Aug 10th 2017

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