More on 123D

I just found 123D Catch and wrote about it in: New 3D Modeling Tool – 123D Catch Review. 123D Catch is a program that runs on iPhones, iPads, and desktops. It allows you to turn photos of an object into 3D models that can then be ‘printed’ as real physical models. Of course Second Life™ users would use the result as 3D models with textures for import to SL.

However, 123D Catch is only part of a suite of 123D programs being created by AutoDesk to capture the consumer design market. We have new technology like Cubify 3D Systems that can turn 3D models into real life objects.

The suite of programs is free and consists of:

  • Catch – Uses photos of real objects to generate a 3D model.
  • Design – Create 3D models on your Mac, PC, or iPad
  • Sculpt – 3D sculpting
  • Make – unique projects using incredible slice or fold techniques.
  • Creature – Used to create… well… creatures.


The Catch Video:

Available for iPhone, iPad, and Desktops. 

The Design Video:

The series of 123D Design tutorials are here: Learn 123D Design.

Also available for iPhone, iPad, and Desktops. This one has me a bit curious. The download the PC is 400+mb and says it needs 1.5gb to install. That is a health chunk of a 55gb iPad. Also iOS6 is needed to run this app.

The file type is SLT. But, there seems to be a problem importing SLT files into Design, at least according to the 123D Forum. The export file types are: 123D, DWG (3D), STEP (only up to version 7.0), SAT, IGES, OBJ, SKP, 123C, STL, DXF (3D).

The Sculpt Video:

This app is ONLY available for the iPad. I didn’t find any version for the Desktop. If you think about the user interface I suppose it might be hard to make it work in both places.

The Make Video:

This runs on the iPhone, iPad, and desktop. This app is for converting models for laser cutting. The idea is one cuts out a series of shapes from a thick material. As one puts the shapes together the object is formed. Architects have used this idea to create terrain for their project models.

The Creature Video:

This is a quick 1-minute video that is fun dramatic example of what the app can do.


How much these apps can or cannot do for Second Life users depends. I’ll explain how I see them and why I think so.

My first MMO was MO:UL, or Myst Online: Uru Live, one of the series of games created by Cyan Worlds. The original Myst and Riven are now apps for the iPad. Uru Live was to be the online extension of the franchise, but it had a problem. The cost of developing content for the game was more than the market and fan base could sustain. The game closed, it went open source (sort of) in 2010, and people started to build content for it.

The problem is unlike Second Life Uru Live was never designed for fan/user made content. To build content for it required one use 3DS Max, a professional 3D modeling and design tool made by AutoDesk. That made for a huge learning curve. Not many people took it on.

Linden Lab built Second Life to allow non-professionals to build content for a 3D world. Later the Lab added Collada support to allow professionals to build content for Second Life using professional tools and they are extending that process by adding a Materials System.

AutoDesk appears to be taking the reverse path. They made their tools for the professionals and are now making tools for non-professionals. If you watched the 123D Design video you probably noticed the similarity to Second Life’s build process.

As the American economy falters businesses are looking for ways to increase their user base. AutoDesk needs some way to reduce the learning curve for its products. Linden Lab does too. I’ve written about that in previous articles.

It is in both AutoDesk’s and Linden Lab’s interest to make it easier for people to understand the creative process. If people understand the basic concepts they can figure out the rest. But, until they understand the basic concepts and CAN SEE/IMAGINE the possibilities they don’t have the motivation to learn how to use the tools, whether that be  3DS or SL.

I think these apps are AutoDesk’s way of lowering the learning curve and reaching the casual user and mobile market.

Does This REALLY Work for SL?

If you’re asking yourself, why not just use SL to build with primitive shapes? I have an answer. As Penny Patton pointed out and others as well, intelligent replacement of prims with mesh can reduce your Land Impact Cost and improve render speeds. Not so intelligent use can also create problems in both those areas.

So, I think 123D Design may be a good way for people to build using primitives and be able to easily convert to mesh. Time will tell.

I think the 123D suite does give people a more fun path to learn 3D modeling.

When I first came to SL (2008) there was a migration of Uru Live players as Uru Live closed and had not yet gone open source (2010). People could either learn 3DS, Maya, or Blender to attempt to build content for Uru or forget it. The majority skipped it.

Of those that came to SL there was soon a large community building Myst-like stuff and replicating parts of Uru Live in SL. I believe that was due to the easy 3D modeling process using primitive shapes, prims. The learning curve was broken into smaller parts. People were able to complete things and share them in SL way before they could have in Uru. Plus they could work interactively as teams as they built, which I believe is mutually inspiring and simulating.

Some of those modelers are moving on to Blender now and building better replicas of Uru in OpenSim.

Nearly 5 years after Uru Live closed and over two years since it went open source new content for Uru is only just STARTING to appear in test servers that we are not quite sure are copyright legal yet (the legal part is an ongoing process). But, parts of Myst, Riven, and Uru have been built in SL and OpenSim by people that never thought of building for the original game engine that required such complex tools. The smaller learning, or at least flattening of the slope and smaller bites, seems to allowed more people to move ahead that would not otherwise have been interested.

I think this is the same play that AutoDesk is making with the mobile market. I am sure they hope to build a pathway that starts easy and is fun that leads to their high end products. With some luck it is my hope this basic 3D learning will also help Second Life.

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