SharePoint supports now 3D model previews — What does it mean and how you can use it today

Stefan Bauer
Oct 8 · 6 min read

TLDR: To enable this feature in Office 365. Upload a 3D model saved as a GLB file to any document library and you are able to preview it live in your browser.

SharePoint supports 3d moddle preview
SharePoint supports 3d moddle preview

The more exciting story is now how to use technology but why and what are the possible application.

Since the announcement at the SharePoint Conference 2018 last year, I was thinking a lot about 3D ins context of SharePoint. Why do we need this? How can we use it? Last but not least, what are the benefits?

Why do we need 3D in SharePoint?

I firmly believe that many areas in the industry already work for a long time in 3D. Well, and I have a prove too. To make 3D models accessible to anyone is beneficial to everyone in your company.

Not only the industry can benefit from an easily accessible virtual 3D object but also society. Think about education. Currently, my daughter is learning about the human skeleton with drawings and pictures from a book. Wouldn’t it be great to self explore that on a real model in the real world as well as at home in a realistic 3D model?

The industry and 3D

At the age of nineteen in 1997, I graduated a technical college for machinery engineering in my home town Linz in Upper Austria. In school, we create 2D drawings of our engine parts, and for my graduation, I had to construct an industrial heat exchanger from scratch all in 2D.

When we entered the workforce, the situation already has changed. The two-dimensional drawing was not a thing anymore. Constructing in 3D was already established in the machinery industry. I never really worked as an engineer, but my best friend does, and I was astonished that they work exclusively in 3D for twenty years now.

For now, to make the 3D object accessible to everyone, the current approach is to create a PDF file with embedded 3D models. This method is possible since 2005 and currently also well established.

Wouldn’t it be easier to view everything directly on the web? Thanks to HTML5, WebGL and the available processing power, it is easier than ever before to do exactly that. SharePoint also already support it today on Office 365.

My approach to 3D was always more an artistic or explorative of possibilities. I was born and raised in Linz, Upper Austria. The Ars Electronica festival introduced me to a lot of amazing technologies and 3D animations.
I tried out VRML (Virtual Reality Markup Language — ISO Standard since 1997 [sic!]) around the year 2000. I also created some short videos that took me three days of rendering on an old Intel 80486 with astonishing 66MHz.

Tunnel fly through animation — Stefan Bauer — approximatly 1997 — Render Time: 3 days more or less

Finally, we have now enough computer power on even the worst current Desktop PC to make 3D accessible to everyone. Browser and web technologies have matured in such a way that you don’t need to use some plugins to interact with virtual objects on the web entirely.

The possibilities of 3D on SharePoint and Office 365 are endless. Like to discuss a new package design for your products. Open your Microsoft Teams, schedule and start a meeting and present a 3D model of a product packaging interactively stored in a SharePoint document library. The model was exported using, for example Adobe Dimension that was introduced in 2018 to make the creation of 3D element available to the tremendous creative community. Even Photoshop nowadays support 3D rendering.

Paper cup - in Adobe Dimension
Paper cup - in Adobe Dimension

Paper cup — in Adobe Dimension

You might have a communication site with all your product fact sheets, why not flavour up the experience with an interactive 3D view of it. Instead of having a static experience through an annoying image slider, the experience can be so much better this way.

Imagine a project manager in the automotive industry that wants to review the latest versions of specific parts. Nightly exported pieces out of your CAD infrastructure as GLB files and updated on SharePoint,
directly in your project structure with all the other project-related documents.

3D model of human spine
3D model of human spine

3D model of human spine — Screenshot from Sketchfab

Another example worth mentioned here is education. Learns about the human skeleton out of a book with only a limited amount of pictures. The author preselects them. A virtual 3D model stored may be in a document library would give her a much better experience.

How you can use and test it

With the recently added support for a 3D previewed directly from a SharePoint library, the access to real-world objects has been lower. Even for the design of new 3D models, the solution is sitting right at your desk. Just open Paint 3D, create your object or select one from the libraries. Such as an Astronaut for example. That’s a small step for you to create but a giant leap for many companies.

Use paint 3D to create a new model
Use paint 3D to create a new model

Use paint 3D to create a new model

To make use of it save the 3D model as a GLB file and upload it to SharePoint.

Export as 3D Model
Export as 3D Model

Export as 3D Model

You can directly open the file and interact freely with the model.

Interaction in SharePoint
Interaction in SharePoint

I case of packaging design you might like to download my coffee cup. The coffee cup was created using Adobe Dimensions. I just applied a metallic texture and applied my company logo on top.

Metalic coffee cup with logo in SharePoint
Metalic coffee cup with logo in SharePoint

Metalic coffee cup with logo in SharePoint

Might be a more realistic approach to one of the possible scenarios mentioned before.

Download Coffee Cup GLB

Finally

To verify some facts, I had a short interview and demo with my engineering friend. He was amazed by this new possibility and saw many benefits for his daily work.

I also plan to demo this to other customers of mine. With this small hurdle making 3D visualisation possible in SharePoint I think many customers will come up with scenarios that help them do their business better.

In future developer and design need to work closely together to create even more interactive experience, but the technology base is available today. So get yourself prepared to deal with voxel instead of pixel.

There are more announcements on this coming in Microsoft Ignite so get prepared.

Some day we will be able to interact with interfaces and surfaces like shown in the latest Microsoft Office vision video. It is worth watching to get inspired. One step at a time.

Download Coffee Cup GLB


Originally published at Stefan Bauer — N8D.

Stefan Bauer

Written by

Sharing ideas about art, design, web and development. I'm a professional #SharePoint consultant and developer. Microsoft Community Contributor Award 2011/2012

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