If you’ve used Gravity Sketch, you’ve probably experienced it through a VR headset. We don’t describe Gravity Sketch as a VR application, but instead, acknowledge that VR is a great way of accessing digital 3D design. The majority of CAD and 3D design software packages have introduced layers of cumbersome user interface making for a slow rigid experience, which has been perpetuated over the past 30+ years. VR initially gave us a way to remove this barrier to entry. Our mission has always been to create a tool that can be accessed from any device anywhere in order to give users access to the 3D design the same way we have access to our email or documents.
Over the last 6 months, amongst other things, we have been developing the Gravity Sketch iPad app, which is available for free now on the Apple App Store. To date, Gravity Sketch has been available as an immersive VR application; the user experience of VR has allowed users to creatively express themselves in a completely new way. The community of users supporting the tool, through the use of VR hardware devices alone, has grown and flourished. We have been moving towards cross-platform compatibility with the launch of LandingPad, and now we are increasing this with further support for the iPad.
We want to make Gravity Sketch truly platform-agnostic, making the 3D creation experience more inclusive giving users more ways to create. For thousands of years, humans have translated 3D ideas through 2D media. Many of the most inspiring artists and designers have honed their 2D sketching abilities, so much so that they have amazing muscle memory when it comes to sketching. The iPad poses a great opportunity to bridge the skill of sketching in 2D with digital 3D creation. The iPad is a perfect device to deliver this: it’s a powerful mobile device that allows for an intuitive user input (fingers + Apple Pencil).
What’s the difference?
Under the hood the application is identical to Gravity Sketch in VR: we are using the same geometry engine and have incorporated the majority of the tools available through VR devices. This app can be used standalone or in conjunction with the Gravity Sketch VR app. With LandingPad as the glue between the two, sketches started on either device, VR or iPad, can be opened and further worked on in the other (although not all features in the VR app have been implemented in the iPad app yet, e.g. SubD).
We see the iPad application most likely being used on the go. We recognise that using VR on the go, even with the Quest, isn’t feasible at all times. Often people have their iPad with them throughout the day and with the Apple Pencil, sketching on the go has for many people replaced their paper sketchbook. With Gravity Sketch on your iPad, you can sketch in 3D anytime anywhere, share a 3D model with a colleague, and make annotations on work in progress. This is a step to bridging the gap between 2D and 3D sketching. We all think in 3D and want to create objects directly in 3D. By adding the iPad app to our product ecosystem we are increasing the number of scenarios where you can use and benefit from the sketching tools. It is not always practical or feasible to access VR, and 2D sketching is a slightly more familiar medium to some designers than the immersive space. Gravity Sketch users can now transition among desktop, mobile, and VR platforms to suit the task at hand and hardware available.
Why do you need a LandingPad account?
LandingPad is our cloud platform providing a range of workflow and file management tools through the web browser. Through this service you can access uploaded content from within Gravity Sketch, providing a seamless file flow from any device, anywhere. In addition to organizing and sorting your files, you can also view, download, and share your sketches using LandingPad. Initially the service was designed to support the use of mobile VR headsets, providing users with a fast and efficient way to move files on and off of their device – plugging in the VR device to extract files is a time sink and breaks the creative flow. We have observed that it holds true within the iPad environment. With iPad, your LandingPad account enables a streamlined workflow and smooth transition between tablet sketching and VR platforms. We plan to double down on the development of the platform and bring a lot more features for an integrated workflow.
To explore the full experience on iPad, you will need to sign up for a LandingPad account. You can do this in the app, or by visiting LandingPad.me (its free).
Read more about LandingPad in our previous blog post about its launch.
What about the VR application?
Have no fear! We’re not abandoning VR by any means; it’s still a key medium for developing and deploying Gravity Sketch, in fact, we have architected the application in a way that allows us to develop the two in synchronization, meaning that if we add something awesome to the VR experience, iOS will shortly receive the same if the experience makes sense. Releasing iPad compatibility opens the tool to a world of users who are yet to have access to VR. Before the Oculus Quest was released, one of the barriers our customers encountered was the high cost of hardware needed for tethered VR experiences. Even with the Quest, there is a continued difficulty when implementing Gravity Sketch on a larger scale, especially with enterprise customers; it continues to be the lack of access to VR.
Gravity Sketch was never only a VR-based application. Take a look at our oldest YouTube videos and our TED talk. From translucent building blocks, to our own tablet with an AR twist, Gravity Sketch took on a whole raft of technological variations, before VR came along. But the technological trappings were always variations on the same core concept – how can I convey what’s in my head, in 3D, with the greatest possible fidelity? When VR became commercially available, the access and price point made it possible to create the VR version of Gravity Sketch, the current form you experience today. VR isn’t the final iteration of the toolset, it’s just the best technology on the market to achieve a great 3D creation and collaborative experience.
What’s on the horizon?
Our debut iPad application should be considered as a work in progress. With this initial version we wanted to deliver a compelling sketching experience. Giving our development time frame we decided to focus on strokes, volumes, and revolves with some simple control point editing. Due to time constraints and lack of UX discovery we have yet to implement primitives, curved surfaces, and subdivision editing. We are excited to launch the full tool set along with AR capabilities, simple rendering, and collaboration in coming updates.
What do we need from you?
We are learning how to deliver a great 3D sketching experience through 2D input. This is not a task we can solve alone. We would like to get feedback from you all about the current iteration of the iPad application and subsequent updates we will be launching over the next few months. We are initially working on iterating the navigation and inking experience and look to prioritize bugs and feedback in these areas. The more feedback and insights we gain from you all the more work we will put into the iPad version.
- Email: For long form feedback email: [email protected]
- Discord: For feature requests and general chat about the tools and techniques. Here you can also engage directly with our product development team
- Instagram + Twitter: Share and collaborate with the community though #gravitysketch
- Facebook: Join the independent artist group for workflow conversation
The iPad app and LandingPad are our initial steps to create a truly cross-platform product suite, allowing everyone to create, communicate, and share in 3D; so get your stylus out and start sketching! As with the VR app, the iPad app available right now is only the start, so please do download it, try it out, and let us know both what you like about it and what we can improve.
Tour and demo
The video below shows a live sketch session from Bethany Gill, Gravity Sketch Interaction Designer, which shows the various tools available in the app and how to create a simple wireframe sketch of a computer mouse.