Sketchfab, a 3D sharing platform that's been steadily moving into the world of virtual reality, is launching dedicated apps on a broad range of VR platforms. After launching on iOS and Android earlier this month, Sketchfab is bringing an app to the HTC Vive, with Gear VR and Oculus Rift versions on the way.
Sketchfab hopes to make it easy for people to share 3D objects or environments the way they would a photo or video: by uploading them and inviting people to view, like, or embed them in other pages. This can involve something as simple as an action figure created in a modeling program like Blender, or as complex as a slice of a Minecraft world. You've been able to view Sketchfab designs in Google Cardboard for a while, but the latest updates make it easier to check out designs on higher-end headsets. With the Vive, for example, you can walk around what feels like a life-sized version of something like the room seen above, inspired by Vincent Van Gogh. It's more intuitive — and exciting — than holding Cardboard to your face.
Imagine sharing a three-dimensional video game screenshot
There are two new viewing options. The first involves WebVR, a Mozilla-led initiative that lets headsets load VR scenes hosted on the web — you can open someone's Sketchfab design, click a "View in VR" button, and look at it through the device of your choice. But WebVR is still fairly experimental, and the dedicated apps will be easier for most people to use. The downside is that for now, they only offer a showcase with a relatively small number of Sketchfab designs, not the entire catalog.
While most people are used to taking photos or videos, designing 3D objects is a much less common pursuit. When we took a look at the Vive app, Sketchfab had set up a small catalog of dinosaur models, car renders, anatomical models, and other things that would fit well into a grade-school curriculum — which seems to be exactly the vibe the company is going for. In the longer term, though, the technology could be a great way to share something like a Tilt Brush sketch or a snapshot of a VR experience, like a three-dimensional video game screenshot. Whether or not Sketchfab is a part of that, it's certainly trying to lay the groundwork for it.