Thanks to the advent of 3D printing, the doors to creativity have been flung wide open. Nowadays, anybody with $200 to spare can get their hands on a machine that allows them to fabricate just about any object they could ever want.
But there’s still a big barrier standing between having an idea in your head and transforming that idea into a tangible object: 3D modeling software.
The problem is that practically all 3D CAD (computer aided drafting) software has a pretty steep learning curve. Whether you’re using a free tool like Blender or an expensive professional program like AutoCad or Solidworks, it takes a fair amount of technical skill to create anything beyond the most basic shapes.
It’s especially difficult if you have no prior CAD or 3D modeling experience. With no foundation to build on, figuring out how to perform a seemingly simple task ( say, cutting a cylindrical hole in something) often requires watching hours of tutorial videos.
California-based startup Sixense set out on a mission to break this barrier down.
“We wanted to democratize 3D modeling”
“We wanted to democratize 3D modeling,” the company’s Director of Business Development, Steve Hansted, told Digital Trends. “Our goal was to give anyone, regardless of age or experience level, the opportunity to come into a professional solid modeling CAD engine and build geometry — with a very shallow learning curve.”
The fruit of that labor is a program called MakeVR — a 3D modeling platform that, unlike most CAD software, isn’t run in a traditional desktop environment. Instead, users access and use the software through the HTC Vive virtual reality platform.
Since more people own PC’s than own room-scale virtual reality setups, it’s possible going VR-only could put MakeVR at a bit of a disadvantage from a business standpoint, but from a creative standpoint, operating in VR gives MakeVR a number of distinct advantages.
“The difference between this and more traditional modeling programs is that [MakeVR] is leaps and bounds more tactile,” said Patrick Daniels, a freelance designer and modeler who dropped by DT headquarters to take the software for a spin. “You get spatial awareness with this, whereas if I’m sitting down with a mouse and keyboard, I’m generally just staring at one model. But I could see myself working on entire environments with this software,” he explained.
That’s the magic of it. Instead of modeling in a limited, two-dimensional environment on your monitor, MakeVR allows users to fully immerse themselves in a virtual creative space, and manipulate objects using two hands — much like you would if you were working with solid materials in the real world. As Daniels so eloquently put it, “it just fits well in your brain.”
“It just fits well in your brain”
What’s most exciting, however, is that this is just the beginning. MakeVR launched on Viveport a couple of weeks ago, but Hansted says that the project is anything but over.
“MakeVR will be something that’s continually evolving,” he explained. “Right now we refer to it as ‘advanced freeform modeling.’ You have access to the CAD engine’s suite of Boolean tools, and a few other things. But there’s a lot more that we haven’t unlocked in the first release. Where we’re going from here is adding tools for things like precision alignment, collaboration, physics — and eventually unlocking as many of the tools from MakeVR’s underlying CAD engine as are reasonable to put in a VR environment, and are desired by users.”
Once you’ve seen the software at work, it’s hard to keep your imagination from running wild. 3D printing is where MakeVR is most at home right now, but in the not-so-distant future, the technology could easily be extended to other fields — say, game design.
Imagine five developers from around the globe all working on different aspects of a project in the same virtual room. One might work on buildings while another works on character design, and still another on the sky and surrounding environment. This could all be done virtually, collaboratively, in a 3D space that each user is immersed in. Something like that could have a huge impact on game development.
Make no mistake; MakeVR is the future.