Prototypers: Hi, Alban. First, congrats on the impressive accomplishments of Sketchfab, the community for 3D contents creators and enthusiasts. Except from Youtube, which services come to your mind if I ask you to fill in the blank in the sentence “Sketchfab is the ___ of 3D contents”?
Alban Denoyel: Thanks Patrice! Each file format gave birth to a winner-take-all publishing platform to host it, share it, display it, embed it… usually combining a great utility (the player) and a huge community and library of content. YouTube is the best example of that of course, but most services fitting that description could fill the blank.
My go-to analogy is actually SoundCloud, offering a great embeddable player, a mix of professional and hobbyist creators, user generated content as well as branded content… My hope is that one day people will start pitching their idea saying “X is the Sketchfab for Z” :)
Prototypers: Virtual and Mixed Reality are an excellent way to experience 3D contents. Sketchfab’s baseline states “Your 3D content online and in VR.”. When did VR become a major orientation for Sketchfab and what is your vision of the evolution of this ecosystem?
Alban Denoyel: We started working on VR in 2014. Very quickly we realised that VR was providing the best — the ultimate — way to consume our content. Exploring 3D content on a 2D screen is great, but VR lets you consume it in a natural way, by just being in it. It’s really with VR that Sketchfab content can become entertainment.
That being said, we had to wait for VR to get more widely adopted thanks to better and cheaper technology before dedicating serious ressources on it, because as a startup you need to focus on what as the most impact for your business today. So we really started dedicating important resources on VR when the first consumer headsets hit the market, at the beginning of 2016.
VR is great but it’s going to take time to reach in VR the same audience size that we already have on the web (5 million uniques a month), so we are cautious about it. There is still a lot that needs to happen before VR takes off as a consumer platform. A bit like what happened to 3D printing, which was clearly not plug and play enough to be widely adopted when the first desktop printers came to market. But VR applications go much beyond 3D printing, and VR and AR have the potential to be the next major computing platform, after the PC era and the mobile era.
I think one of the things that will really drive adoption is when people will be able to make VR content more easily, thanks to 3D cameras. When we get there (and we are actually getting there now, with devices like Tango), people will want to revisit their 3D photos in VR or AR, because it will be the natural way to do so.
The industry is also still missing an untethered mobile VR headset providing 6 degrees of freedom with inside-out tracking, but several companies are working on this as well.
Prototypers: Thank you for reading our article about the LiveHumanVR project. If the “cut-out human in 2D video” proved good enough to simulate presence, would you like to be a LiveSpectator? Who would you dream to “meet” and “where”? You already have a 3D representation of yourself on Sketchfab, would you consider becoming a LiveShowrunner?
Alban Denoyel: If we leave aside the technical considerations, if I had the opportunity to meet anyone anywhere, hmmm, I’d probably go for someone from the past :) Which means it wouldn’t be live. For someone today, maybe someone like Pope Francis! I’m also thinking of music artists but I would first want to see them in real life.
On the broadcasting side, yes I do believe that if we can solve the technical challenges, VR will provide an amazing platform for personal live broadcasting. On a personal level, I have never done anything like this with the options available today (like twitch), so I’m not sure I’m inclined to live broadcasting as a concept but I can see many performers looking for such solution.
Prototypers: Thank you so much for your interesting feedbacks Alban. Maybe there’s a market audience for actors impersonating historical characters in LiveHumanVR :) We hope to see you soon for the prototype’s test!