What I Learned Building the Virtual Reality Flea Market

I’ve been building this thing for a while, Iontrades, the 3D scanned virtual reality marketplace. And the experiences I’ve had over the last 6 months have completely changed my outlook on the future of commerce, and the internet.

I’ve seen referrals pop into the VR store and give me custom orders. I’ve engaged with customers from across the world, they’ve picked up my 3D scanned items and have at times locked them away from me. We saw Star Lord battle an owl that I was holding the original and 3D printed copy in my hand in real life at the time. We saw star lord shrink himself onto our 3D scanned table of goods and pick out a flaw on our model, that wasn’t a flaw but an actual defect from the real version that was 3D scanned.

In short this is what I’ve learned building the closest thing to a digital open air market I have ever seen.

A bit about me: I grew up in rural Georgia, I graduated high school in 2007 with about 150 people in our class. I was running flea market stores in Macon, on Saturday and Sunday all through though school, that’s where I learned how to haggle and deal. Over the years I’ve moved away from the flea market and moved mostly into e commerce, built a multi channel Magento site for the business, and kept moving along.

I have been closely watching the 3D printing growth for years, we’ve sold tons 3D printer parts through the store. However I was always watching the 3D scanning industry with the most interest.

I’ve been fascinated by the ability to capture and save my rare objects.

I wanted to save them before I shipped or exported them to be “lost” forever. Of course they are not really lost, but to me they are excellent specimens and I have always disliked selling them.

So I watched the David Scanner project with interest ever since it started, saw the rise of the Kinect scanners. However none of the captures from these were good enough for what I wanted not by a long shot.

The 3DSystems Sense came out, still not good enough. The Structure Sensor came out and it was better, but it is still to this day not what I’m after. 1:1 models with resolution that can be used for a long time was/is the goal, and by all accounts the Structure Sensor is not it either.

Enter Photogrammetry, there was this small Russian company using a good digital camera to make models that actually met my requirements.

Agisoft Photoscan was available in 2010 and has snowballed into one of the most widely used and documented 3D scanning solutions. In 2014 I began trying my hand at photogrammetry and made my first model of with a crappy point and shoot camera at high noon in Georgia the summer sun( not the best capture situation, I know now :).

That 3D scan is 50lb cast iron antique machine I wasn’t able to identify for years, I know what is is now but only thanks to the VR market.

A year later I started making my own machine for my requirements, a perfect photo studio for all my product photography and a platform for 3D scanning watertight models. 
Promptly put that prototype to work, running thousands of photos through it and dozens of models.

It’s not perfect but it does work really well.

The Virtual Reality Marketplace

In December 2015 I created what may be the first virtual reality store, definitely an early version. We 3D scanned our inventory and put it into Sketchfab with their Google Cardboard VR viewers and with links to our items. Effectively we had created a virtual reality market where you can browse 1:1 representations of items with the right scale, while purchasing threw you out of VR, it was still a start.

This process has been one of the most interesting I’ve seen in a while it involved several interesting processes and outcomes.

Photogrammetry 3D scanning of multiple small items on one platform.

This process is some 20 times faster than individual 3D scanning, with 20 items arrayed on a table, I have been able to get 20 items in the same amount of time as it would take one. Sometimes they are not quite as good as the individuals but they are very close. https://youtu.be/Y6WVBGEoODw

The Bandwidth of 3D and VR shopping

I found this unique and counter intuitive phenomenon with the VR market. Incredibly it uses less not more data!

Let me explain one table of items is made of 150 20MB product photos, the Table has 20 items on it, the size of the 3D/ VR table is 30MB, so 20 items with 30MB data equals 1.5Mb of data per item. If I were to average my some 70000 web listings, an average listing of has 3 pictures each, about 2MB of data each, that is 6MB per item.

Incredibly the math is the math, not only are the 3D scanned VR displays a huge leap in quality than over even 360 spin tech, 3D/VR also uses less data.

There is a cavate to this however a shopper doesn’t load all 20 items at once on a page. He or she will choose to look at and examine 4–5 items per session, and will not load up all the pics either, so per session data use is 16–20MB.

The key to VR shopping will become merchandising just like in real life.

Merchandising will become so important in VR shopping, in large part because of bandwidth.

You don’t want to blast a bunch of 30 year old dudes with your grandmas old figurines, because that is 30MB of data and they will never buy it. However if you merchandise it and show arrays of items your audience is interested in, like Mountain Dew and Jack Links, or cool electronics, and gadgets to the dudes.

You have a very good chance of getting more sales for less bandwidth.

Talking to people and having people pick up my items in VR…

Man, this right here has been something else in February I teamed up with AtomJaay to bring my 3D scanned assets into VRChat a social virtual reality platform. We soon had what is without a doubt the worlds first best virtual reality market.

A large part of our business is selling 3D assets for game developers and in the last few months I’ve had the ability to talk to many VR developers and show them real items in virtual reality as; avatars, items, Gigantically scaled objects, and 3D printed.

It was in here in the VR flea market that I found out what my first 3D scan was!

We were in there one Friday hanging out and a user came into(!!!CAUTION LINK LAUNCHES VRChat and VR MARKET!) Iontrades and I gave him the tour and the speel about what we’ve built.

And we were just chatting for a while the way you strike up a conversation with a seller a the market. And after a while he looked at that 50lb Cast Iron Machine, 2 years later I still had not correctly identified it.

He just rattled it off the exact name I would list for:

“Oh yea thats 3-in-1 leather cutter a cobbler tool and such…”.

So what is that 3D scanned crowdsourced VR reverse engineering?

Vive has now come in, people are picking my 3D scanned items up and examining them and tossing footballs around in the market.

life is good.