Exquisite VR/AR-ready 3D models in minutes: the Pikcells way, with Artec Eva

17/05/2021

By Matthew McMillion

Whether you’re shopping for clothes, a new car, or an entire set of furniture, the traditional shopping experience has often been tedious and frustrating.

Visiting multiple stores or showrooms in different parts of the city, wading through traffic to get there, and once you’ve arrived, not always being able to get what you’re looking for.

And that was before Covid-19 lockdowns made it impossible for months, to even take part in such shopping adventures.

Pikcells’ digital artist Jane Carver scanning a sofa with Artec Eva

Since then, many companies that had previously shrugged off VR and AR have now returned with renewed interest. Once thought of as overly complex and not worthy of the investment required to develop viable solutions, VR and AR are making a comeback, especially in the retail market.

While the cost of entry might seem prohibitive to all but the biggest players in the industry, independent specialists in photorealistic 3D content creation, design and online interactivity can make it so that even small companies are able to compete with market leaders in this arena.

One such specialty firm is Pikcells, an award-winning, UK-based Content Creation Agency that makes interactive content and CG environments so lifelike that it can fool even the experts. Their client list includes Wren kitchens, GE, SubZero/Wolf, Kronospan, Masterbrand Cabinets, LG, Samsung, et al.

Pikcells detailed CGI kitchen food scene

Since 2003, companies large and small have turned to them for sublime 3D models of their real-world products, including made-to-order furniture, entire kitchens and interiors, tailored clothing, and more.

Pikcells’ veteran team of Interior Designers, CG Artists and Software Developers have carved out a name for themselves across multiple industries as being go-to geniuses of CGI and highly-functional interactive solutions.

Lifelike kitchen CGI crafted by Pikcells

In just weeks, the company’s scanning and 3D modeling specialists can transform a warehouse full of products into stunning 3D models that are ready for VR/AR environments and interactive apps.

To accomplish their magic, they have an array of tools they work with, including photogrammetry, 3D modeling and handheld 3D scanning.

A Pikcells digital artist sculpting a lifelike 3D model of a sofa cushion

Photogrammetry has proven itself as a solution for capturing real-world objects, particularly when it comes to their textures. While 3D modeling is known the world over as a peerless avenue to creating digital models for everything from video games to CGI for movies, and beyond.

Yet both tools are not without their drawbacks, the largest of them being the extensive time required, as well as the headaches involved when trying to capture or model organic, complex surfaces.

3D scanning, on the other hand, far eclipses both tools in these respects and others. And that’s putting it lightly. Before Pikcells adopted their in-house 3D scanning technology and approach, they carefully researched the best solutions on the market.

To aid them in their search, they contacted the 3D scanning experts at Artec Gold Certified Reseller Europac 3D.

In the words of Europac 3D’s Mark Beckett, “It was during our first meeting with Pikcells that we recommended to them the handheld 3D scanner, Artec Eva. When they showed us their workflow and explained to us the kinds of results they needed, it was apparent that Eva was the ideal fit.”

3D interior with a sofa captured with Artec Eva

Artec Eva is a lightweight color 3D scanner that captures millions of data points per second. Easy to learn and simple to operate, from the very first day, Pikcells’ Eva has scanned hundreds of objects including sofas and furniture of all sizes, bathroom units, apparel and more.

Week after week, they’ve used Eva to achieve unprecedented levels of quality while reducing project time by hours and even days.

Scanning a handcrafted paving stone with Artec Eva

Pikcells’ creative director Richard Benson contrasted the difference that Eva has made: “Before we had the Artec Eva, digitizing certain objects was a long process. We were using traditional measuring tools to gather data which were then transferred to our 3D modelling software and slowly interpreted into geometry.”

3D model of the paving stone from the Artec Eva scan

Benson went on, “The Eva is an indispensable part of our workflow, allowing us to create quick, accurate meshes in literally seconds.”

