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AIA: Rhino for the iPad and iPhone

At AIA Miami one of the highlights for the show was seeing and playing with McNeel’s iRhino 3D. This application for the iPad shows what is possible for 3D on the popular new device and there is plenty to like in this very early version.

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While at AIA Miami I spent some time talking to Marlin Prowell, the programmer responsible for the Mac version of Rhino and the version for iPad and iPhone. Marlin is “the Apple guy” at Robert McNeel & Associates. I asked him how long it took him to write this application for the iPad and he said not very long at all. It took him approximately one month to generate the program that is available today.

iRhino 3D

McNeel has dubbed the Rhino navigator/viewer for the iPad iRhino 3D. It also runs on the iPhone. Marlin was demoing the program on a fresh iPad for show attendees and there were many interested architects playing around with it.

The first impression I had with iRhino 3D was just how gorgeous models looked on the iPad’s screen. The A4 chip based Apple iPad powers iRhino with ease. I was amazed at how smoothly and quickly models responded to the touch-based interface.

01 - iRhino 3D - first true mainstream 3D navigation/viewer program on the iPad.

The primary activity one would use iRhino 3D for would be viewing and navigating models. This would work wonderfully in a field situation for an architect. She could carry her BIM model on an iPad and be able to navigate the entire building in the field with contractors and clients.

Navigation. Navigation consists of rotation, zoom and panning with the Apple multi-touch gestures MacBook, iPad and iPhone users already know and use. Marlin said he is working on an icon-like navigation visual aid (think about the 3D cube in the latest version of AutoCAD) that helps guide you as you twist and turn your way through models. There is also a “walk-thru” mode with a pair of footsteps as its icon.

02 - iRhino 3D uses the accelerometer to navigate walk-thrus.

Other Features

With iRhino 3D you can view any Rhino 3DM files from version 1.0 to 5.0. You send files to the iPad by way of emailing them or via iTunes. Another feature that iRhino 3D has is the ability to capture views and email them for markup.

iRhino can also download Rhino 3DM files from any web server or Google Docs to the model library on your iPad or iPhone. A models library drop-down list appears with thumbnails of each file allowing you to navigate. Tapping on it brings up that model.

Closing Comments

Marlin Prowell should be quite proud. iRhino 3D is a very nice iPad application! Sure, it’s early in its development, but the fact is today the world has a very good viewer application for the iPad that utilizes many of its best features.

One key aspect to mention is that say you don’t use Rhino for your 3D work? That’s not too much of a problem. If you use another 3D or even a BIM application, depending on what that is, you will have export options that should allow you a pathway over to Rhino. Rhino itself supports many 3D file formats for import so there is a good chance your models can make it over to Rhino. Once inside, you can save them natively and then utilize the native file on iRhino 3D for iPad.

To learn more visit the iRhino 3D web page.