Weekly Tech Review – Week 6 Sketchfab – viewing 3D scans

Sketchfab

Overview:

Following on from last week’s review of publishing 3D models on Sketchfab, we are reviewing the user-experience of Sketchfab. Sketchfab is a platform where you can publish, share and discover 3D content. There are over 1.5 million scenes with a community of over 1 million creators you can follow, making Sketchfab the largest platform for immersive and interactive 3D content. As with most of our reviews, this is a free platform, where there is no cost to upload or access content.

What you need:

  • An internet connection
  • A computer or smartphone
  • The Sketchfab website or app (available for iOS and Android)

 Instructions:

The Sketchfab website is incredibly easy to use and navigate. For the purposes of this review, we visited the profile of the British Museum, who have made a concerted effort to publish 3D models online, and have uploaded 220 to date. Following on from this we explored the models that were tagged as ‘Cornwall’ and then filtered for ‘Cultural Heritage and Museums’. We particularly enjoyed the 3D models created by Tom Goskar.

Pros:

  • Detailed information has been provided next to the models. We selected the Queen piece from the Lewis Chess set – this showed information relating to the date of production, height, material, as well as meta-data about the person who took the 3D scan and what equipment was used.

  • There is the facility for multiple annotations when a model contains more than one object.

  • You can download the model for free, though if you wished to charge, there is the facility. This is dependent upon copyright restrictions – so if you don’t want people to download something, you don’t have to offer it.
  • You can add this model to your own collection, embed it on a website, like it, and share it on social media.
  • You can see how many people have viewed and liked the model, allowing museums to gauge the popularity of objects.
  • There is the facility to set different licenses for the download, for instance, the Queen is Creative Common Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike. The Creative Commons system of licensing is very straightforward, and you can easily work it out here.
  • People can comment on each model, allowing for extra information, feedback, and discussion amongst users.
  • You can tag each model with generic terms, making it easy for people to find your model while browsing.
  • Link to the museum’s website

Cons:

  • We were keen to try out the VR facility on the Sketchfab app with our trusty Google Cardboards, however, we noticed that all of the museum/heritage models that we looked at were not optimised for VR. This is not a criticism of Sketchfab per se, but more of a missed opportunity on behalf of museums. We did find some ‘VR ready’ models and found the experience to be absolutely brilliant, with the ability to move around the object (something that we noticed was noticeably lacking in Google Arts and Culture and Google Expeditions.
  • Viewing objects in VR version works perfectly for iOS devices. However, using an Android device takes a long time for the object to load in VR and, additionally, the user must install the Google VR Services app beforehand, in order to be able to view objects on Google cardboard (or any VR device).

General feedback:

We love Sketchfab! It presents a brilliant opportunity to freely share and disseminate 3D digital content and become a member of this burgeoning online community. We particularly like the idea of being able to comment on models and feel that this would be a useful tool in the co-curation of museum objects, enhancing digital engagement and participation.

We noticed that most of the models that have been tagged as ‘Cornwall’ are archaeological or architectural, so there is a need for museum object to comprehensively display Cornish heritage.

Score:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of use- 5/5
  • Education – 5/5
  • Fun – 4.5/5

Overall score: 19.5

Jenny Lee and Yiota Liopetriti

Weekly Tech Review – Week 5 Sketchfab – publishing 3D scans

Sketchfab

Overview:

After taking all of our wonderful 3D images of the Porthcurno carrier pigeon last week, we needed somewhere to publish and share them – so this week we will be reviewing Sketchfab. Sketchfab is a platform where you can publish, share and discover 3D content. There are over 1.5 million scenes with a community of over 1 million creators you can follow, making Sketchfab the largest platform for immersive and interactive 3D. As with most of our reviews, this is a free platform, where there is no cost to upload or access content.

Sketchfab is available as a desktop website and as a mobile app, so during this review, we will look at both of these iterations. Once we have finished sharing our 3D images, we will also have a look at some of the museums who use Sketchfab on a frequent basis.

