Using a relatively inexpensive printer or a service bureau, 3D printing is available to everyone from superstar artists to students, but creating original objects requires mastery of some arcane and highly technical software.
The rub comes in designing 3D content using traditional software and a 2D interface. Most of the current content creation systems, which rely on a mouse or a stylus and a keyboard, are powerful, but complicated, processes – and often not particularly intuitive to use.
Now, along comes MakeVR, with what the developers of the system call "the world's most accessible 3D modeling system for 3D printing."
It's a tool built around a natural two-handed interface. MakeVR™, an immersive 3D modeling application which makes content creation for 3D printing a more natural undertaking, allows users to let the movement of their hands interact with a virtual world. The software frees a user from the constraints and complications of more traditional, menu-based modeling programs.
Created by Sixense, the Los Gatos, California, company founded in 2007 by a team renowned in the visual simulation and entertainment industries who specialize in motion tracking technology to enable user interaction with virtual worlds such as video games, 3D modeling environments and other immersive 3D worlds, MakeVR is truly a product of experts and dedicated enthusiasts in their various fields.
To understand how the software works, imagine being able to physically reach into a 3D scene, grab and interact with, and modify CAD-based solid models just like you manipulate objects in the real world.
With the click of a button, the final model can be sent to a local 3D printer or to a printing service bureau for output.
MakeVR, at least the full version, includes two of the company's STEM System controllers as the primary interface. Using these low-latency wireless motion trackers, the controllers detect a user's hand movements to manipulate objects in 3D space. The system also includes functionality to allow for real-time collaboration among up to five remote users, and the files can be saved to any standard 3D printing format.
In addition, MakeVR supports 3D monitors and "full immersion" through virtual reality head mounted displays (HMDs) as the system was originally conceived with VR in mind. There's also a software-only version for those users who already own a Razer Hydra or who have ordered the STEM System.
You use the software like this: two independently tracked hands in MakeVR allow a user to translate (move), scale, and rotate an environment in the same way they might use 2D multi-touch on a smartphone or tablet. The software makes it possible to "reach out" and grab a point in space and use it to drag and manipulate an object up, down, left, right, backward, and forward.
If you're a particularly social animal, MakeVR has included social integration which lets designers post directly to Facebook, Twitter and other social media as files are created, or upload build videos directly to a YouTube channel.
An extensive library of primitives like spheres, cubes and cylinders, and templates like iPhone cases allow for a speedy start to a modeling project. The full version will include the software plus two STEM System Controllers, and the basic MakeVR package includes all modeling features except collaboration and the two handheld 3D STEM system motion trackers.
The system requires a PC running Windows XP, Vista, 7 or 8. The various combinations of MakeVR hardware, software and collaboration tools are being offered from around $300 and run all the way up to a full beta access package priced at $1,000.