I’m Cédric Pinson, a 3D developer. I particularly like when technique is used in the service of a context. That’s how I started sketchfab.com : by using technique and WebGL to help artists get their models out there.
What brought you to the digital area?
I’ve more or less always been there. I started young with the atari/amiga in the demoscene. I started coding on graphic calculators when the HP48G was still a thing :) and in Amos on the amiga500. I quickly moved to 68K assembly (asmone for those who remember it) because making demos required a lot of power, and compiled languages were too ‘slow’. I was mostly self-taught; I started working in the video game industry, first at Nemosoft then at Mekensleep. I learned a lot thanks to those two companies. I then went to work on OpenG projects unrelated to video games, and started working freelance. That’s when I discovered WebGL. I began working on Sketchfab during that freelancing period.
"3D provides a new way of interacting on the web."
What do you think of WebGL? What does it bring to the user?
WebGL is the solution everyone was waiting for, which finally enabled us to run OpenGL, a 3D programming interface, on browser. 3D provides a new way of interacting on the web. For example, when selling something on eBay: today, we use pictures, a passive media, but tomorrow we could be using 3D scans and have a better user experience. It’s a lot more convenient to look at an object in real time 3D, to be able to interact with it, to observe it from every angle, rather than scrolling through 10 pictures of the same object. There are a lot of other cases where 3D adds something that 2D doesn’t have. But that’s not always the case. In some contexts, 2D is more practical.
What was the idea behind Sketchfab?
It wasn’t necessarily a new idea; it came to me rather naturally. There had already been 3D viewers before Sketchfab, but the technology wasn’t mature or standard enough to scale on every platform/device.
"Sketchfab aims at becoming the platform of choice for 3D models."
What is the main goal of Sketchfab?
The main goal of Sketchfab is to enable its users to publish their 3D models in the best way possible. Just as YouTube is the platform of choice for videos, Sketchfab aims at becoming the platform of choice for 3D models.
Do you think users want to see more 3D content on the web?
I do, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. 3D as a medium makes a lot of sense compared to other media, but it is not replacing pictures either. It makes more sense in some context, and less in others. Context is what makes this medium valuable. For example, it makes a lot of sense to check out the latest smartphone in 3D, but it probably makes no sense to use 3D for online grocery shopping in a virtual supermarket.
It’s really easy nowadays to make a video and upload it on YouTube. Do you think it is going to be the same with 3D?
Yes and no. 3D reconstruction techniques have tremendously evolved lately, and it’s becoming easier to build a 3D model for the average client. However, it will always take more time to build a 3D model than edit a video or a picture. It should get better when smartphones stop including 3D acquisition chips.
"I am not at all convinced there will be an everyday use for 3D printers."
Everyone talks about 3D printing. Do you think there will be 3D printers in every household in the future?
No, I am not at all convinced there will be an everyday use for those. I think it’s an amazing way to build prototypes, but I think you’ll see more companies like Copy-Top equipped with 3D printers than individuals.
Do you think VR will one day become a standard?
Yes, absolutely. We really need a browser API for that, even if desktop experiences will be of a better quality because of their performance. There are tons of things to do with VR.
Are you particularly interested in a new technology?
Yes, I can’t wait for WebGL3 and compute shaders. That’s going to bring even more possibilities and enhanced performances to the table.
What are you working on these days?
We’re still working on Sketchfab, there are rendering and user experience improvements to be done.
What is the next step for Sketchfab?
Improving the platform means improving graphical quality, user experience, API use … It’s endless !