What you need:

  • An internet connection
  • Either a computer or a smartphone
  • If using a smartphone, you will need to download the free Sketchfab app (available for iOS and Android)

 Instructions:

Web:

  1. Open your internet browser and go to the Sketchfab website: https://sketchfab.com
  2. Create an account.
  3. If you are using the Trnio app (reviewed last week) then you can select the scan and share directly to Sketchfab

 

 

Pros:

  • Website: it is really clear how to upload scans into Sketchfab.
  • Website: the editing options on the website are excellent (once you have managed to get your content on there). The ability to add extra lighting, backgrounds, and post-processing filters is superb, creating professional looking 3D models.
  • We really liked the ability to share 3D scans online on the Sketchfab site, and also the ability to embed this model into our own website.

Cons:

  • Mobile app: not very user-friendly. It is unclear how you import a scan to publish. We thought that we would be able to import 3D scans straight into Sketchfab, but it turns out that on the app you can only export scans to Sketchfab from the app that you used to create the scan. While the Trnio app supports this direct export into Sketchfab, Scann3D doesn’t and we found it impossible to transfer the 3D scans from the app into Sketchfab.

General feedback:

The website and the mobile app appear to fulfill different functions. The website is much better at uploading and editing the 3D scans, whereas the mobile app is more geared towards exploring 3D content that has already been published. So, if you want to publish your own scans, we recommend that you use the Sketchfab website.

The user journey is not particularly easy or intuitive. If Sketchfab were easier to use and integrated better with 3D scanning apps, then the overall experience and benefit to museums would be better. Once the content has been uploaded, Sketchfab provides a fantastic opportunity to become part of a 3D community online, alongside bigger museums such as the British Museum.

Sketchfab is not perfect, but at the moment it is the biggest and best platform available to publish and share 3D scans and models.

Score:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of use- 3/5
  • Quality of output – 4/5
  • Potential for museums – 4.5/5

Overall score: 16.5

Next week:

Next week we will be exploring content from other museums from the Sketchfab website, with the mindset of a user rather than a publisher. We might even get the chance to use our favourite tech so far – our Google Cardboards!

 

Jenny Lee and Yiota Liopetriti

Weekly Tech Review – Week 4 Photogrammetry Apps for creating 3D scans

This week we are looking at photogrammetry apps, which allow you to create a 3D scan of an object using only your phone. The last three reviews have focused on some of the ways of disseminating digital context to users and visitors, creating an immersive experience. We are changing the focus in this review to look at what tech is available for museums to use to create the digital content itself. With this in mind, we are changing the scoring criteria slightly – ‘Education’ and ‘Fun’ will be replaced with ‘Potential for museums’ and ‘Quality of output’.

As the focus of these reviews is on low-cost and free options for museums, we only used those apps that were free to download and didn’t require any additional equipment. While trying to find suitable apps, we were unable to find any apps that satisfied these criteria that were available on both Android and iOS phones. As a result, we have picked and reviewed two different apps, one for each operating system.

Photogrammetry apps provide a brilliant opportunity for museums to create 3D models of their objects, which can be embedded on museum websites or post and view on platforms such as Sketchfab, which we will be reviewing next week. This means that museums can make their collections accessible to a wide audience, helping to share objects that might be hidden away in stores. It also helps to redress the balance of digitisation away from 2D objects such as documents and photographs, which have received far more attention due to the relative ease of their digitisation. However, with developments in software and prevalence of smartphones, 3D objects can now gain more prominence online.

Unfortunately, as we do not work in a museum, we do not have access to wonderful objects to scan. As a result, we have used a knitted carrier pigeon, which was given to us from the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno. We would love to see how this would work in a museums context, so if you would like us to test these apps out further on any of your collections items, get in touch.

 

SCANN3D App (Android)

Overview:

Scann3D deploys patent pending photogrammetry technology to enable true 3D model capture and reconstruction for smartphones and tablets. Your device becomes a standalone tool to turn images into 3D models – all your images are processed by and on it. The app essentially offers users the possibility to digitise objects in 3D format. This is an updated version of a previous app called 123DScan.

What you need:

  • An Android smartphone
  • The SCANN3D App – available for free only for Android
  • An object in plain background preferably and in good lighting. TIP: Reflective, transparent, and untextured, homogeneous objects do not make good models.

