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From CAD User Mechanical Magazine Vol 17 No 10 - OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2004
Hewlett-Packard’s Remote Graphics software brings easy, real-time, 3D viewing capabilities to a wider audience.
I hope you’ve had a chance to see Shrek2 by now! I was fortunate enough, and
able to steal a march on my grandchildren, by seeing it in July - before it came
out in the UK. It was the high point of a Press trip to Colorado – courtesy of
HP! Well, not the only high point. Besides being introduced to the latest in
HP’s line of workstations, we also had a preview of HP’s Remote Graphics. A
remote pre-view, as it happened, as we haven’t been able to talk about it till
Quite an impressive pre-view, as well, as we were sat in front of a wall sized screen to view the presentation – a demonstration of the capabilities of interactive 3D graphics that can be viewed on quite modestly equipped PCs over a standard 56K modem, without, even, the need to have expensive graphics cards installed.
The implications for any graphics oriented industry are quite dramatic. Real-time collaboration can be extended well beyond the sphere of the graphics professional, or the design engineer. Viewers are provided with realistic levels of imagery on a secure system, at a fraction of the cost of previous solutions. And the significance of Shrek2? Well, Remote Graphics software was used by DreamWorks, the renowned film production company, to get all of its disparate teams working together simultaneously on the project.
For Remote Graphics is a brand new software solution developed by Hewlett-Packard to replace bandwidth intensive software, and to allow creative designers to share large 3D models produced in DCC (digital content creation), MCAD and MCAD/CAE environments. It takes advantage of Hewlett-Packard’s proprietary compression and decompression technology to share graphics intensive projects over a standard network connection with little time lag between the transmission of the graphics file and the reception of updates.
The way in which it does this is remarkably simple. It merely replicates the servers screen and keyboard at each of the remote locations – on a network in a large company or university campus, and over standard communications devices, using PCP connectivity, anywhere else in the world. Remote viewers, or clients, can see exactly what the host server has on the screen, and, using the keyboard, interact with the 2D drawing, or manipulate the 3D model as if it resided in his own system. Rapid transfer of screen images – for that is exactly what they are – is accomplished using Hewlett-Packards phenomenal 170:1 compression ration for transmitting data.
The software can be used across platforms – Windows, Unix, Linux, and is subject to the normal security conditions that apply with any internal network, or the security that you set up to control your Internet traffic. Remote users actually log in using the Internet, and once inside, access the Hewlett-Packard software to continue the link.
The software is supplied as two separate modules – one for the sender, and multiple others for the receivers. Additional facilities within the software provide additional security, allowing the server to set up groups, individuals, and even machines, with different access levels. The system also provides logging facilities to keep a record of the sessions.
Given the simple scenario, and the many possibilities for its use, its operation is very straightforward. Remote viewers sees what the host server displays. They can communicate with the host by landline to confer about what they see, who can relinquish control of his mouse and keyboard to one of the viewers – so that he, or she, can take over control to illustrate a point. The host may even be absent, as the server can be locked away in a room with the software running, and be accessed merely by remote viewers!
HP Remote Graphics software allows design engineers to collaborate on projects irrespective of the geographical location, saving both time, travel costs and money. It can also be used in a classroom situation, where instructors can host tutorials and interact with students in real time – or it can be used to provide better access to IT support, with remote viewers following the processes that the engineers use to rectify faults. Because it can be used with lower grade computer systems, it can be used as an affective tool in sales demonstrations, showing early product designs on remote client systems from the main sales office. And it is an ideal solution for the promotion of more equable working environments, allowing entire industries to realise the benefits of working from home, whilst still connected to the office.
What Users Say
Hewlett-Packard is, naturally, bullish about the development of the software. “In the world of business, time is money,” said Eric Jeanmougin, European workstations business development manager, HP. “HP Remote Graphics software saves customers time and hassle by enabling real-time collaboration over existing networks, allowing geographically dispersed teams to work together in ways not previously possible. HP Remote Graphics software does for graphics-intensive industries what Instant Messenger does for communication.”
His views were echoed by Ed Leonard, Chief Technical Officer at DreamWorks. "HP’s Remote Graphics software is a significant advancement in technology enabling remote collaboration for artists and film makers. We began using HP’s
Remote Graphics software during the production of Shrek2, where it proved to be extremely valuable in bringing together our creative teams across DreamWorks’ Southern and Northern California campuses. The software enabled efficient multi-site collaboration without disruption to our workflow." DreamWork designers collaborate on 2D and 3D production artwork, and liken the use of HP’s Remote Graphics to “separate teams working in the same room!”.
The software is already up and running in a number of sites, besides DreamWorks. In particular, a major automotive company based in America conducts early design review with branch offices in Germany, Australia and Mexico. The National University of Singapore, enables its students to access CAE applications running on high-performance HP-UX Workstations running HP-UX from their desktop PCs for visualization, and the Savannah College of Art and Design, which has seen the potential of the software to enable students in remote foreign locations to collaborate with students and teachers at the Georgia campus. The University has just started to offer courses on animation, broadcast design, visual effects, interactivity and game design, and has been able to extend these to its campus in Lasoste, in France. Its’ Vice President, Harley Lingerfelt commented “one of the exciting possibilities of this technology is the potential it has for allowing us to have students working in classes in France while being able to talk to professors and other students about projects back here in Georgia, and even have them participate in those projects.”
Another user, Shawn Ehrstein, Associate Diretcor of CAD/CAM at Wichita State University was impressed with the performance of the software - “We found the HP Remote Graphics software very easy to install and we were operational very quickly. The performance of the software for our CAD applications is outstanding. There is very little (if any at all) delay in the response of the client machines using a high resolution of 1280x1024. The software enables us to improve our ability to collaborate with our students and improves the overall teaching experience. It also keeps us from having to get a hardware solution that is more expensive and not as convenient as the HP Remote Graphics software.”
Cost and Comment
Shawn Ehrstein’s comments about the cost are borne out by comparing European prices with alternative solutions – Euro 329 for the Remote Graphics software, and a licence for a single sender and receiver, and just Euro 80 for each additional receiver licence. It will run on HP-UX 11.0 or later, Red Hat Linux, and, of course, Windows 2000/XP platforms.
OK, so it may not provide all of the bells and whistles that dedicated View and Mark-up tools provide – at far greater cost – but it opens up the avenues of collaboration to a far wider audience – those that are not endowed with high-level workstations, and others that would like to contribute, but lack experience with annotation tools – and those who just want to get together and chew over ideas! The last word comes from Anthony Kros, associate analyst at Gartner Inc, who says that "the ability to securely host an application on your most powerful workstation and share that application in real time virtually across regions will help users
achieve greater project efficiencies, cost savings and the ability to utilize key talent to cross-collaborate on projects regardless of their location."
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