Published on
July 1, 2020

VIM delivers real-time BIM to trade contractors when no one else will


Joel Pennington

Head of Product

It isn't often that I get excited about a Desktop app. I'm usually clamoring for the latest and greatest in Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality, but I have to say the VIM for Windows app is here, and it's pretty awesome!  

I know you don't believe me, so give me a chance to change your mind and make you love this app as much as I do.  

We started about a year ago while our friends at Academy award-winning Magnopus signed up to leverage our first-of-its-kind software for a large digital twin project. When I say large, I mean LARGE. They were tasked with creating a complete digital twin experience of 1100 Acres of BIM projects for real-time on mobile devices. Buoyed by our ability to extract the dry, technical information out of the BIM world and into real-time without losing any data, we were surprised how well it worked, enough so that we thought there may be other applications for making BIM so easily accessible.

Getting BIM to the people who need it the most

Leveraging BIM for the digital twin experience was eye-opening, and we were keen to test our metal elsewhere. With a focus on lesser-known AEC workflows (those that are routinely ignored by tech companies), our collective AEC domain knowledge let us jump right into conversations with the folks who specify, estimate, build, operate, and own the buildings that Architects design. We asked ourselves, why shouldn't the majority of AEC pros get access and benefit from the rich BIM content that BIM specialists and VDC managers make, edit, and enjoy. So we hit the dry-erase board (my preferred medium) and rocked an excellent set of Luma exercises to get our CMD, Autodesk, Unity, and Sapient Razorfish minds aligned on a set of common goals:  

  1. Access means everyone, on any computer (old or new), anywhere.
  2. A VIM file is free to share and unrestricted.
  3. Embrace and Augment the workflows that exist today.

With these goals in mind, we realized that a mobile app would be perfect! But that'd have to wait because a desktop app would be faster to deliver, and with our COVID-19 impact, it turns out most people are sitting at home in front of their…desktops. We also decided to move away from Unity and leverage a newer real-time engine technology to get a mega ultra colossal boost in performance on older computers. Who doesn't love loading a 6.7 GB Revit project with 48 links in under 10 seconds with 90 FPS on a 4-year-old laptop? Did I mention it looks good to boot!?

Augmenting the trades while respecting the work

The next challenge was to shrug off outdated AEC software restrictions and make VIM unmetered, unrestricted, unlimited, and free to share. Our partners were surprised, relieved, and amazed. Surprised when they learned they could freely share the desktop app and VIM files. Like for real. No additional subscriptions or user seat counts, no VPN tunneling, no expensive server screaming to keep up with pixel delivery. They were relieved to learn that our VIM file is like a secure digital copy of the editable BIM project- analogous to printing a PDF, but with all the data in the 3D context, and thus way more useful. Learning that the VIM file is an open spec amazed them because it allows them to trust a growing company like VIM to have its tech stick around for the long haul. Better than IFC for their real-time needs.  

Getting trade contractors ramped up on a desktop app means thinking like an AEC pro who's in the trailer and wants an answer now, and not trying to solve their problems away with silicon valley hubris. We've all seen enough naïve tech companies vying to disrupt the traditions in construction to know that simply working together, augmenting existing workflows, and giving more access and capability to pros in the field is a winning strategy!

Making the impossible, possible

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Onto the App itself. Here's what struck me when we opened a 'big' project. It didn't break. We didn't observe any performance reduction whatsoever. So we went for broke and loaded all of the MEP from a 70 story LOD 500 tower (one of those projects where the nuts, washers, and bolt threads were modeled). 200 Revit + IFC files turned into a single VIM and loaded in seconds while running at 60 FPSon an old laptop. (Look, I'm sure you're skeptical, so send me a message, and we'll happily show you live). Wow! No more sectioning, filtering, reducing scope, or compromising when exiting Revit for the real world. Now we were thinking, can folks on the job site bring the whole BIM project with them? What would they do with that newfound capability? We'd cracked one of the big nuts in AEC, and our next missing was to get early adopters on board and see how it was poised to change their work for the better.  

Now that we've got big files covered, we're hard at work on the next big thing - shared experiences. We expect to deliver a real-time 3D multi-user experience in our desktop app to bring all people together as though they were walking through the as-built - but with superhuman powers. Watch out for our next software update. We'd love to see how it'll augment your AEC workflow.  

Can’t wait to work with you,

- Joel

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