What is a 3D model?

What is a 3D model?

Living in 2019, you’ve no doubt come across countless 3D models. They are used for just about anything: video games, movies, architecture, engineering, and many more things. On Google’s I/O conference in 2019, the world famous tech company announced that it would be adding augmented reality support to its search engine. The feature allows you to place just about any model in your living room from your browser, which is a clear indicator that 3D models are also starting to gain traction in the field of commercial advertising. All the more reason today to take a step back, and to take a look at what a 3D model actually is.

Google recently announced AR support for their search engine:

The third dimension

Very simply put, a 3D model is a digital object that can be displayed on a screen. The key feature of a 3D model is that it has three dimensions. An image only shows a flat representation of something, whereas a 3D model shows the model the way we see it in real life. We can view it from any angle, interact with it, and use it in games and other virtual applications.

Diving a bit deeper, we could say that a 3D model is actually more or less a collection of points in a 3D space. Imagine a text file with thousands, or even millions of x, y and z points that each represent one point of the model. These points are connected by entities such as triangles, lines and surfaces.

We can add 2D textures on top of these surfaces, to make a model look more realistic. These textures could come in the form of a 2D image that represents the outside of that particular surface. Together, these elements make up what we see on the screen when a model is rendered.

Ikea recently introduced an AR app that makes it possible to place items from a furniture catalog in your home:

The technical side

Zooming in a bit further, we’re looking at what is happening inside of the computer rendering the model.

First of all, the large set of geometrical data is sent from memory to the graphical processing unit of the computer (also known as GPU). The GPU is designed to perform a large amount of relatively easy calculations. This is perfect for rendering to a screen, because the calculations are relatively easy to perform, but there’s a lot of them to be made.

Next, the GPU takes in all data that has to be drawn, processes it and returns a pixel collection to the screen. What is fascinating is that this happens from anywhere between 1 to 144 times a second, depending on the framerate of the application. Because of this,  a model should always be properly optimized. For instance, models that are too detailed might prove to be very hard or even impossible to render smoothly, especially on a mobile platform like your phone. 

Curious about what we can offer you or your company? Have a look at how to easily order 3D models. 

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