An Application Designer’s Take on the Virtual French Pavilion

By Kate

Virtual French Pavilion in 3DVIA

So what makes the French virtual pavilion interesting?  Oops, let me clarify . . . as in one of the Shanghai World Expo pavilions.

I’ve shown you TV coverage of the virtual aspect of the Shanghai World Expo, but I wanted to take it a deeper level.

Frédéric_TyEnter 3DVIA Application Designer Frédéric Py, the man creating the virtual French pavilion.  I interviewed Frédéric and wanted to share his insider knowledge about the design intent, user experience, plus some technical bits.  Hope you enjoy!

Here’s what I asked:

  1. What are the highlights of the virtual French pavilion?
  2. Which feature do you think is the coolest?  Which one are you the most proud of and why?
  3. I understand the French Pavilion will contain different games to allow visitors to experience the five senses.  How are you going to design these games?
  4. Can the visitors really go anywhere they want in the French virtual pavilion?
  5. Can visitors personalize their own avatar?
  6. What are the advantages to using 3DVIA Virtools to build the French Pavilion?
  7. Have you encountered any challenges?

Q: What are the highlights of the virtual French pavilion?

There are several purposes for the project.  The first is to show the building itself as a piece of architecture.

The second is to allow people that won’t go to Shanghai during the Expo to virtually visit the French Expo “inside” the pavilion.  Going beyond what the real pavilion will offer attendees, we have the opportunity to provide more information through virtual hot spots.

The list of hot spots isn’t final yet because we’re still discussing possibilities with COFRES, the ad hoc institution that was created to manage the French Pavilion.   There will be pieces of French industry, art, alcoves with sponsors . . .  For every hot spot we’ll try to adapt the information, which can be very different.  Maybe they’ll be a French car prototype. Seeing the car in 3D is a plus.

Q: Which feature do you think is the coolest?  Which one are you the most proud of and why?

We’re proud when the user doesn’t have to spend a lot of time learning how the virtual environment works and can leave the experience with lots of rich information.

One of the coolest things is the way you can walk through the exhibition.  The user can decide where they want to go by using their mouse movement and clicks.  This is cool because there’s a very little learning time with a sensation of freedom.  You can rotate your head and go wherever you want, very seamlessly.  But this is just my feeling from a service-provider perspective.  This is actually something that the user shouldn’t even be aware of.

Another example is what we plan to do in the pavilion’s art gallery. This area will be dedicated to masterpieces coming from the Musée d’Orsay, and there will be a direct access to an interactive 3D visit of the museum. That’s part of the magic of the virtual worlds, the power of teleportation!

Q: I understand the French Pavilion will contain different games to allow visitors to experience the five senses.  How are you going to design these games?

It’s too early to really talk about this.  If we come back to the context, there will be a mini game embedded in the Web application.  We’d like to reach as many people as possible, so the game will be as simple as possible.

The difference with a console game is there’s no time for learning curves, which can last up to one hour in a traditional game console context.  It will need to be easy to control the game characters, and we’ll probably use keyboard arrows to control them.  The main goal will be offer a fun experience.

Q: Can the visitors really go anywhere they want in the virtual pavilion?

We decided to be able to go everywhere the visitor will be able to go in the physical pavilion, except for the restaurant.  We haven’t decided yet for the roof gardens.  So no flying.  We’re aiming for realism.

Q: Can visitors personalize their own avatar?

The difficulty when you have an avatar is you see people in the virtual world during your experience, and these avatars hide what you want to see in the pavilion.  So we decided to use shadow characters to show this is an exhibition with other visitors.  The shadows disappear when you approach them so they won’t interfere what you want to see.  So even if there are 1,000 logged on when you visit the virtual French Pavilion, you’ll still have a great visit.

It’s important to have these shadow characters because they give you scale.  You can tell what the distances are thanks to them.

Q: What are the advantages to using 3DVIA Virtools to build the French Pavilion?

One advantage is the fact that you don’t have to be a coder to build the interactivity.  It’s a marvelous tool for prototyping small Web applications.  You can give the application conception to the application designer directly.  If you have less people involved, there’s less misunderstanding.  And in fact in my role with 3DVIA Services, sometimes I feel like I’m designing the application while I’m using it.  That’s a strong advantage.

Q: Have you encountered any challenges?

Not really.  There’re the usual challenges linked to the Web.  We want to target people with unknown machine capabilities and configurations.  So we’ll have adaptive content depending on the users’ video cards.  If machines are able to handle shaders, great, if not, we’ll try to have something good looking anyway.  This is a quite usual web constrain.

In this particular case there are some technically interesting things, for example, in the French exhibition we have around 30 video screens displaying video at the same time.  There are also a lot of transparencies in the exhibition.  So from one point you can see a lot of video screens displaying videos.  This is a technical challenge but was it was interesting to find out how we could display as much video at the same time, and the 3D models, and so on, without overloading the users’ video cards.

