Tridify, a software technology firm developing automation products for AEC, announced on Dec. 11 a partnership with the virtual reality platform vendor Unity Technologies to leverage a new cloud service, Tridify Convert, that lets developers rapidly import BIM and 3D CAD files into Unity with its Industry Foundation Class-formatted BIM data intact.

The announcement comes a month after Unity and Autodesk announced a deal to integrate Unity’s engine with Autodesk design tools. Tridify CEO Alexander Le Bell says the partnership’s goal is to streamline workflows from Autodesk tools to Unity. Tridify Convert can enhance that, he adds, because “it can be used with all leading design tools—including those from Autodesk’s suite.”

The service, together with a Tridify BIM tools plug-in available at the Unity Assett Store, provides a workflow to make the model VR-ready. It includes an IFC export function compatible with all BIM and CAD software platforms that keeps all of the object data intact, searchable and available for developers. The tools also offer features for mapping to surfaces for materials and textures, “colliders” for defining occupied spaces, lighting generation, and advanced object search features—although the Tridify tools only work with files processed through the Tridify Convert service.

Tridify was established in Helsinki in 2012 and focused on developing a tool to automate the delivery of 3D architectural models into the Unity environment. Logan Smith, an architect and the technology director at Bevel, a virtual reality consultant in Seattle, has been a Tridify beta tester since encountering the company at a conference last September. “It was still in beta, but I signed up to test immediately because we’d been needing a solution for the BIM-to-game-engine connection. We’ve now used it in testing and for several client and internal projects.”

Smith notes that while Tridify isn’t the only way to get a Revit model into Unity, “it’s just, in my experience, the best right now.” And, he says, it’s the only way he’s found that’s “adequately accessible to get all the data with the elements … and that’s huge.”

“In the past, Unity could only really access the shape of a BIM model; not the elements with their metadata,” he says. “It’s like taking a picture of a file cabinet. It limits the real-time applications to visualization-only uses. With a BIM-to-Unity connection, we bring in the whole file cabinet with all its files. It enables simulation, interaction [and] automation that just isn’t otherwise feasible.”

He says the converter is a major step, but he still has wishes. One is a bidirectional connection to take changes made in Unity back to the model. The other is to turn the software he currently custom programs for clients into a robust, reusable tool they can use to import and update models into the software he creates for them, without his involvement. “That’s not there yet. But I see no reason it can’t be soon,” he says.

Tridify Convert is offered on a monthly subscription plan with tiered pricing based on the size of the IFC model, ranging from a free trial level for files of up to 30 MB, to $20 for 200 MB and $860 for a 10-GB plan.