Sketchfab announced – and displayed a new method of displaying massive 3D models, which they call Massive.
The young company, based in France, has been operating a unique online service since 2012 that allows easy display of 3D models on websites. They provide a plugin approach that can be accommodated on almost any web platform. 3D models can also be downloaded.
Their platform has attracted well over 3M models at this point, with no end in sight.
The reason for their success is that it is otherwise rather challenging to display a 3D model online, as special tools are required. Sketchfab makes the process incredibly easy, and it’s been undertaken by many for a variety of applications. One popular approach is used by companies to display 3D versions of their products to prospective clients.
But as you might imagine, squeezing complex 3D models into web pages can be tricky in a technical these. Sketchfab has been limited in their abilities because of this.
However, their new system, called “Massive” attempts to overcome this problem. How does it work? I’m not entirely sure, based on their sketchy explanation:
MASSIVE uses a combination of data streaming and automated Level of Detail (LOD) mesh processing to make it possible to browse much larger 3D models in a browser.
It does seem to do this when you use the system; as you zoom in and out you can see the system revert to coarse panels and slowly reloads them to the correct resolution for that zoom level. While the system does work, it’s not quite as smooth as using, say, Google Earth, where that tool seems to manage different resolutions a bit better.
Initially you might see this:
But after a few seconds the detailed panels load and you see this:
But I have no concerns because Sketchfab is still developing Massive. They say they will officially launch the system some time in 2019, so there’s plenty of time for tune-ups. They seem to say they’re working on this particular aspect as well.
So far their examples appear to be for large-scale scanned landscapes, and it handles them well. However, could this be used for other types of 3D models? They explain:
Our technology can handle any appropriate 3D data set, so it’s not limited to map data.
Aha! This is important to us because it means that in the future Sketchfab will be able to handle truly gigantic 3D models having incredible resolution and detail. Some of their current landscape examples have over 80M triangles, which is quite a lot. Imagine if a similar number of triangles were used on other 3D models!
Sketchfab says “theoretically there is no size limit on the data we can display”, but of course physical resources will ultimately constrain what can and cannot be done. I imagine that Sketchfab will spend part of their development time determining exactly where the limits should be, as they surely won’t allow Sketchfab users to upload unlimited data.
But that would be fun, wouldn’t it?