The 3D Modeling industry has been in need of disruption for some time. The mainstay in this category, Autodesk’s AutoCAD suite of software, costs upwards of $5,000 for a single copy and feels clunky on most machines. Someone needed to take advantage of this huge market and bring some true innovation to the drawing table, and that’s what Sunglass has done.
Sunglass was built by two TED fellows, Nitin Rao and Kaustuv DeBiswas. The company has raised $1.7 million in seed funding from investors General Catalyst Partners, Mitch Kapor, Lerer Ventures, Maynard Webb, and others. The money will go towards improving the team’s core product and the underlying infrastructure.
To me, the most impressive part of Sunglass is that every single thing they’ve accomplished has been done through open-web standards, without requiring client-side plugins and running in compatible web browsers (the latest builds of Chrome and Firefox). Years ago this is the sort of thing that could have only been accomplished via Flash, but today all of the code available to any web developer has grown considerably stronger.
Sunglass is actually a collection of three products: the company’s Sunglass Player, which allows artists to incorporate the objects that they’ve created with the software into other web services like Behance. The player is fully interactive, allowing someone to rotate, flip, and scale the model that they’re currently building, through their mouse and, again, without Flash installed.
The Sunglass Stage is the actual building block — literally — of the suite, as the team has designed this to allow simultaneous editing from a number of artists in a simple drag-and-drop interface. This sort of collaboration can be key for the product, as it allows people to work together in a well-thought-out interface, regardless of what type of computer they own.
I did my best to explore the Sunglass Player and Stage, despite having no experience with this sort of software. I did notice that my lower-end 2011 MacBook Air experienced a bit of slowdown with the suite running, but that’s probably a combination of poor RAM, multiple applications running, and an Internet connection that can only be described as “hellishly slow.” Despite those limitations, the software performed better than I expected, and I muttered “Holy shit” repeatedly under my breath as I scaled and rotated a city that someone had built.
Last, but certainly not least, the Sunglass App Store is designed to allow the people that create 3D modeling software to release improvements quickly and at-scale. If Apple’s App Store has proven anything, it’s that this sort of “shop-til-you-drop megamall” can dramatically improve the software experience and open the software business up to contenders that may not otherwise be able to contribute to the ecosystem. The software released through the App Store will be released at a significantly lower rate than independently released solutions and won’t require advanced hardware to run.
Like I said, this market is ready for disruption. The team over at Sunglass seem to have a handle on this situation, and they combine their excellent hardware and software to provide an excellent ecosystem to 3D model creators. With the extra $1.7 million that they have to bring the platform forward and the increasing functionality of open-web standards, I can see Sunglass getting huge among young artists and architects that can’t afford a $5,000 piece of software.
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