Building a collaborative 3D design review app in just three months

23/02/2024 by Patil Angaladian (Marketing Director)

The 3D industry, from AEC to 3D studios, to medical and fashion is a complex realm characterized by multifaceted projects, high polygon 3D models, and a vast array of stakeholders.

3dverse engaged with businesses across these industries to explore limitations and pain-points with existing 3D solutions and found a consistent unmet need to share and review large/complex 3d files with clients. Guided by the feedback from cross-industry early adopters, 3dverse swiftly responded and delivered a web-based 3D design review app, 3dverse Collaborate, in just three months.

3dverse Collaborate wasn't just rapid in its development—it was transformative. It empowered stakeholders from various industries to seamlessly review and collaborate on 3D files, all through the convenience of a web browser. Let's delve into the unique ways we tackled the inherent challenges of 3D software development, all made possible by the 3dverse platform.

The Challenge:

Despite the advanced technologies, 3D professionals encountered a persistent obstacle in their design review process. Two primary issues were evident:

Absence of a Unified Collaboration Tool:

Professionals were looking for a tool that would allow for seamless real-time collaboration. Instead, they found themselves navigating a fragmented landscape, resorting to less efficient means like screenshots, emails, and PDFs to communicate and share their designs.

Hardware Constraints:

Each project generated numerous files in various formats. These were not just challenging to manage and review, but also demanded specific hardware for viewing. This meant that design reviews were not just tedious but also became tethered to specific devices, restricting flexibility. Additionally, there were significant privacy concerns associated with sending the files, as they may contain proprietary designs, sensitive project details, or other confidential information that could be compromised if intercepted or mishandled.

The Impact:

This disjointed approach hindered the design review phase. It led to delays, increased chances of miscommunication, and sometimes resulted in stakeholders lagging behind in vital discussions due to hardware limitations and sharing methods.

3D Platform options on the market:

When examining the available options in the 3D space, the distinct advantages of a cloud-based platform like 3dverse become undeniably evident. As the complexity of projects grows, so does the demand for tools that can effortlessly handle the intricacies and offer the flexibility to adapt to new challenges.

Option 1: Three.js is a popular web technology that leverages browser APIs to render 3D content directly on a user’s machine. While promising, using three.js requires 3D assets to be loaded directly onto the user's computer and relies on their device to render the graphics. This can result in slow load times for large objects and, worse, a high-lag experience on older devices. Furthermore, three.js lacks built-in features for real-time collaboration, a crucial requirement for our project.

Option 2: Unity, a leading 3D engine for game development. Despite its strengths, Unity poses its own set of challenges. Primarily, it isn't tailored for web applications. While it is possible to compile Unity projects to WebGL (which would allow us to view 3D assets in a web application), this approach would essentially bring us back to the limitations we observed with three.js. Moreover, the alternative—setting up Unity for remote rendering—is both costly and technically complex.

The 3dverse solution: Our cloud-native 3D development platform not only provides a robust framework for rendering 3D content on the web but also boasts a suite of features designed to deliver applications faster than ever on the market. By bypassing the constraints of local hardware and leveraging cloud-based rendering, it's able to stream application outputs to any device seamlessly. It’s also compatible with various file formats, and ensures security and privacy, providing for more streamlined and collaborative design review. Recognizing this synergy and potential for disruption, we decided to tap into the potential of 3dverse, opting to build a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to demonstrate its capabilities.

The Constraints:

As we embarked on this ambitious journey, we were faced with some stringent constraints:

Our team consisted of two web developers who, while proficient in their domain, had yet to gain experience with 3D technologies. This meant that the solution had to be intuitive enough for developers unfamiliar with the 3D realm to get up to speed quickly.

While we intended to leverage the 3dverse APIs for 3D rendering, it was imperative that all the metadata – encompassing user accounts, projects, and other related data – remained isolated and specific to our project. This requirement ensured that our platform maintained its autonomy, preserving the integrity and security of user data.

Furthermore, we were operating on a tight timeline. We had just three months to produce a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). The creation of a MVP was just the first milestone on this journey, however. We envisioned a scalable platform, allowing for the integration of industry-specific features in subsequent development phases.

Navigating these constraints required a blend of strategic planning, meticulous execution, and a toolset that facilitated rapid development without compromising on quality. 3dverse, with its robust APIs and developer-friendly documentation, proved to be the perfect ally in this endeavor, enabling our team to deliver 3dverse Collaborate easily.

The Solution:

To effectively overcome constraints and meet our ambitious objectives, our primary approach was anchored in leveraging modern technologies with a focus on developer productivity.

Our tech stack was comprised of a Next.js web app with a React front-end. Next.js, known for its versatility and performance, allowed us to iterate on the user interface using development tools we were already familiar with. To integrate 3dverse's 3D viewer, we had to include the Livelink.js Javascript SDK into our front-end application and connect to remote rendering sessions.

