In its latest feature expansion, 3D model repository Sketchfab has just added a VR button, allowing owners of Google Cardboard to don their VR goggles to get a more immersive view of the content on its platform.
While starting with VR’s bargain basement headset (aka Cardboard), Sketchfab says it plans to expand support to “all major headsets” — with Facebook-owned Oculus Rift next on its list.
Support in Sketchfab’s context entails building a smooth and natural navigation system for those using VR headsets to view its 3D content. It also says it’s working to improve content categories and to improve the browsing experience for VR.
The ambition is to be able to offer “a huge interactive library of content for all the VR headset owners out there to explore”, says co-founder and CEO Alban Denoyel, in a blog announcing the new VR button.
The Sketchfab platform hosts more than 500,000 “virtual things” at this point — all of which can now be viewed via Cardboard.
2016 is the ‘year of the great VR reboot’, with multiple consumer headsets slated to ship this year, including the Rift — and therefore also the year of the scramble to create compelling VR content.
Given how much hype there is around VR, and how relatively little bespoke content there is for this emerging kit, a 3D model platform spotting an opportunity to step into the content breach by turning its existing pixels into a browsable catalogue of ‘VR experiences’ seems like reasonable logic.
Certainly when looked at from Cardboard’s budget VR point of view, where you wouldn’t be expecting powerful VR gaming experiences anyway, given the stuff you’re looking at is powered by a smartphone. An educational perspective is more in keeping with the tech’s capabilities — and something Sketchfab reckons it can help provide.
“You can find a digital preview of pretty much anything on Sketchfab: people, places, objects,” writes Denoyel. “You can go ahead and discover how a beating heart works, teleport yourself inside Van Gogh’s room, or go back in time to confront this Triceratops.”
Google itself added the ability to view its StreetView street level 3D maps with Cardboard last fall. Which is a clever way for the company to expand content for the goggles by repurposing an existing digital asset — at the same time as offering a potentially compelling budget VR feature, given that viewing StreetView in 2D can be a fiddly process. Lifelike 3D scenes should naturally lend themselves to improved viewing in VR.
While, in Sketchfab’s case, if you’re just dipping in for a quick look at a particular animated artifact or 3D scene you’re perhaps less likely to experience the sickly side-effects of spending too much time noodling around in VR.