Given the developments over the last year in AR/VR technology, glTF and USDZ are going to be the most important formats for 3D models. In fact, we think glTF and USDZ are now essential to most companies focussed on AR/VR. As a result, formatting your 3D models to glTF and USDZ enables a lot of user experiences. Let us look at some of them.
Apple announced their support for USDZ in WWDC 2018 as part of ARKit 2. In collaboration with Pixar, Apple launched this new open file format that enables several new experiences.
iOS 12 makes it easy to experience AR nearly anywhere in iOS.
Quick Look for AR allows users to place 3D objects in the real world to see how the objects look and feel in your space. Interestingly, this feature enables a wide range of applications such as trying out furniture in your home or experiencing an animated character in your backyard.
Most importantly, Safari supports AR Quick Look. This allows websites to link USDZ models on their webpages and users to view these models in AR directly from their Safari app. You, as a business owner, do not need a dedicated app to enable this AR experience.
Sharing across apps
Users can share USDZ objects using several apps in iOS12 such as Mail, Messages, Files, News and of course, Safari. Sharing AR experiences on these apps will be as easy as shading usdz files. This is going to be magical for users!
QLPreviewController supports AR Quick Look of 3D objects in iOS12. Integrating AR experiences in your mobile app will be as easy as integrating QLPreviewController once you have USDZ formatted models.
For more customised AR experiences on iOS with ARKit 2, USDZ now provides far more power and enables two critical abilities for developers:
3D modelling process encapsulation: Until now, COLLADA (or.dae) format was usually used to import models into ARKit apps. A critical issue with this approach was that software engineers have to configure texture maps and play around with lighting to ensure fidelity of representation. This needed a lot of back-and-forth between 3D artists and software engineers to create the best experience. USDZ solves this problem by using a PBR modelling paradigm and packaging the model in a fully-specified self-contained file.
Over the network 3D models: By virtue of being a single file format and the support for runtime loading capability in ARKit 2, USDZ is the ideal format to load 3D models dynamically over the network to build magical AR experiences.
glTF is described as the JPEG of 3D by its creators. It is a runtime asset delivery format developed by Khronos Group 3D Formats Working Group. Since its creation, several platforms have started supporting glTF as a format to consume 3D content.
Several WebGL platforms such as three.js, BabylonJS, Cesium, A-Frame and many others support glTF loading. You can build rich AR/VR/WebGL experiences for your users using these.
ARCore now supports runtime loading of glTF assets without conversion to SceneForm format. As a result, you can deliver glTF formatted models over the network to your app and build AR experiences using ARCore. As with USDZ, this has amazing benefits of relatively predictable 3D model fidelity and easy over-the-network delivery of assets for apps.
Facebook AR Studio and 3D Posts
glTF formatted models are ideally suited to building AR Studio experiences as well as for 3D posts on your Facebook page. Here as well, using glTF models has the advantage that the Software Engineer or AR developer does not need to configure model parameters and textures.
glTF and USDZ Superformats
Converting your 3D assets to glTF and USDZ formats enables a lot of AR/VR/WebGL applications for your users. This can unlock new channels of engagement and business models for you. We believe these new formats are going to become fundamental to the AR/VR industry.
Do checkout our blogpost as a primer on various formats that currently used in the 3D industry.
Quote about us from the article: “Point105-AR provides a holistic 3D asset management solution for augmented reality experiences.”
It is very exciting to be working with one of the best 3D CGI and retail technology teams in the world. Our product addresses the need to be able to create and manage 3D assets for creating AR experiences at scale. Along with Target, we will be exploring how we can help accelerate the roadmap for AR.
In order to use the amazing 3D models and animation for your Augmented Reality experiences, you need to export them in 3D model formats. Each Augmented Reality platform understands a few model formats and there are several. It is really tricky to handle multiple 3D model formats to work with each AR platform.
3D model formats
AR platforms rely on graphics technologies to draw (or render) 3D objects. A 3D model format stores information such as the 3D mesh, animations, materials, textures, and lighting. Unfortunately, there are several formats and each graphics system relies on a different set of formats. Let us look at a few formats we work with.
COLLADA (COLLAborative Design Activity) is a widely supported 3D model format. COLLADA documents are typically identified by a .dae file extension. Most platforms support this format, including SceneKit (iOS), Unity, and WebGL. Textures or image files are kept separate and are not packed into a single file. Also, COLLADA is not a binary format.
