Microsoft Releases ‘Maquette’ on Steam, a VR Tool for Spatial Ideation and Design


Microsoft Maquette is a VR tool from Microsoft which is all about prototyping spatial designs. First teased in October 2018, the company has now released Maquette for free on Steam.

Update (January 16th, 2019): Microsoft has released Maquette for free on Steam supporting HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows VR headsets. The company first released the app on the Microsoft Store back in July last year in beta. According to imagery used on the Steam listing, the app is still in beta. The original article follows below:

Original Article (October 27th, 2018): Maquette appeared quite suddenly this week, apparently without any official announcement from Microsoft; it seems to have been picked up by MSPoweruser after being spotted by twitter user WalkingCat.

Despite popping up out of nowhere, the tool looks like a quite polished first attempt even though it’s initially launching as a closed beta. On the surface it looks a bit like a mashup of Google Blocks and Oculus Quill, but Microsoft seems to be primarily interested in making it less of an art or modeling tool and more of a design and mockup tool, hence the tool’s name, which means “a usually small preliminary model (as of a sculpture or a building),” according to Merriam Webster.

Promotional footage shows an emphasis on prototyping layouts for spatial interfaces, including text layout, which is not seen in similar tools. But it looks like Maquette can be used for plenty more too, thanks to the ability to work with both geometry and more free-form lines for things like annotations or virtual sketching.

Image courtesy Microsoft

Illustrated use-cases also show the tool’s potential for prototyping interactive game spaces and spatial concept art for setpieces, and it looks like Microsoft isn’t shying away from using the tool for outright artwork.

Image courtesy Microsoft

To make Maquette more useful in a production pipeline, Microsoft is launching it alongside a Unity plugin which will allow users to export scenes or parts of scenes into Unity in .FBX or .GLTF formats.

According to the Maquette website, the tool will support Windows VR headsets, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive, though it isn’t clear on which platforms it will be hosted (some evidence suggests that it might launch initially on SteamVR and reach other platforms later). Interested users can sign up for the Maquette closed beta here, but will have to wait for approval before getting access to the tool.

Image courtesy Microsoft

Information on the official site indicates that Maquette started as an internal tool “aimed at empowering Microsoft designers exploring mixed reality in the medium itself.” It appears that it entered into closed alpha back in May, though it isn’t clear when Microsoft made the decision to turn the project to be public facing.

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Microsoft makes clear that Maquette is in beta, and they expect to rapidly iterate the product.

“There’s a ton of useful features and improvements we want to ship, so we’re constantly at work updating Maquette and reacting to feedback,” the official site reads. “Our priorities are guided by users’ needs. We want to empower you to explore your ideas, so we want your feedback!”

We haven’t seen any mention of multi-user collaboration, but undoubtedly it’ll be a top feature request through beta feedback.

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  • impurekind

    Looks interesting.

  • Seems an amazing program for fast prototyping in VR. And the integration with Unity is super-useful.

    I thought doing something similar one year ago, now I’m glad we didn’t develop it

    • Tomaz Diniz

      YEAH with this you can make a game..and its very fun and easy to do

  • Satish Goda

    Super awesome. Great initiative by Microsoft to make it available to public.

  • RJH

    Yeah! Just got the beta license via email. Can’t wait to try it out.

  • Tomaz Diniz

    EPIC! now i could make my whole new game with IT and them export to unity… but could Unreal get support too? because i went to unreal engine now…

    Also its great for VR shops like gear best,alliexpress etc…

    • Unreal can also import FBX and GLTF, it looks like the addon just ensures the grouping hierarchy and materials are preserved correctly. I’m not sure what they mean about the hierarchy, but materials may be preserved well enough when using GLTF with or without an addon. Hopefully someone in the beta can test this. :)

  • JesuSaveSouls

    It very interesting playing this app.You can move your hands together to make the maps small or apart to enlarge.Pull to move.

    • jj

      …thats what you took from this??

      please go away.

      • Hivemind9000

        Dude, let him be. He’s not ranting about youknowwhat which is an improvement. Baby steps…

        • jj

          lol this is true

      • Pablo C

        You can download Star wars figures and play with them like if they were toys. I downloaded Macross figures I made a whole city of robots.
        ….It´s also fairly useful to make basic 3D prototipes.

        • jj

          oh i know theres a ton of great uses for this! thats why i thought it was funny

  • Lucidfeuer

    Each of these apps have tried are imprecise enough that they’re useless for actual practical use.

  • Hivemind9000

    Correct me if I’m wrong but it seems like you can only create static scenes, with no scripting or animation? Probably useful for very early stage “visualizations” (and only if you’re going for that low-poly look) but not really for any part of a game production pipeline. Did I miss something?

    • jj

      right!? im in the same boat, I thought i heard it had scripting somewhere.

  • oompah

    It was long overdue
    Btw even now the MS AR/VR headsets are not available in many countries from the company that [in old times] had made its aim to put a PC on every desktop.

    I think Nadella should give a new slogan :
    “A headset on every face ”

    and try to make the PC vanish totally and put it within the headset, a complete independent system upon ur face and develop the OS , s/w & services around it.
    Why becuz ppl r tired of desktop dinosaurs & pricey laptops. With cheap mobile GPU proc it is now possible.

    I would be very interested if I can use a computer in VR/AR environment where every thing is virtual provided it dasnt strain ur eyes and to stop strain project the light directly within eyes(mabbee using RGB lasers & DMD chips or waveguides) , developing tech for foveation & eye tracking.

    I dunno what MS is doing with its pile of cash and not doing disruptive tech.

  • Pablo C

    This one is more compatible with different formats, and it´s also Indie (pretty much one girl´s work):

  • Walker Aric

    Good things are going on in your posts. The article content is very impressive. surviv io