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Product Review: IMSI Design’s TurboSite Pro 2 for iPad

In this product review Architosh looks at the award-winning IMSI Design TurboSite Pro v2 and its many abilities to streamline the field report process in AEC workflows

Back in 2011 when Architosh published its well-regarded 2011 State of Apple in CAD/3D Industries — Special Series, “The iPad: How the CAD/3D industry is being changed,” Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk said:

“…fundamentally it’s about the creation of new work flows and new means of access to your information.”

Bass was partly touting his own iOS apps and in particular AutoCAD WS (now AutoCAD 360) but he could have been speaking quite prophetically about IMSI Design’s award-winning TurboSite for iPad.

TurboSite

TurboSite was a hot ticket item at this year’s AIA National Convention in Denver, Colorado. It was the co-winner of this year’s BEST OF SHOW honors in  the mobile category. Part of what makes this app so appealing is that it exemplifies the newness of what is possible in workflow innovation due to the merging of software with new hardware capabilities. That hardware innovation belongs to Apple–with the iPad–but the praise for the app goes to IMSI for its imagination of refined and improved workflows and elegant software.

We are going to dig into the app and what it can do in a second but one final comment is that TurboSite Pro–much like the new BIMx Docs by Graphisoft–builds on some solid foundation in earlier apps–notably IMSI Design’s Turbo mobile lineup of CAD viewers. We have already noted in an earlier review of TurboViewer Pro 2.0, IMSI’s mobile CAD technology is fast.

Beyond a Viewer

TurboSite Pro may be built on the same technology as the TurboViewer series of iOS apps, but the program is so much more than just a mobile CAD or 3D file viewer. To get started we will first add a file to TurboSite Pro.

One of the things I wanted to do was test different DWG files. So I used my own files rather than those that come as demos for the program. TurboSite Pro had zero problem recognizing an AutoCAD (DWG) file directly from AutoCAD or from any of the exports coming out of numerous other competitor CAD programs. In other words, those that utilize DWG conversion libraries from the Open Design Alliance.

TurboSite Pro supports over 20 plus file formats, including native support for DWG, DXF, DWF, PDF and 3D PDF (U3D). Other formats are converted automatically utilizing an IMSI Design cloud-based conversion server. We ran that process several times when we reviewed TurboViewer Pro 2.0 and the process works very smoothly.

Some notable files you can bring into TurboSite and its family of sibling apps include Rhino, SketchUp, STEP, ACIS, OBJ and IGES.

GeoMarker

Before we talk about all the reviewing tools that are available in TurboSite Pro the highlight feature of this app should be discussed. This is its GeoMarker technology. Unique to this application is the ability to utilize the iPad’s various sensors and GPS hardware.

The GeoWalk™ and GeoMark™ tools help you set your location relative to your drawing in TurboSite Pro. The most import of these is the GeoMark feature. By locating GeoMarks on your drawing in TurboSite Pro you can attach images, audio and video taken at each GeoMark in addition to notes.

GeoWalk works by allowing TurboSite to track your position via the iPad’s hardware systems. You can either tap your iPad’s GPS or SPS (Sensor Positioning System) to have TurboSite Pro locate you. The SPS system is using your iPad’s accelerometers, gyroscopes and compass. Accuracy of these systems depends on calibration processes and the signal strength of your GPS. You cannot use both GPS and SPS at the same time but must choose one.

GPS works best outdoors where you have clear and strong signal strength–not the case for my testing. Therefore I turned on and calibrated via SPS. Calibration is one of the more tricky aspects of this program and will likely require trial and error. There is a GeoNudge feature that helps you refine your accuracy but the bottom line for us is that having TurboSite Pro follow you around on your drawing isn’t as nearly as important as you might think for many cases.

Cases where it would be valuable would be in the open site (field) where there exist little to no markers. Inside of a building you will likely have reference points (i.e.: rooms, walls, windows, doors) and simply dropping a GeoMarker is all that needs to be done to get the best use out of TurboSite Pro. This isn’t to dismiss GeoWalk, but mainly to paint a more realistic expectation of this technology, its accuracy and the challenges that may confront users when setting up to use these features.

Video, Audio and Photos

Creating audio, video and photos to accompany your notes on a plan in TurboSite Pro is what makes TurboSite Pro a very special application. The UI/UX of this process is direct and elegant. If you take an image that you don’t want to use you can replace it with another. Images and video can be saved to locations on your iPad. Using a GeoMark you can attach or associate with that GeoMark media in the form of images, audio or video as shown in the next image below (see image 01).

01 - Part of TurboSite's strength is its ability to geolocate the user on a plan from which point geo-tagged video, photos and audio can be recorded and associated.

01 – Part of TurboSite’s strength is its ability to geolocate the user on a plan from which point geo-tagged video, photos and audio can be recorded and associated.

As you can see in the image 01 you also have the ability to attach notes. A notes popup window comes up as well as the keyboard from which you can type your notes out. As you geo-locate marks on your drawings in TurboSite Pro you may at times already have images from previous site visits or just images you took earlier in the day that you now want to attach to your GeoMark. This too is also possible. Before you can use existing photos on your iPad you will need to give TurboSite access permission in the general settings.

next page: Viewing and Markup and More….

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