Sixense, maker of the Razer Hydra, is about to storm into the software arena with an impressive user-friendly computer aided design program called MakeVR. The software is built from the ground up with Oculus Rift and Razer Hydra support. The combination enables even entirely inexperienced users to make complex 3D models with ease, while at the same time retaining powerful CAD functionality. In addition to trying MakeVR for myself at GDC 2013, I sat down with Sixense’s Simon Solotko and Paul Mlyniec to learn more about this ambitious project.

Sixense is launching a Kickstarter campaign this month and they hope to use the funds to cram as much user-friendly functionality into the software as possible. They intend the end result to be a collaborative CAD environment that functions on natural interaction and is easy enough for the novice, but powerful enough for the master.

The smooth, intuitive control that you see above is not concept footage, it’s exactly how MakeVR works.

I used an alpha build of MakeVR at GDC 2013 with the Razer Hydra and a 3D HDTV. After a 30 second training session, I was easily navigating the design space, manipulating objects, and scaling to my heart’s content. Having depth-perception and independent 1:1 hand controls makes for an instantly natural experience which relieves the need to even grasp an X/Y/Z coordinate system.

When I saw what was possible with MakeVR I knew that Sixense was onto something — for a younger audience this will be like unlimited virtual Legos on steroids, except with the ability to share your imaginative creations with a worldwide audience (and without the $50/kit price tag).

Report: Microsoft Braces for Negative Field Tests of Military HoloLens

For someone like myself — who has zero CAD experience — MakeVR suddenly opens up to me the possibility of building complex 3D models that would have formerly required software that was too expensive and complex to manage.

And for the advanced user, Sixense says that MakeVR is ready to make both 3D printing models (thanks to .stl exporting) and detailed virtual goods which could be distributed in other games. MakeVR can import models from other software and uses the industry standard .sat file format.

Another exciting possibility is for those working on virtual reality games for the Oculus Rift. To make 3D models you’d currently need to work outside of the Rift in a normal modeling program, then drop your models into the game and put the Rift on to see how they look to scale and in 3D. With MakeVR you could work directly with the medium in which the model will eventually be used.

MakeVR Made for Head Mounted Displays

MakeVR Head of Development, Paul Mlyniec, told me that using MakeVR with a head mounted display like the Oculus Rift is the quintessential usage of the software. While it’s natural enough using the Razer Hydra to manipulate and build models on a monitor, adding a head mounted display makes it feel like you are reaching out with your own hands — not unlike the Oculus Rift ‘Tuscany’ Razer Hydra demo.

“[MakeVR is] designed very much with head mounted displays in mind… you see from the tool panel that you have all the control that you need — you’re never groping for a mouse and keyboard — everything is self contained, and expected that [the software] is going to take over all the senses of the user,” said Mlyniec.

'Transformers: Beyond Reality' VR Game Delayed Indefinitely

GDC 2013: Sixense MakeVR Interview

I had the chance to sit down with two folks from Sixense who are leading the MakeVR project — Product Manager, Simon Solotko, and Lead Developer, Paul Mlyniec, to learn more about the project:

  • Mark

    Looks awesome! But hey, when did Dane Cook start working for Sixense?

  • Ryan

    As someone who works in CAD a lot, I really want this! Can’t wait for the Kickstarter.

  • Daan Kortenbach

    I really don’t want to start every comment with “awesome”, but it just is! All of a sudden I can create my own 3D space ship model? I couldn’t do that before as the learning curve for 3D modelling is too high (for busy poeple, like me).

  • WormSlayer

    As someone who has spent 25 years working in 3D with mouse, keyboard and monitor, this sort of thing cant come soon enough! :D

  • Andreas Aronsson

    It has been quite some time since I dabbled in 3D modeling, this looks very interesting! O.o I do have some OCD with snapping and exactness though, I wonder how well those tools will work :) I can get around it if they have a symmetry mode :P that would be neat… looking forward to the kickstarter!

    And yes, it feels like I am also repeating myself all the time here, how can so much fun, interesting and awesome news come out so frequently? Oh, conventions eh, right. And eh, the Rift seems to bring all kinds of projects out of the woodwork… it’s amazing.

  • John Dewar

    I don’t want to channel Buzz Killington, but speaking as an experienced hard-surface modeler, rotating objects and manipulating them in 3D is not the biggest challenge or even a particularly high learning curve. It’s the first thing you learn in a 3D modeling program and it only takes a few minutes. Mastery is a bit longer, but you get there in a few days.

    I think this might make the process more fun, and it will certainly help with situations where you want to manipulate points on a mesh where in 2D it’s hard to communicate whether you want to work on the points on the camera side of the mesh or the opposite side.

    But the major challenges to 3D modeling – controlling the structure of the mesh, hiding triangles, making the mesh efficient and mapping textures to the mesh – will not be improved by this interface.

    Also, as Andreas said, precision is important. When you are waving around a Razer Hydra it just doesn’t seem like you are going to have the precision you would get with a mouse or tablet input, which could make things rather frustrating. I see they do have a numerical input in the form of a calculator widget. I also see in their demo really standard manipulator widgets. I’d like to see what editing a bezier would look like. A lot of the time though, you’re going to be wishing for a keyboard to input exact numbers more easily.

    On the other hand, if you’re building things at scale you’re really going to feel like a god. Like this guy:

    But that video is also full of examples of things you wouldn’t want to do by hand like lay down sidewalk tiles, or place rivets evenly along the side of a mailbox.