VR with purpose: viewing 3D models in Kubity

One of the most fun projects I developed whilst teaching Computing a couple of years ago was a 3D design project with Year 5 students using Google SketchUp. They were studying The Victorians so we researched the key elements of Victorian houses and then they used the excellent SketchUp platform to build their own 3D model.

I’ve recently been working to coordinate a VR project with our Secondary DT department. Ultimately I want to get some students using Gravity Sketch and MakeVR on the Vive but the DT team had another idea they wanted to explore - could we take students inside their own SketchUp models in virtual reality. The answer is yes. The platform is Kubity.

There are two parts to Kubity – the desktop app and the mobile app. The desktop app acts as a conduit, allowing you to drag and drop Sketchup files into it with ease. From here you can then share the file to the mobile app by selecting the relevant option from the bottom menu. These then produce on-screen QR codes which can be scanned in the mobile app (iOS/Android) to import the model. There is actually an AR mode available but this simply opens the model on your mobile device with the camera operating behind it (much like LifeLiqe does) rather than offering a true augmented reality experience. Nonetheless, it does afford designers the opportunity to have their picture taken standing alongside their design!

The VR mode is where the real fun begins though. It opens the 3D model on the mobile device and it can then be manipulated using the touchscreen interface. There are three main modes afforded to users from here:

The fly-through mode.

This triggers an automated fly-through of the model. It’s a great way to see the whole model quickly and get an overview of the design. Paired with ability to screencast on iOS11, it could even be used to produce a multimedia tour of the model that can be incorporated easily into platforms like Book Creator, OneNote or Showbie. Here's an example I recorded on my iPhone:

The street-view mode

With this mode, you can drag and drop a street-view style pin onto the model and then see it from a first person perspective. The touch screen can then be used to look around and if your tap the screen, you will slowly begin to move in the direction you are facing. This is a great tool for those without access to VR headsets as it still gives students the opportunity to step inside their design for reflection or iteration. The image below shows a design by one of our students for a new bike shop:

The VR mode

As you would expect, this launches a stereoscopic view of the model for use with mobile VR headsets. Make sure you use a headset with an interaction button as this can then be used to manoeuvre around the design and experience it first hand.

This really is amazing, especially for designs of houses or buildings (as SketchUp is commonly used for) since you can appreciate and evaluate the design as if it were life-size...

Oh look – that corridor isn’t wide enough.

Hang on a minute – the ceiling is too low.

Hmm… I need more light in here, perhaps I need to add some windows.

Kubity is free to educators and is without a doubt one of the best examples I’ve seen of VR with purpose. Virtual Reality in the classroom can often be seen as a gimmick if not harnessed carefully. The fact that Kubity allows students to truly visualise their designs is incredibly powerful and offers something genuinely useful to learning. It can easily be used as a part of self, peer or even teacher assessment or as a part of the iterative design process.

Kubity also offers the opportunity to access the models using more advanced headsets like the Vive and Rift. This is done directly from the desktop app. I must admit that I have not yet had the chance to test this on my Vive but it is something that I am looking forwards to exploring over the next couple of weeks.

Keep an eye on the Twitter feeds from mysefl (@steve_bambury) and our DT Department (@JESSDTDept) over the coming weeks to see more of our use of Kubity at JESS Dubai.

To try it for yourself, visit the Kubity website via:

#VR #iOS #Android #DT #design