Mar 29, 2017 | By David
Since advanced VR technology became widely available to consumers a few years ago, the immersive virtual environments it presents have been exploited mostly for gaming and other entertainment purposes. More recently, however, more practical applications are being devised for the the technology, particularly in the design field. Following this trend, HTC has today released the MakeVR app for its HTC Vive VR headset. It’s a professional 3D design tool that allows users to make 3D printable objects in a virtual environment.
Placing the user in a realistically rendered interactive 3D environment that they can manipulate however they want, VR technology has the potential to make 3D design more accessible to people unfamiliar with complex CAD software and concepts. The MakeVR software offers a virtual studio to anyone wearing their Vive headset, and the use of the Vive’s controllers allows for hands-on freeform modelling and sculpting. According to Vive Studios Head Joel Breton, “Room-scale VR gives creators a virtual workshop, and the use of natural physical motions brings unprecedented expressiveness and intuitiveness to object design.”
The advanced Sixense motion tracking technology that the Vive runs on means that a user’s real-world gestures can be replicated in the virtual environment. They can shape their object however they see fit using simple physical movements that will also allow them to shift viewpoints, rotating and scaling up or down with ease. This will present a much more intuitive 3D design solution to beginners than most CAD software where a touch screen, or a cursor and various hotkeys and drop-down menus, are used to manipulate what is essentially a complex 2D interface.
Co-founder and CEO of Sixense, Amir Rubinm boldly proclaimed that MakeVR “allows anyone to create 3D content as fast as they can think it up”. Not only could MakeVR drastically lower the barrier of entry for people wanting to get into the 3D design process, it could also be of use to design experts and advanced CAD users. Experienced makers and modelers can benefit from the efficiency of MakeVR’s 3D multi-touch interface. This will allow them to explore and create objects in ways that are much more powerful and expressive than using a traditional mouse and keyboard or touching a flat screen.
Perhaps the most exciting feature of MakeVR is the ease with which it can be linked up to a 3D printer, meaning that the virtual designs can be rapidly realized as physical objects. Online 3D printing service Shapeways has collaborated with HTC on this project to give MakeVR users access to high quality prints of their work.
Within the app there is a direct link to Shapeways, so the projects can be sent for printing from the VR environment itself without even the need to export the object files. These files are also available for download in various standard formats, so they could be manipulated further in different 3D design applications or produced with alternative 3D printing services.
MakeVR has already made a big impression in some corners of the tech industry, winning the “Best Product: Innovation” award at the 2017 Mobile World Conference (MWC). HTC’s app is currently available for $20 through Viveport, and a more powerful version called MakeVR Pro has been promised for later this year. If the software can truly fulfil its apparent potential to open up 3D design to a much wider group of users, then the future of 3D printing technology just got a whole lot more exciting.