(April Fools!) Introducing support for legacy mobile hardware and slow connections

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Headsup: This is the April Fools’ joke that we had planned for today. Given the circumstances, we don’t want to run any pranks on you. However, our team loved putting this one together and it’s our sincere hope that we can put a smile on your face to lighten your day a little. Stay safe!

We’re proud to announce a major update of our viewer that makes 3D accessible to users of legacy mobile devices as well as users on slow internet connections. Our new ASCII-based rendering engine runs on all available hardware and requires up to 95% less data transfer.

Psychological studies have shown that the human brain is able to ‘reconstruct’ a 3D model with a high degree of accuracy after an adjustment period of about 30 seconds. You can experience this effect for yourself through our Desktop support for ASCII – focus on the center of the model below for 30 seconds and you will see HD details emerge:

On Desktop, ASCII mode will be automatically enabled for slow connections. You can also manually activate it through the viewer menu on any Sketchfab model:

Tip: this ASCII mode button will show on all model pages only on April 1, 2020. If you don’t see it, reloading your browser page should fix it. Alternatively, you can add ?post_process_ascii=1 to the model URL. This may stop working later without warning.

Accessing Sketchfab on legacy devices depends on brand and model but in general, look for the WAP browser in your menu.

For the Nokia 3310:

  1. Select Menu > 0 > Surf.
  2. Enter ‘sketchfab.com’, and select OK.
  3. Browse the category models or use the search function to access a model.
  4. Navigate the 3D model using the numeric keys (2/8 for up/down, 4/6 for left/right).

The new mode is now available on all 3D models, making Sketchfab the largest repository of 3D ASCII art on the planet. ASCII mode is available on all plans, including the free Basic plan.

(Featuring Nokia 3310 Retro Electronics Challenge by shaderbytes.)

About the author

Bart Veldhuizen

Head of Community at Sketchfab. 3D Scanning enthusiast and Blenderhead. Running BlenderNation in my spare time.


  • Jonas CA says:

    Good descision, still a really good joke, take care!

  • Bart Veldhuizen says:

    Thanks, glad you appreciated it 🙂

  • mikka says:

    Good call and thanks for sharing the joke anyway – nice bit of light relief.

  • Bart Veldhuizen says:

    Glad to hear it, take care!

  • marc_is_curious says:

    Wow – finally a way to let Siri read out 3d-art: “…RFFOOOFFOOOOOOPPPPMMMMM”!

  • artoo says:

    This is very nicely done.
    Live long and prosper 🙂

  • Matt says:

    Good enough to become a permanent feature

  • Carl says:

    Under the circumstances this might actually be a good idea – we may be headed back to the Stone Age, let’s wave at Nokia on the way through!

  • Great, but does it support displacement maps and refraction. ?
    Happy April fools guys 😉

  • Rick F says:

    Very fun, made me smile (which has been all too rare lately)


  • Thanks so much for the fish. This looks like a bunch of work went into it. High point of my day, I’m sure.

  • masterdot says:

    Well done, very cool 🙂
    Thanks for your decision to share!
    Stay well and healthy everyone 🙂

  • orlodax says:

    I want this for real

  • Mary Williams says:

    I loved it, if only because I’m old enough to remember when ASCII graphics were all the rage. 😀 Showed it to my mom, too, who got a good laugh. Now I seriously want to go spend the day playing old (ancient) favorite DOS and the first King’s Quest games which had juuuuust about the same resolution!!

    Thank you for still sharing this!!! Stay safe!

  • Haha I love this! Wouldnt mind keeping this available the whole year 😀

  • Johan-Martijn Flaton says:

    QWell, it still can fool the president of the US.
    I think.
    Anyhow, thankx for the joke. We need a bit of smile now and then in these sniffling times.

  • Yuri machado says:

    If you put “?post_process_ascii=1” in the end of any link from a 3D model, this mode is showed. Love it

  • Matthijs de Rijk says:

    For some reason, to have the ASCII mode button even appear, you have to add
    at the end of a model link. Why doesn’t the button show up by default today?? A whole lot of people might miss out on it now…

  • Guz says:

    Nice one! I thought it was cool that I could zoom into the fish with my scroll wheel.

  • Miguelangelo Rosario says:

    This is the most hilarious thing that happened in the last couple days…thank you , Sketchfab team for being so creative and full of ideas…you made my day…maybe even a week…depending on how long the ASCII will stay, i will have to screen record quite a few of my animations…should keep me busy and distracted for a while…hope you guys are all fine and safe…keep up the good work and stay healthy and safe…THANK YOU !

  • Bart Veldhuizen says:

    It does show on model pages, but not on the ‘popup’ model page. If it’s not showing today, reload the page to force it out of the popup and it will show. I’ll add a note to the article!

  • Hahahahahha, good 1 april at all !! Good job hahaha

  • michael hsu says:

    good feature i have a vt100

  • Stuart says:

    Beautifully done. Shame circumstances didn’t allow you to prank us all with it!

    Nice job sketchfab team.

  • Cristian Moga says:

    This is awesomeee!!! Please keep it.

  • Dave Beresford says:

    Brilliant! Yes it made me laugh…and you were very classy in delivery! Bravo. Let’s hope next year we scan skip the heads up.

  • Gartholameau says:

    OK that make me laugh. Nice job.

  • Dev says:

    Oh, wow, that is incredible! The bigger you blow it up, the more you zoom in, the more detail it has! Wow, that is really well done! Good work!

  • Stephen Spicer says:

    Brilliant! You should make this permanent.

  • carlitzer says:

    Good one! 🙂 And good measure to share it in this way.

  • It was an April’s Fool, but actually it is also very nice to be used, I love it!

  • Fernando says:

    You should seriously need to consider to leave this feature on

  • Alej says:

    Loving this, the original model is great too.
    I’m very curious about the rules of it, would it be possible to have a rundown of how it works?
    Like what determines the ascii selected.
    I see the background is always squares and the more saturated reds (maybe all saturated colors) too. The squares seem to grow/shrink by luminance value but not the others.
    How close am I by saying that it looks like it uses a HSV character lookup table? (But feels like only using Sat and Val)
    The web player is great by the way, watched all this directly from the phone embedded on the mail.

  • Roland says:

    A great job! Even runs on my IBM AT 286 with amber monitor … 😉

  • Bart Veldhuizen says:

    Correct, it’s luminance based character selection. There’s an example on Shadertoy if you’re interested: https://www.shadertoy.com/view/tlfXzB

  • Pacomatic says:

    This is so good, that this shouldn’t even only be available on April Fools.
    It should be available every day.

    It’s that good.

  • J says:

    This is so fun. Looked at a few models this way.

  • Bart Veldhuizen says:

    Thanks 🙂 You can still use the URL parameter to access this feature – see the note in the article.

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