Shapespark: CoolTechStuff

Larry Mortimer, AIA

Here is an interesting desktop application and service that allows you to create and share real-time 3D visualizations of your architectural model that will run on any web browser, or mobile device, without the need for any additional software or plugins.

What Does It Do: The Shapespark application (scene editor) creates a real time dynamic rendered version of your model with light mapping that can be uploaded to the internet and viewed by anyone with a browser.

System Requirements:  The scene editor requires 64-bit Windows 7, 8, 8.1 or 10.

What does it cost:  Charges are on a subscription basis as shown below and include the scene editor.  There is a 30-day free trial.

How Does it Work: First, import your model into the Shapespark scene editor.  The application works with the following 3D formats:  SketchUp (with a dedicated extension), 3ds, fbx, collada, and obj (Revit is supported with OBJ Export 2 add-on).

With the scene editor you set the materials, reflectivity and lighting in the imported model and bake them in creating a fast real-time rendered model that can now be uploaded and viewed on any modern browser.

Accurate lighting is key to making a virtual scene feel real. To generate photo-realistic images, Shapespark simulates the behavior of many types of light sources such as, the sun, the sky or artificial light sources.

Shapespark also supports WebVR allowing the viewer to enter VR without leaving the web browser. You can use desktop or mobile headsets such as: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Google Cardboard and Daydream for a relaistic VR experience.

Shapespark has two presentation modes, first-person and top-view. The first-person mode provides a realistic walk-through experience for the viewer, and supports collision detection and stairs climbing for multi-level buildings. The top-view mode shows the model from above and gives an overview of the floor plan.

Conclusion: Creating a real-time rendered model is not a simple task, but in Shapespark it appears to be a fairly intuitive process, and there are plenty of tutorials online that show you how to do it.  Google “Shapespark” and you will find several YouTube video tutorials that show you how it’s done.

This could be a very useful tool to help clients understand what you are designing for them.  The great thing is that the person viewing the model does not need any special knowledge, software, or tools to experience the model in a very realistic way.

The main drawback I see is that the scene editor currently only runs on Windows.  Sorry Mac users.  When I inquired, the developer stated “We don’t have a Macintosh version yet,” so there may be one in the works.

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