Announcing Sketchfab AR on iOS

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Following the recent release of ARKit by Apple, I’m very excited to announce the release of Sketchfab AR on iOS. With close to 2 million 3D models to explore, this makes us the largest AR library on the planet. And given our integration with pretty much every possible way to create 3D content, it also makes us the easiest and most seamless way for creators to publish AR content on iOS, without needing any code.

Given the reach of the iOS ecosystem, this is a big milestone for us. Half of the iOS users, so roughly half a billion devices, will have access to iOS11 and ARKit, and as a result we are able to bring mobile AR to a massive audience.

Mobile AR lets you navigate 3D content in a much more natural and intuitive way than a 2D screen. You can move around any object or scene with 6 degrees of freedom, just like you would in real life, or in VR, but without the limitations of either. It’s really a new medium in that sense. AR also provides a great way to get the sense of scale of a virtual thing, which is very hard to do without the additional context provided by mixed reality.

How it works

The AR feature is available on iOS for any Sketchfab model. Download our iOS app to get started, then open any model, and click on the AR icon in the top right corner. Aim at a horizontal flat surface until you see the Sketchfab floor appear, then simply tap on it to place the model. You can then zoom in and out by pinching, or tilt to rotate. And most importantly, you can walk freely around the model which will be locked in space. If you want to reposition the model, just re-tap the screen to bring the floor back, then re-tap on the floor to reposition the model.

Sketchfab’s app might be the best way to try ARKit – TechCrunch

Pro tip

You can easily record your in-app AR experience using the new iOS screen recording feature, you just need to enable this though the settings (how to here). You can tag your tweets with #madewithSketchfab 🙂

Known limitations

There are a few known limitations:

  • The surface needs to be horizontal. The iOS AR functionality only lets you pick between horizontal and vertical, and we went for horizontal.
  • The surface needs to be large enough and not too plain, otherwise it won’t be detected.
  • Given the fact we are using a webview in a native app to offer the feature, there is tad more lag than a full native experience. We are working on ways to reduce it.
  • Right now there is no way to define the scale of your AR models at launch, you need to do this on screen with pinch. In future versions  we will use  our VR editor and support the scale defined there.
  • Some models are too heavy for mobile browsers, and crash in the app, so they’ll crash in AR as well. We are constantly working on ways to improve this. The app offers a “VR/AR ready” filter to only browse content that will run very well.
  • In order to optimize for performance, we disable post process effects for AR.
  • ARKit is only available for iPhone 6s and above, and iPad 2017 models running iOS 11.

Here is a collection I put together of a few models which look either good or are fun in AR. For artists, a quick tip is to add a dropped shadow to your models, which will make the AR effect much more powerful. We are thinking about ways to bring this as a feature in the app.

With the introduction of ARCore by Google recently, we plan to introduce the feature in our Android app soon.

And if you are an AR developer just looking for content to use in your AR apps, Sketchfab already offers more than 100k models available for free download.


About the author

Alban Denoyel

Co-founder and CEO of Sketchfab.

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