primitives are also called "meshes" because technically you can call all 3d geometry a mesh. However Second Life does not support the importat of foreign meshes, which means that you cannot *add* mesh objects to Second Life, only use its current toolset. The article describes this difference very well, and programs like realXtend and world in the SketchWorlds universe do support mesh imports which is a major step forward for open VW platforms.

  1. September 27, 2010

    […] where most OpenSim users start out. There are no public grids running on the platform. It has been getting some use from architects, however, who can use it to import their building designs from their architectural modeling […]