by Alain Tiquet

Periodically, we’re using this blog to profile some of the companies that participated in NVIDIA’s Emerging Companies Summit (ECS 2009). ECS 2010 will take place Sept. 20 – 23 at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California, during the GPU Technology Conference.

Interacting with a 3D virtual environment is something gamers do all the time. But as visual computing extends into more industries, real-time 3D worlds are changing fields like industrial architecture, urban planning and even safety training.

Enodo, one of the companies to present at the Emerging Companies Summit (ECS) last year, is using gaming technology to create interactive models and immersive, 3D environments for industrial design. Enodo takes blueprints, drawings, technical documents, GIS data and other sources and synthesizes them, using the Crytek Cryengine 3 and NVIDIA GPUs. The results are design projects that feel like gamescapes: photorealistic, virtual reality with real-time 3D rendering.

The start-up, based in Nice, France, has been in business since 2004, founded by two architects who were also hardcore gamers. As GPUs enabled accelerated 3D rendering, they saw an opportunity to apply gaming technology to different industries.

At ECS, Enodo’s Business Development Manager Laleh-Chloe Sahrai demonstrated some of the company’s latest projects and also met for a video chat with NVIDIA VP of Business Development Jeff Herbst.

The virtual cityscapes Laleh showed made it easy to visualize the changes that would result from a large-scale urban planning project. For instance, a proposed tramway in Nice was rendered virtually, down to photorealistic lighting and shading, so that the impact of every design choice could be thoroughly considered. Changing any element of the virtual world – like deciding where to place a bulky ticket machine – is made easier with real-time 3D rendering that lets objects be moved and changes seen immediately.

Other projects involve immersive 3D training environments – especially useful in situations where it’s not feasible to shut down production to hold training exercises. For a European oil and gas giant, Total Group, Enodo built a prototype of multiplayer training game set on an oil platform. Employees must stop a gas leak or an explosion and deal with a multitude of variables that the training instructor can adjust, such as wind direction, weather conditions, wounded colleagues and so on.

The same types of simulations can be applied to other uses – like event management or security training – as well as different types of verticals.