We use COLLADA when we work across tools within our company. However, we do not recommend using this format to work directly in applications.
FBX (Filmbox) is also a widely supported format and the files are usually identified by a .fbx file extension. FBX has reliable implementations across 3D software and is especially very good with supporting animations and bones. However, SceneKit, the graphics platform provided by iOS, does not support this format natively.
We do not recommend using this format for applications directly. We could use this format to import animations into Facebook AR Studio and other software as an intermediate step.
OBJ (Wavefront) is a standard format supported by many software applications, identified by .obj file extension. One downside to OBJ is that it represents mesh geometry alone. The visual appearance or material information is stored in a separate file (or files) with a .mtl extension. The format does not have units as well. While the simplicity of the format makes it very reliable to support across applications, we do not recommend using this format to work directly in applications.
gfTF (.gltf and.glb)
glTF (GL Transmission Format) is a more recent 3D model format described as the JPEG of 3D. glTF supports a binary format, usually identified as a .glb file extension and a text format, usually identified as a .gltf extension. The self-contained binary format packs textures/images as well. As a result, the model format is very attractive to use because a single file is sufficient.
The support for this format has recently become prevalent among several applications.
We are excited to announce Point105-AR technology solutions. Point105-AR’s mission is to help businesses build magical Augmented Reality experiences that are delightful, fun (even eccentric), and intuitive.Over the last 2 years, we have been developing our reference app, MaskUp. Our app has been downloaded more than 70K times on iOS and Android, and users engage with the app for more than 4.5 minutes each day on average with our novel AR experiences. We were one of the first partners to launch effects in Facebook AR Studio (Read about our launch here). One of our effects, Turban Mania, has over 12 million uses across the world.
Users love Augmented Reality experiences
The user engagement with our AR effects has been beyond our expectations and with the numbers we are seeing, we believe that AR is now ready for prime-time user experiences across all possible domains: e-commerce, entertainment, communication, industrial and manufacturing systems, training solutions, education and others.
Moreover, four major technology players are putting their weight behind AR and have launched platforms in the past few months: Apple launching ARKit, Google launching ARCore, Facebook launching ARStudio, and Snapchat launching Lens Studio. The potential reach for AR is now extremely compelling, and users absolutely love AR for its engaging experiences.
Technical expertise to create Augmented Reality experiences
The skillset required to create in AR is very different from traditional technology like building apps or building websites. Creating good quality AR experiences requires expertise in Computer Vision, 3D modelling and Computer graphics, three typically diverse skills in the market today. We believe that, with our expertise in these fields, we can help many businesses accelerate their AR goals and help them get to market much faster than they would otherwise with traditional development.
0.105 radians ~= 6 degrees (of freedom)
In a non-AR world objects are not like in real life. If you try to move around to see the back of an object shown on your smartphone, you cannot. The object just follows you. AR allows you to explore objects a lot more intuitively by being able to move objects, rotating them, and moving them. Computer interfaces that use AR imitate the real world a lot more than traditional interfaces.
In scientific terms, objects are empowered with 6 degrees of freedom or commonly known as 6DOF in the AR world. Our company name, Point105-AR, is a play on this concept and our mission is to create magical experiences that endows 3d virtual objects with 6 degrees of freedom in the AR world.
Let’s go through the various stages of building high quality AR experience.
Low poly models: For each product that you want to display as part of an AR experience, you need to create a 3D model that is optimised for smartphones. 3D artists can take in CAD models or Product images and create 3D models that have a very low size, also known as low-poly models. It is important to look out for good quality low poly 3D modelling artists or designers.
Material configuration: Each model needs to be configured with a material so it looks like the intended object and these materials have certain properties. The configurations might need to be different across various platforms. Newer workflows to creating workflows include a technique called Physically based Rendering (also, PBR).
Cloud serving: Hosting models in a public cloud along with material configuration, so they are optimised for fast delivery to where the user is. Formatting in glTF and USDZ allows you to configure models at runtime seamlessly and easily.
SDK: glTF and USDZ formats seamlessly work with many frameworks such as ARCore, ARKit, WebGL frameworks and other AR/VR frameworks.