Many thanks for your time and perspective, Frédéric!  I particularly liked your points about the 30 video screens and the transpartent avatars.

What about you, dear reader?  Any other questions you have for Frédéric, or thoughts?



RDV 10 a.m. @Virtual Corporate Headquarters for Big Announcement

By Kate


It’s been awhile since we’ve had a good, old-fashioned debate on 3D Perspectives. Time to stir the pot!

My question is this: Do Virtual Worlds have real potential in the Corporate World?

I mean, do you actually think you’ll one day attend virtual conferences, expos, or meetings as part of your corporate job?

Is this truly the wave of our mainstream corporate futures?

Allez, let’s chat!

And if you’re too shy for chatting, please answer the poll below.



P.S. If you like debates, you may enjoy checking out these posts and their comments sections:

It’s More Than Just Water Over the Dam

By Tim
Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

Historical image of Keokuk Power Plant, and Lock and Dam 19

I grew up in Keokuk, Iowa, exploring the rugged, tree-covered bluffs of the Mississippi River, overlooking the monolithic Powerhouse of Lock and Dam 19. The megastructure, completed in 1913, put Keokuk on the international map as home to the largest, single powerhouse, electricity generating plant in the world.

As a kid, I took tours of the Powerhouse and was awed by the rows of humming and hot generators. It was a little scary to be so close to so much electricity being produced. While there is often controversy over the environmental impact of dam construction, hydroelectric power is, at its best, clean, renewable energy. According to Ameren Corporation, the owner and operator of the Keokuk power plant, an average day of operation of the plant saves the equivalent of nearly 1,000 tons of coal.

Dams are also amazing feats of engineering.

The sheer size of the structures that were built prior to the use of computer aided engineering (CAE) make dams, such as the Hoover Dam, even more awe-inspiring. With the addition of CAE to the engineers toolbox, the size, complexity, and power generating capacity of hydroelectric dams have grown substantially.

With CAE, engineers are able to virtually test the structure of the dam, its components, and systems to gain greater confidence in the safety and reliability of the dam and its power generating systems. Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics software are being used, not only for the design of new plants, but also for the monitoring of performance and structure integrity of existing dams and modernizing and upgrading power plants to improve power output, ensure their safe operation, and extend their operational life.

Three Gorges Dam

Three Gorges Dam

Today, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam by total capacity is the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River in China. Since its construction, there has been extra attention given to the testing and analysis of vibrations in the powerhouse structures caused by various kinds of dynamic loads. Researchers at School of Civil and Hydraulic Engineering at the Dalian University of Technology have written a paper on their use of Abaqus FEA from SIMULIA to analyze the strength of concrete substructure and superstructure in powerhouse #15 undergoing natural vibration frequencies.

Engineers at Norconsult, a global, multidisciplinary engineering and design consultancy located in Norway, use Abaqus FEA to perform static and dynamic structural analyses of arch dams, single and double-curvature shelled structures, and slab and buttress dams. According to their Dam Engineering brochure, their engineers also use Abaqus for permeability flow modeling of porous material in embankment dams and temperature gradient modeling, calculation of crack width, reinforcement and stress and strain in concrete dams.

Abaqus is not the only solution from Dassault Systemes being used in by dam and power plant engineers. Recently, we announced that the HydroChina Chengdu Engineering Corporation (CHIDI) selected our PLM solutions to facilitate investigation, design, and collaborative management of hydropower plants. CHIDI has significantly shortened project timelines, reduced total costs, and improved the collaboration between cross-functional teams of designers and engineers.

Having grown up overlooking a historic dam and power plant, I know a little about the power generating process, but I really take it for granted. I know the water falls over (or flows through) the dam, causing turbines to spin, and generators then create electricity. But, that’s about the extent of my working knowledge.

So, I found this short video on how hydroelectric power is created to be  informative.  Check it out, you’ll gain a better understanding of the complex, multiphysics that engineers have to take into consideration in the design and operation of a dam and power plant.  YouTube Preview Image

The next time you see a hydroelectric power plant in action, you will know that indeed, there is more to it than just water spilling over a dam.

Power Me Up, Scotti.

P.S. – This is the first in a series on how realistic simulation is being used in all energy sectors to improve energy exploration and production of energy to power our world. Stay tuned.

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Beyond PLM (Product Lifecycle Management), Dassault Systèmes, the 3D Experience Company, provides business and people with virtual universes to imagine sustainable innovations. 3DSWYM, 3D VIA, CATIA, DELMIA, ENOVIA, EXALEAD, NETVIBES, SIMULIA and SOLIDWORKS are registered trademarks of Dassault Systèmes or its subsidiaries in the US and/or other countries.