January 19, 2018
Widely recognized as a 3D and virtual reality pioneer, Sketchfab is introducing us to the way we will consume this new media in the future.
What is Sketchfab?
Sketchfab is the largest platform to publish, share, and discover 3D content on web, mobile, and VR, which is positioned as a “YouTube for 3D content.” Louis Bidou, who is in charge of Operations for Sketchfab, explains, “It is basically like a media publishing platform in that people create and publish 3D content, and then are able to use Sketchfab to broadcast it anywhere online. They can embed 3D content into news articles, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, pretty much everywhere. You might think of it as similar to YouTube; it just shares a different kind of media.” 3D media on Sketchfab is available for everyone to see — using any browser, laptop or phone. In fact, if someone wants to publish a 3D scene on his/her Facebook or Twitter news feed, they currently have only one choice — they must do so using Sketchfab.
How Does it Work?
Critical to Sketchfab’s success is its simplicity. There are different ways to create 3D content for Sketchfab – all depending on the user’s own skillset and previous experience with 3D creation. People can either use a 3D software or tool to design a scene from scratch, or simply use 3D scanning apps. 3D scanning is much simpler and already accessible to everyone today, it only requires easy-to-use software and pictures to create a 3D model.
Louis gave a personal example: “I really like to 3D scan what I find interesting, beautiful, or just fun. The process is basically taking pictures of an object from every angle and putting them into a software. After a few minutes you have a 3D model. Often times I take pictures of my food, but here I don’t take only one, I take 20. It is actually quite cool to see a burger or fruit tart in 3D a few weeks after you’ve eaten it. You can’t eat it again, but you can look at it on Sketchfab.”
Ahead in the Technology Race
At the moment, Sketchfab is the only natively integrated player for 3D content on many social media sites, meaning Sketchfab’s team worked to build a network of partnerships to let its users embed their 3D player anywhere online. Sketchfab works as a middle ground between preexisting 3D content and any internet site. This is a crucial part of Sketchfab’s strategy for future successes. If a user posts a Sketchfab link on Facebook, the content will appear directly on their news feed, rather than opening a new window to Sketchfab’s website. This gives the company a leg up on future competition.
“When people create a 3D model with Photoshop and want to share it with their friends on Facebook, they have to publish it on Sketchfab and then they can simply copy and paste that link on Facebook,” Louis said. Sketchfab’s native integration with Facebook and other social media sites is important for many reasons. Not only does it set Sketchfab apart from potential future competitors, but this trailblazing advance draws attention to the company and its users as innovators in their fields. “This partnership with Facebook was key,” Louis said. “Our goal is to power every 3D embed on the web. Our partnerships with Facebook and many others have given us a key position in this space that we can use to grow our community and visitors base. As any firm, we need boundaries around us if there is competition at some point, which without any doubt there will be.”
Sketchfab has Many Business Applications
The applications of Sketchfab can be categorized under 18 different sectors, ranging from food and drink to fashion and style. While Sketchfab is a community for anyone interested in creating and browsing 3D content, the gaming industry represents a significant part of Sketchfab’s user base.
“They use Sketchfab because it is really easy for them,” Louis said. “To create their games, they basically built all of the assets in 3D, so they are already a few clicks away from bringing those assets to Sketchfab to use for marketing purposes. When a studio launches a game, they find a good way to communicate about it is to let people play with their characters or wander around their environments via Sketchfab.” Independent game designers, who are keen on showing their work in order to get feedback from the community, also represent a significant part of it.
Sketchfab also launched in January 2018 one of its most requested features: an assets store. It’s a way for its creators to monetize their work and share their content outside of Sketchfab, and an awesome place for people to find great 3D models for their projects.
Sketchfab is Assisting Humanity and World Art
At present, another big audience for Sketchfab is people interested in the world’s cultural heritage. Louis Bidou outlined the influence Sketchfab has had on the spreading world’s culture. “As of today, about 600 cultural institutions are part of the community, including the big ones like the British Museum, the MET, and Le Louvre,” Museums use Sketchfab to give people the chance to see their artefacts in 3D and virtual reality. Sketchfab allows millions around the world — those far from urban centers, those who can’t travel to foreign countries to see a particular collection, and scholars doing research — to “go to” these museums virtually. “If you don’t live in a city such as Paris, New York, or London, you don’t have access to the largest art collections,” Louis said. “So if you can see everything in virtual reality on your mobile phone, it is a very good thing for these museums and for spreading knowledge. It benefits everyone.”
Additionally, Sketchfab supported initiatives that helps preserving endangered heritage sites in the Middle East. Third parties, using Sketchfab technology to share their creations, are working to save images and recreate sites that have been and are being destroyed in the region. Sketchfab technology helps preservationists who recreate 3D models or entire scenes of historical sites using 3D scanning technologies to make them easily available online.
Additionally, Sketchfab directly assists these efforts: “We offer discounted PREMIUM accounts to museums and educational organizations so they can use all of the features of Sketchfab for free,” Louis said.
Sketchfab: Its History, Culture and Strategy for Growth
Sketchfab was founded in Paris in 2012, opening its New York office in 2013, and moving here to 1123 Broadway two years ago. Its founders are Alban Denoyel, Cédric Pinson, and Pierre-Antoine Passet. The company has since grown to 30 employees.
Today, the team is split between Paris and New York, but the company works to keep the culture seamless between the two offices. “We do not consider the offices as two different parts of the company or two different entities,” Louis said. “We do our very best to keep it as a united organization.”
Among the efforts towards unification are 24/7 live streaming between the offices, video conference calls, international team-building trips, and even an exchange program. On both sides of the Atlantic, every employee holds the Sketchfab values: creativity, passion, caring, and craziness. “Craziness is hard to explain, you just have to experience it,” Louis said.
The platform has reached its present success with funding from investors. Sketchfab has raised $10 million to date from investors in France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. One of its most crucial investments came from the New York City-based accelerator Techstars, which sparked the company’s decision to expand into the United States.
To get users to their site, Sketchfab tries to keep it as personal as possible. Besides traffic sparked by the platform’s integration on social media sites and major 3D creation softwares and tools, users are also introduced to Sketchfab by in-house evangelists. “One of our team member manages efforts with cultural heritage institutions and someone else with games studios and indies. They are doing both business development and community management,” Louis said. Sketchfab is also always working to increase awareness of the power of 3D and virtual reality. As more sectors in less creative/tech savvy areas see how they can apply VR, they too will take advantage of Sketchfab’s technology.
We see the development of VR happening simultaneously with a rise in public understanding of its capabilities, what it can do, and how to do it. Sketchfab is positioned to take maximum advantage of these developments, having a competitive edge with its proprietary software and a strong network of partnerships.
The Future is Now
With the technology industry rapidly changing, it can be difficult to keep up. Luckily, platforms such as Sketchfab are making it easier to understand and enjoy complex innovations such as virtual reality and 3D content. Integrated into social media sites or recreating the world’s museums — to give just two examples, virtual reality is becoming increasingly available in our day-to-day lives. Change is coming to the way we consume media; Sketchfab is showing us the way.
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