Sketchfab Adds VR to 3D Model Browsing

Of the companies we cover on a regular basis, Sketchfab has struck me as one of the most forward-thinking.  By simply broadening its vast 3D modelling community to every relevant platform and venue, the company has been able to bridge the previously disparate worlds of game design, 3D printing, and even cultural preservation through one single site. And, while they’ve always expressed an interest in mixed reality technologies, they have finally implemented their embrace of VR by allowing every one of their 500,000+ 3D models on the site to be viewed in VR.

Now that consumer VR headsets are going to be saturating the world this year, Sketchfab has made it so that, if you’ve got a $2 Google Cardboard-type setup for your smartphone, you can view Sketchfab models in 3D.  As fun as VR on Cardboard has been up until now, by introducing this feature to the site, there’s waaaayyy more content to see in true 3D VR.  This also instantly gives the artwork of the site’s numerous users instant VR cred, while also allowing anyone to embed VR content on their own websites.  Combined with Google’s Street View app, there’s now even more reason to get excited about VR.


The site’s CEO, Alban Denoyel, says of the development process, “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.” To demonstrate the possible applications, Alban explains that Sketchfab-powered Wikipedia mirror, volupedia.org, can provide users with VR demonstrations of topics that are being explored.  He also cites a recent story about a surgeon who practiced a heart surgery using Sketchfab and Google Cardboard to save an infant’s life.

Right now, Sketchfab only works with Google Cardboard, but they plan to expand to all major headsets, with eyes on the Oculus Rift up next. They’re also improving the VR navigation of models to make it more natural and seamless, as well as creating better content categories and enhancing the VR browsing experience in general. If you don’t have a cheap Google Cardboard headset, there’s never been a better time to get one. I spent all weekend exploring Sketchfab in VR and it was awesome!