When I tried out the zSpace virtual reality tablet last August, it was immediately obvious that it would make a great platform for designing 3D printable objects. But given that the company is focusing on medical, educational and industrial design applications first, that kind of app could be a ways off.
It looks like virtual reality firm Sixense will beat them there. I had the chance to view a demo of the company’s upcoming MakeVR CAD program last week, and it looks very promising. It takes advantage of Sixense’s STEM system, a motion tracker that can pair with handheld controllers that basically act as mice. While using MakeVR, you hold a controller in each hand and move them around to interact with your virtual workspace. You can also integrate other tools like a camera.
MakeVR was designed to make modeling as simple as possible. Like 123D Design, it comes with a large library of shapes that users can combine to create new designs. Users can use one object to cut another apart or easily copy one shape over and over. It’s simple to change colors. It’s also very easy to create curved shapes by just waving your hand in the desired shape — a feature that excited me especially considering how long I spent trying to create a curved thread recently.
That approach isn’t radically different from other emerging CAD programs that are meant to be easy to use, but the hardware makes a big difference. Working in 3D with a mouse can be frustrating. Using the two little pin-like shapes that correspond with your hands in MakeVR is more intuitive. And you can hit all the buttons connected to different actions with minimal movement of your fingers. Getting used to which button does what takes some time, but is fairly simple.
MakeVR is also built for collaboration. Multiple people can work on the same object at once. On your screen, other people appear as little floating robots whose actions are displayed to you in real time. It’s goofy, but it’s a whole lot more personable than watching someone else’s cursor move around in Google Docs.
When a design is complete, it can be sent directly to a 3D printer without any post-processing required.
We capped off the demo by messing around with a virtual chess board the Sixense team created. It’s not the intended use of MakeVR, but it was a fun demonstration of what you can do in a virtual sandbox.
MakeVR will go on sale next week through a Kickstarter campaign.