Sketchfab Expands into 4th Dimension with Animation Embed

As I’ve learned from covering Sketchfab and a recent interview with the company’s CEO Alban Denoyel, the 3D content site has its sights set on the entire 3D ecosystem.  So, while Sketchfab may allow users to embed 3D printable models on an increasing number of web platforms, including Facebook, the 3D repository also wants to make itself useful to AR, VR, and every other 3D thing under the sun – like Microsoft’s HoloLens mixed reality device. And, just now, the startup has grown into the 4th dimension, adding animated embeds to their increasingly able platform.

Animation Preview, as their blog explains, gives users the ability to upload animated models, with bones or solids, in FBX format. Currently, the feature is in beta and Sketchfab is inviting users to test it out, but, soon, the company will be expanding the feature to everyone. Alban says of the new release, “Animation support is a huge step for Sketchfab as a product, it’s pretty much a 4th dimension. It means you can now tell mini interactive stories and share them anywhere online. We want to be the best place for your 3D files, so we will continue to improve Sketchfab as you push creative boundaries. I can’t wait to see what you show and tell with animations!”

This feature is important for the 3D printing industry for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, designers are being drawn to 4D printing more and more, creating objects that change with time so that they come out of the printer as fully-functional items.  In high-end research, this might eventually entail robotic systems that can fly right off the printbed, but, in the near-term, clothing designers like Nervous System and Danit Peleg are printing garments that only take shape once removed from the machine and unfolded. Once the phenomena of 4D printing is truly explored, a method for showcasing these four-dimensional functions will be essential.

From a larger perspective, 3D printing is gradually being incorporated into the larger 3D ecosystem.  Autodesk calls it Reality Computing, while HP refers to it as blended reality and Microsoft uses the term mixed reality.  Regardless of what you call it, the concept involves the seamless interchange of digital and physical data, bringing reality data into the digital world with 3D scanners and modeling and sending digital data into the physical world with 3D printing.  To experience and manipulate this data requires VR/AR systems and haptic devices that allow users to better interact with the digital world.

As the physical world is a fluid and moving thing (that encompasses the digital world), it is essential to accurately represent time on platforms like Sketchfab. This is particularly true as game developers and movie makers turn to 3D printing as a form of custom, inventory-less merchandising, in which players and viewers create personally-tailored products that are 3D printed via local desktop 3D printers or 3D printing services (see the Company of Heroes model above). Of course, it won’t be limited to big brands, with individual users creating their own animations, too.  Alban’s Gangam Style below was created with the Structure Sensor and the itSeez3D app, demonstrating just how easily ordinary users might be able to make their own animations.

And, even if you don’t care about any of this stuff, you can just be wowed by the idea of 3D animated .gifs! Sketchfab is really with it, as far as I’m concerned.  When the rest of the flat and stagnant digital world will catch up, who knows?

For more examples of 3D animated .gifs, check ’em out on the Animation Preview page.