Instructions:

  1. Download the free app on your Android and open it
  2. Click on Login
  3. Click on New Model
  4. Swipe and read through the Tips & Best Practices before you actually proceed with 3D-digitising your object
  5. After you’ve read tips and instructions, choose what object you want to try out and place it on a plain surface
  6. The app should now give you the opportunity to take pictures of your object. The app requires that you take at least 5 different pictures from different angles of the object, but I would say that 20-25 pictures will give you the best results.
  7. Once you’re done click on the tick option. The app will then take some time to load your object.
  8. Your 3D-digitised object will be stored in My Models. You can revisit it any time, download it or send it to someone.

Pros:

  • You don’t need any specialist technology to do this
  • Accessible and free
  • You can digitise any object no matter how complicated it is
  • Simple to use once you have read the tips and instructions

Cons:

  • It takes a while for the app to process the images of your object
  • It might not work from the very first time – it took us 2 failed attempts to finally get it right (TIP: don’t try to digitise a vase or a plant!)
  • The app itself does not give you the option to download your 3D-digitised object. You’ll need a follow-up app to be able to transfer it and view it somewhere else. We are going to look at Sketchfab – a platform that lets you upload and view 3D-digitised objects.
  • This app can only be used on Android

Score:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of use- 3.5/5
  • Quality of output – 3/5
  • Potential for museums – 4.5/5

Total: 15.5/20

 

 

Trnio App (iOS)

Overview:

Trnio makes your iPhone to into a high-quality 3D scanner, using a cloud service to convert images into hi-resolution photo quality 3D scans.

What you need:

  • A iPhone
  • The Trnio App – available for free only for iOS
  • An object in plain background preferably and in good lighting. This is the same as for the Android app/

Instructions:

  1. Download the free app on your iPhone and open it
  2. Click on three turquoise lines in the top right of the screen and click on ‘Tutorial’. This will bring up a video, which is worth a watch.
  3. After watching the tutorial video, click done and return to the main screen.
  4. Choose the object that you want to scan and place it on a plain surface. We used a piece of flipchart paper as it was a large, white surface.
  5. Click on the turquoise camera icon at the bottom of the screen.
  6. Make sure the object that you want to scan is within the circle on the screen and click on the smaller circle in the middle. Wait for a few seconds while the camera ‘blinks’.
  7. From this point you don’t have to click on anything, just start moving very slowly around the object. As you move, you will notice that small turquoise circles appear on the screen. These present the photographs that the app has taken to form the 3D image; the more circle the higher the quality of the scan.
  8. Make sure that you keep the same distance from the object, but also make sure that you vary your height as you walk around. This will ensure that all angles of the object being scanned.
  9. Once you have completed a full revolution of your object, press and hold the small circle in the middle of the screen – this will save the images. Click on ‘Queue’ on the top right of your screen. This will then show you the progress of the upload of your scan.
  10. If you are happy with your scan, press ‘Publish’ on the top right of the preview screen.
  11. Your 3D-digitised object will be stored within your profile on the app. You can revisit any time, download it or import it directly to Sketchfab.

Pros:

  • You don’t need any specialist technology to do this
  • Accessible and free
  • You can digitise any object no matter how complicated it is
  • Simple to use once you have read the tips and instructions
  • This app relies on a continuous stream of photographs, which are taken automatically as you walk round, making this app slightly easier and more straightforward to use.

Cons:

  • As this is a cloud-based app, it takes a considerable amount of time to create a preview of your scan and then more time to upload this.
  • It might not work from the very first time – it took us 3 failed attempts to finally get it right.
  • The app itself does not give you the option to download your 3D-digitised object. You’ll need a follow-up app to be able to transfer it and view it somewhere else. We are going to look at Sketchfab.
  • Although this app has the option to trim your scan (allowing you to get rid of the surface that you placed the object on), this didn’t work for me at all, despite several attempts
  • This app can only be used on iOS.

Score:

  • Price – 5/5
  • Ease of use- 3/5
  • Quality of output – 4/5
  • Potential for museums – 4.5/5

Total: 16.5/20

General feedback on both apps:

These apps are great tools which offer anyone the opportunity to 3D-scan an object. The fact that it is free makes it accessible to anyone, anywhere. We thoroughly enjoyed the possibilities these apps offer.