Designing a custom shirt via Threadmark’s app

Another notable project that Eva took part in involved scanning a mannequin for a WebGL-fueled app. The start-up Threadmark needed an online app that lends customers the power to easily design their own custom shirts. The app itself is designed to handle more than 1 billion different style and fabric combinations.

Scanning a mannequin for creating Threadmark’s custom shirt app

Being able to zoom in, view, and even inspect the shirt from every conceivable angle gives customers the unique capacity to tailor their own shirts. It also heightens the degree of online product clarity. So, when customers finally receive their new shirts, the level of product satisfaction is markedly more positive than ever before.

Threadmark custom shirt designer app

You can find out more and try out the app here.

“This is an incisive example of what’s possible with 3D scanning in synergy with WebGL and focused design skills. While this application is for tailored shirts, it could very well be for any kind of clothing, or even the interior of a home, office, or perhaps an automobile. We sit down with our clients and together map out solutions that are well beyond the technical requirements of the project,” said Benson.

3D models of a leather sofa and chair from Artec Eva scans

Eva’s lightweight portability allows Pikcells’ scanning experts to take it with them to client sites, where they can digitally capture an entire showroom of furniture or other products in a few hours.

A Pikcells-designed 3D living room & sofa set scanned with Artec Eva

Pikcells has also created an online AR webstore demo, for use with a phone or tablet. This means that customers anywhere can shop for and view lifelike 3D models of a company’s products vividly overlaid in the immediate surroundings and repositioned as desired.

According to Richard Benson, “Although in the online demo you’ll see 3D-scanned and modeled home furnishings as examples, these products could be any that a company offers.”

He continued, “Whether it’s for retail products lining shelves, formal or casual attire, or really anything from the size of a cherry all the way up to a new Ferrari sitting in your driveway, we can bring it to life so customers can easily interact with it in crystal-clear AR.”

Pikcells augmented reality paving stones

As for the company’s ability to take their Artec Eva out with them for remote scanning projects, Pikcells’ digital artist Jane Carver explained, “When we take Eva to a client site, it’s almost a given that the client will want to observe the scanning process.”

She went on, “They’re fascinated by what they see, and it gives them a sense of confidence when they watch how quickly and easily we’re creating lifelike 3D models of their products right there in front of them. The key to capturing a good 3D model is ensuring you plan ahead to ensure every part of the object including the underside can be scanned.”

Pikcells AR web store: https://www.pikcells.com/lab/augmented-reality-webstore

Once everything has been captured, they do a Global Registration in Artec Studio software. Following that, they clean up the scan as needed, removing any of the scan platform or any other unwanted objects. Then they use Auto Alignment to merge the scans together.

In Carver’s words, “An auto alignment generally just flips the object back into alignment with the original scan, and it works like magic.”

Following this step, “We’ll generally use Sharp Fusion to keep accurate creases or grain at around a 0.5 resolution. The lower the number is, the sharper the detail and in turn the longer the processing time.” From this point, they use Outlier Removal or Small Object Filter as needed, in case there are any unwanted background items.

Pikcells in-store configurator for choosing custom furniture

Once the final 3D model is ready to go, “All fused and looking pretty,” to bring back the original texture, Carver said, “We return to the texture tab and select the scans originally used to create the 3D model we’re wanting to texture. Our default settings have ‘enable texture normalization’ turned on and the output texture size as high as it can go, but this can be tweaked on a case by case basis.”

From there, they export an OBJ file from Artec Studio, which can then be taken straight into 3ds Max or another application, or for peak results, the scanned model will be retopologized/cleaned up to optimize the volume of scan data.

Pikcells in-store configurator with 3D model of sofa set scanned by Artec Eva

As for Pikcells perspective on the future of VR/AR in the months and years ahead, Richard Benson weighed in, “We believe that what we’re seeing now is the very beginning of what’s to come across industries far and wide.”

He elaborated, “There’s been a huge upsurge in demand for fast and easy online shopping, and for many products, this requires lifelike, highly-interactive 3D content. If you want the online experience to eclipse in-person shopping, customers need to see accurate and realistic digital versions of what they’re getting. Pikcells can make that happen.”