Autodesk has agreed to acquire The Wild, a cloud-connected, extended reality and virtual reality platform technology firm whose products are used by AEC professionals to make project decisions from inside a 3D model.

The acquisition, whose terms were not disclosed, includes The Wild and IrisVR. the company's namesake product, which is an immersive and interactive virtrual reality/extended reality environment that allows building teams to present, collaborate and review projects together from anywhere. Teams can make changes to the model directly and share files within the cloud-based virtual environment.

Executives from both Autodesk and The Wild said that working remotely through the pandemic increased the needs of designers and VDC teams. with interest in virtrual reality/extended reality up dramatically.

"Our acquisition of The Wild reflects the rapid transformation taking place in the building industry, from the complexity of projects to the geographic diversity of teams who design, construct, and operate them," said Andrew Anagnost, Autodesk CEO and president, in a statement.

The Wild already had data-rich integrations with Autodesk’s design programs such as Revit and Naviswork before the acquisition and with other design programs such as SketchUp and Rhino3D.

"What we’re really trying to do with immersive collaboration is really create a new workspace for builders to collaborate together," said Gabe Paez, founder and CEO of The Wild. He and Nic Fonta, Autodesk general manager of AR/VR Products, both said they want that workspace to be integral to the tools that professionals use in their workflows. “We want them to collaborate on that content in a seamless way,” Paez said.

While several AR/VR tools exist today to serve designers, keeping up with design and the headset hardware was a focus that made The Wild useful for Black & Veatch, which has used its technology for six years, said Brian Melton, chief technologist at the Kansas City-based design engineer.

“It became very easy just to migrate the design data (over the last year),” he said. "Now, we can move VR data and model data into VR fast enough to keep up with design iteration. It’s become a very useful tool for the design team to talk about the current design, not the design they had last week."

Once getting the model into a VR headset was easy enough for Black & Veatch’s workflow, Melton focused on process. Another step in the journey to full VR/AR collaboration with The Wild was speech-to-text comments becoming robust enough for the engineering firm's designers to make mark-ups in the virtual environment.

Speech-to-text comments have been automatically converted into mark-ups in The Wild since 2019 and other engineers no longer needed to take notes in actual reality next to someone inside the model.

"The next thing you want to do is make a comment and then be able to have a closed loop to follow that comment all the way through the design process,” Melton said. "When we started seeing the ability to get the model data into VR much more easily, that was pretty exciting for us."

Autodesk first experimentied with VR in the 1990s, using an early version of AutoCAD, but made the investment now because of how remote work and improved VR technology have come together in recent years.

"We see clear signals that things are different and the time is right," Fonta said. "We’ve never done a move like this one before, so it is proof that we really believe that this is now shifting and a new era is starting."

Autodesk did not immediately disclose a date for the acquisition to close.