Why we backed the Structure

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Sketchfab began as a small project 3 years ago, after Cedric (our CTO) worked on one of the very first demos of WebGL, for the launch of Firefox 4. He had been working for more than 12 years in the 3D space, talking on a daily basis with amazing 3D artists, and he experienced first hand how hard it was for them to share and promote their work. So he started building the best and easiest way to do so, in the form of a very simple web based 3D viewer. It has since grown to what you see today, a vibrant community of artists sharing their work. We will always be, first and foremost, a place for 3D artists – at large, makers – to get together and share their 3D creations online.

Structure Sensor from Occipital on Sketchfab.

However, 3D is not easy; it’s a true skill, and why we call you artists. In short, not everyone can do it. So when a technology comes along that makes the process easier and allows anyone to create in 3D, its something we want to support and get behind.

3D scanning is a technology with vast potential, and a key to introducing this wonderful, three dimensional form of artistic expression to the digital masses. At the roots of it’s potential is the very simple fact that the world is in 3 dimensions: the ability to capture it this way is both a natural thing to desire, and something almost indistinguishable from magic, to paraphrase Clarke’s third law.

Courgette from MarkoV on Sketchfab.

And that is why we backed the Occipital Structure campaign. Their vision of bringing 3D scanning technology to the mobile space will allow anyone with an iPad to create a 3D model, in the process democratising 3D design. Imagine a world where you’re walking down the street, and notice a beautiful sculpture in the park. You take out your iPad with the Structure attached, and in a matter of minutes have a gorgeous 3D model of the artwork, uploaded to Sketchfab and ready to share with the world, or even 3D print at home. This big vision led to Structure becoming one of the top 6 most funded technology projects on Kickstarter.

Another reason why we backed the Structure is because Skanect is now part of Occipital. Skanect is a great software letting you leverage hardware with 3D sensors like the Kinect and turn them into a powerful 3D scanner. Skanect was the first 3D scanning software to add a “Publish to Sketchfab” feature in their interface, making the workflow from creation to publication as easy as possible, helping us to fulfil our vision. On top of that, both Occipital and Skanect are TechStars friends 🙂

It’s not just the Structure that is bringing 3D scanning to the everyday consumer. The opportunity is huge, and that’s the reason why many talented developers have been working on such technologies: just look at the number of (hugely successful) fundraising campaigns for 3D scanning devices over the past months: Fuel 3D, CadScan, Volumental, Lynx A just to name a few… Other software like 123D catch or PhotoScan are amazing too.

We are even seeing non-profits like CyArk utilise 3D scanning technology to digitally preserve national landmarks. And it was only two months ago that Fujifilm and the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam publicly announced a partnership that would use 3D scanning to produce near perfect replicas of the paintings. The technology is everywhere! We see amazing mini-museums popping up on Sketchfab, displaying cultural heritage or archaeology with things from 17 million years ago:

Proconsul, 17 Milion years from anvesoft on Sketchfab.

What does it mean for 3D professionals who are today our power users? That you’ll be able to work faster, and focus on the parts requiring more skills, creativity and talent. You will spend less time on the initial basic mesh if you can get it from a scanner, and more time where your real added value is: texturing, optimising, rigging, animating…  The zucchini above is a good example of that. To put it differently, photography didn’t kill painting. It also means a wider demand for those skills, as more people get to better understand the underlying concepts of 3D modelling. You may have noticed more and more scans are uploaded to Sketchfab. We do agree that not all of them are great, and artists’ work shall prevail over those. We are working on a better filtering feature in order to push the best models to the top, and make poorer models less visible.

So that folks is why we backed the Structure campaign, and why we are so excited about 3D scanning. Our vision is to bring 3D to the web. SketchUp’s moto when they started was “3D for everyone”. We believe 3D for everyone means easy 3D creation, and easy 3D publication. Structure is boosting the 1st part of this equation, and we are working hard to boost the second part. Our V2 is coming soon, to better serve this vision. 

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