While 3dverse handles 3D rendering and 3D asset storage, our application's role was reduced to focus solely on metadata management. To adeptly manage this data, we chose Postgres. Its ACID compliance and extensible architecture ensured that our application's metadata remained both secure and scalable.

The 3dverse Collaborate backend is hosted on Google Cloud, providing a reliable and scalable deployment strategy with minimum maintenance or management.

One of our core principles was to maintain user privacy and data integrity. Thus, when users sign up for Collaborate, all their account information and personal data remain confined within the Collaborate ecosystem. Only the 3D assets, devoid of any personal identifiers, are uploaded to 3dverse using its public API. This bifurcation enables us to tap into the powerful rendering capabilities of 3dverse, while simultaneously maintaining a clear boundary to protect user privacy.

By merging modern web development frameworks with a clear data management strategy, we were on track not only to meet but surpass our MVP goals, all while ensuring the highest standards of data security and user experience.

3dverse Collaborate features

Utilizing our robust infrastructure and tools, we developed a comprehensive set of features tailored to our early adopters' needs, many of which were already available on the 3dverse platform.

3D navigation and real-time collaboration: Beyond mere 3D navigation, this feature was enhanced with real-time collaboration tools. This meant that multiple users could explore, annotate, and discuss a 3D model simultaneously, fostering deeper understanding and ensuring thorough design reviews all the while following each other and teleporting to different collaborator views.

Cutting Plane: A dynamic tool that enabled users to slice through 3D models on different axis, revealing intricate cross-sections and offering invaluable insights into the inner workings of a design.

Project in Project: This feature showcased the concept of persistent worlds. By embedding one project within the other, any modifications made in one project automatically reflect in its nested counterpart, ensuring continuity and real-time updates without losing context.

Custom camera controller: The 3dverse development SDK includes a built-in Camera controller. However, to enhance the user experience specific to a design review tool, we opted to create a custom controller using three.js and other open-source libraries.

3dverse Collaborate Use Cases:

To understand the tangible impact of 3dverse Collaborate, let's dive into the Technical Design Review use case.

Betdi, a Building Information Modeling (BIM) company located in France, regularly organizes technical design review meetings for large projects involving numerous stakeholders who each have their own design software to view 3D files. These stakeholders, crucial to the design process, are located far from the construction site, resulting in the following challenges:

Inefficient Screen Sharing & high cost of onsite meetings: Baptiste Dilasser, the BIM manager on Betdi's projects, often shared his screen during virtual meetings. This method, while prevalent, could have been more optimal. Stakeholders found it challenging to follow along, leading to better communication. When the meetings were onsite, they incurred high costs, both in terms of travel expenses and time spent. Post-meeting, the lack of an efficient review tool meant that comments and feedback were exchanged via a long and cumbersome email thread and with little to react to and mark up except for screenshots.

Inadequate Post-Meeting Review: The weekly meetings to discuss technical comments usually went well. However, the subsequent process was fraught with difficulties. Stakeholders who didn't possess specialized 3D software found themselves at a disadvantage. They couldn't revisit the 3D model independently, making their job significantly harder and review cycles less efficient.

With these challenges, the ROI of each design meeting was compromised, leading to delayed decisions, potential miscommunications, and prolonged project timelines.

How 3dverse Collaborate Transformed Betdi's Design Review Process

With Collaborate, Betdi's design review process witnessed a transformative shift:

Instant Comment Validation: Baptiste no longer faced the inefficiencies of screen-sharing. Using Collaborate, he could immediately validate and address comments during the meetings or offline, streamlining the feedback process and reducing iteration cycles.

No Need for Specialized Software: Stakeholders were no longer bound by software limitations. With 3dverse Collaborate's web-based approach, they didn't need to download any specific software. The tool integrated seamlessly into their workflow, offering them 24/7 access to both the 3D model and associated comments as long as they had an internet connection.

Enhanced Accessibility and Efficiency: 3dverse Collaborate removed the barriers of specialized software and hardware. Stakeholders could dive into the design details anytime, from anywhere, ensuring that post-meeting reviews were as effective as the meetings themselves.

By using 3dverse Collaborate, Betdi significantly improved its design review process. Stakeholders could actively participate in meetings, access crucial 3D designs post-meeting, and contribute more effectively to the project. The time saved in this streamlined process directly translates to financial savings and faster project delivery, showcasing a clear return on investment.

The transformative impact of 3dverse Collaborate on Betdi’s operations underscores the efficacy of our solution. But beyond individual case studies, the broader implications for the 3D industry as a whole are profound.

Conclusion:

The synergy between our chosen technologies and 3dverse’s capabilities played a pivotal role in accelerating the 3D app delivery process. By leveraging 3dverse, we effectively cut our delivery time in half, achieving in months what would typically take double the time. This not only allowed us to bring Collaborate to market rapidly but also set the stage for continual innovation and enhancement in subsequent development phases. In harnessing the power of 3dverse, we not only addressed the immediate challenges of multiple industries but showcased the power of the platform as a gateway to creating and delivering business 3D applications.

Take a look for yourself : collaborate.3dverse.com

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