Sketchfab, the browser-based platform for sharing and viewing 3D models, has announced a new feature on their software that turns any of their models into a virtual reality experience when viewed on a smartphone and combined with a simple headset like Google Cardboard. Sketchfab allows users to upload a wide variety of 3D model file types that could then be shared and viewed in any web browser, or embedded on websites or social media, without the need for any additional software or plug-ins. As a result, over the past few years they've built up a huge database of over half a million 3D models, and this new VR feature allows viewers to experience those models in a whole new way.
Sketchfab at its core is essentially “just” a virtual cube, or 3D scene, in which you can put anything that has 3 dimensions, and share this scene to the world leveraging the power of the web. You can navigate within the scene with your mouse directly on any web page, but with VR it means you can actually put yourself right inside the scene, and walk in it.
The team at Sketchfab acknowledges that this is just a first step, and they are still working on improving the VR navigation experience, but this development has significant implications for architecture - not to mention how sites like ArchDaily can share information about buildings. By translating 3D models into VR experiences, Sketchfab can enable architects to take their clients inside their designs before they are built, and allow readers of websites like this one to have a life-like experience of a building from thousands of miles away.
We have already seen examples of how the opportunities of digital communication have changed the way we discuss architecture, and we hope it won’t be long before you find virtual reality tours of the latest projects here on ArchDaily.
Need tips to get VR to work? Here's what we picked up when testing the feature in the ArchDaily office:
- You'll need a decent smartphone and Google Cardboard headset (obviously).
- If you're browsing a website like ArchDaily with embedded models, hold your smartphone so that it rotates to landscape mode and hit the "View in VR" button.
- Use the "Viewer Mode" button to switch to "first person." At this point, the view will calibrate so that the view is pointing in the same direction as your phone.
- If you wish, at this point you can use pinch-to-zoom and two fingers to pan to adjust the viewing position. In our test we found these controls to to be very sensitive, so you may need some patience to get the right spot.
- Now load your phone into your Google Cardboard headset and enjoy!