Making a Game of Model Navigation

July 2nd, 2013

Background

For people unfamiliar with Navisworks, model navigation can be burdensome because it requires unintuitive combinations of keyboard and mouse clicks.

While visiting C.W. Driver, a southern California contractor, we noticed that one of the items they were researching was how to navigate BIM models more effectively for non-BIM users.  They had started this research, but became busy with day-to-day tasks and so we asked, and received permission, to continue the research they started.

The idea was to replace the keyboard and mouse-click combinations with a (Microsoft) Xbox controller. Using an Xbox controller allows people not familiar with Navisworks to intuitively navigate without any instruction. In our limited sample of participants, we have yet to find a person unfamiliar with Navisworks who has had difficulty navigating the model with the Xbox controller.  This article provides our solution for setting up an Xbox controller for Navisworks.

What is Xpadder?

Xpadder is a program that assigns keystrokes and macros to an Xbox 360 controller. With the push of a button or by moving a control stick, the Xbox controller sends a command or series of commands to the computer mimicking the keyboard and mouse-click combinations. Xpadder has created easier navigation in Navisworks, which can require several keystrokes and macros to change navigation controls and movement.

Xpadder was created by a person named Jonathan. There isn’t much information available about Jonathan other than that the program he created was intended for any Windows-driven software and for video games requiring keystrokes or macros. Xpadder was essentially created to improve accessibility for gaming. The software costs $10 to download.

Setup

The two options for the Xbox controller are wired or wireless.  If you prefer the wireless controller, an Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver is also required. We bought ours at newegg.com.  Do not plug in the hardware until after the software is installed. The following steps for software setup are sequential.

  1. Download and install the drivers for a wired or wireless controller at (http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/downloads#gaming).
  2. Download and install the Xpadder software from   http://www.xpadder.com/.

Once the above software is installed, plug either the Xbox controller or the Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver into the computer.

Push and hold the sync button on the Xbox 360 controller simultaneously with the Xbox Wireless Receiver.

Hold these buttons until they sync. (Xpadder will quit searching and blank buttons in Xpadder will appear when it is fully synced.)

Xpadder Settings

Load “Controller Layout for Navisworks.” If you would like a copy of our layout, download it from the link below: http://cmfac.groups.et.byu.net/miller/BIM/Augi%20Articles/index.php

Consult directions or “bind” keys to personal preference.

If Xpadder is not syncing, below are troubleshooting steps that worked for us in Windows 7.

If, when the Xbox controller or Xbox 360 Wireless Receiver is plugged in the message on the Taskbar says driver not found, you may need to locate the driver manually and install it.  To do this, press the Start button and select “Computer.”

  1. At the top of the screen in the toolbar area, select System Properties.
  2. Locate and select Device Manager.
  3. Find the device under “Other Devices” it will indicate that it’s “Unknown” with a yellow “!”
  4. Right-click on that device, then “Update Driver…”
  5. Select “Browse for driver on your computer.”
  6. Select the tab labeled “Let me pick from a list of device drivers…”
  7. Select “Common Controller For Windows Class.”
  8. Click Next.
  9. Select “Xbox 360 Controller for Windows Version: 2.1.0.1349 (your numbers may be different).
  10. Click Next (Warning will appear, click Next again).
  11. Start Xpadder.

Details on Xpadder

Figure 1 illustrates how “keys” are picked from the keyboard or mouse and bound to the Xbox controller.

Figure 1: Mapping keys window

Figure 2: Current mapped buttons

Figure 3: Advanced Xpadder settings (macros)

Figure 1 shows all “buttons” that can be mapped to the Xbox controller. In Figure 2 the “Xbox Controller” symbol indicates the current Xpadder profile loaded, which is the current saved settings that are loaded. The “New Controller” profile is currently loaded. Figure 2 displays the main menu and the keys that are bound to each button on the Xbox 360 controller. Each button illuminates when pressed. The wrench allows you to customize the layout and sensitivity of the buttons. All buttons are completely customizable.

The uploaded profile is what was found to be intuitive navigational controls. Through trial and error, many different combinations were tested with a variety of people. We observed that most people wanted to use the left control stick for moving forward and backward, the right control stick for head movement, and the control pad (up/down) to move vertically. Macros we incorporated with the control stick and control pad switch between walk mode and pan mode.

Figure 3 shows specific buttons that can be further customized with a macro. This is the menu for “Advanced Assignment,” which allows macros to be created for individual buttons.

If you’re looking to customize your own Xpadder settings or need to know the current macros available to you, beyonddesign.com has a list of all the keyboard shortcuts for Navisworks 2013.The link is: http://beyonddesign.typepad.com/posts/2012/05/keyboard-shortcuts-for-autodesk-navisworks.html

Conclusion

A general trend that the authors have observed is that many of the tasks that seem cumbersome in the BIM world the gaming world has already experienced. By going to the online gaming forums, we have found solutions to BIM issues.

Kevin R. Miller is the program chair for the Construction Management program at Brigham Young University and earned his Ph.D. from Arizona State University.  Prior to his academic career, he worked as an estimator for a large commercial construction firm.

James Christensen is currently a student in Construction Management at Brigham Young University and an undergraduate research assistant to Kevin. James describes himself as a Padawan in the Jedi BIM Arts.

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About the Authors

Kevin Miller

Kevin Miller

Kevin R. Miller is the program chair for the Construction Management program at Brigham Young University and earned his Ph.D. from Arizona State University.  Prior to his academic career, he worked as an estimator for a large commercial construction firm.

 

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