Monday, April 30, 2012

Test Drive of SightSpace for iPad

So I finally broke down and got an iPad. Or let me rephrase - I finally got a second-hand iPad 1. I'm having a great time with it, and while it's mostly been a productivity killer (I'm getting addicted to DrawSome and jigsaw puzzle apps), I did try something work-related.

Last year I read about SightSpace 3D on the official SketchUp blog. It's not free ($15), but the nice people at Limitless Computing gave a free evaluation copy.

SketchUp doesn't work as a modeling tool on the iPad, at least not yet. So while you can't build or change models, SightSpace enables you to view them. This would make the job of an interior designer or contractor a good bit easier - carrying out a lightweight tablet on the job while "taking a spin" around the proposed design.

SightSpace works on the iPad, iPhone, and Kindle Fire. I didn't try it on my Fire or iPhone - I wanted the big-screen look! 

One thing to note is that SightSpace reads only KMZ files - the native format for Google Earth. Models that are geolocated are uploaded to the 3D Warehouse automatically as KMZ files, but you can save any SketchUp model as KMZ, using the File / Export menu.

SightSpace can read KMZ files from the 3D Warehouse, or models stored on the iPad itself, or models emailed or in DropBox. For my test I downloaded a 3D Warehouse model of the furnished house from "The Simpsons" TV show, saved it as a KMZ on my own computer, and uploaded it to the 3D Warehouse. (To upload a KMZ file into the Warehouse, use the "Upload" link at the top right corner of the 3D Warehouse landing page.)

With SightSpace open, I clicked "Load" and found my model:

(Models that appear in the 3D Warehouse with a "view in Google Earth" link will appear in SightSpace as "View in SightSpace 3D.)

This is how the house appears in SightSpace. Pretty cool! You can orbit by dragging one finger, pan by dragging two fingers, and zooming (as you might guess) is done with the two-finger "pinching" or "spreading" movement.
 If you're an interior designer, you want to get right into the house and look around. So you zoom in to approach a wall or window . . .

 . . . and keep zooming till you're inside.
Orbit is the default set of motions, but you can also use the "Look Around" tool similar to the one in SketchUp itself. 
 Using Look Around means dragging with one finger to simulate turning the head, or looking up or down. Two-finger dragging simulates walking side to side.

Until you get used to the movements needed to get to the view you want, you might find yourself zoomed in too closely to a wall or couch, hard to make your way out to a familiar spot. So a double-tap is like Zoom Extents, very useful!

The bookmark icon at the top enables you to save a view. This is another great way to set orientation points. You can open your list of bookmarks via the large bookmark icon at the bottom of the app. The camera icon at the top enables you to save a view as a photo in your iPad's photo library, easy to email. And the "i" icon opens the Help.

One thing I didn't get to try is the Augmented Reality - this only works on the iPad 2 and 3. This enables you to situate your model within real Google Earth terrain. If your model isn't geolocated you wouldn't need this, but if your project is a shopping mall or museum, it's invaluable to view it in its "natural habitat."

For design pros, the $15 seems like a great deal - you will find yourself using SightSpace pretty often, and wowing your clients. If you're a teacher or professor looking to evaluate SightSpace, you can get a free evaluation copy to see if it'll work for your lesson plans. As more schools become iPad-friendly, I envision seeing SightSpace making inroads with students who will LOVE it.

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1 comment:

christin said...

This is a exciting source of knowledge, Im glad I read this article. I am going to be back again soon to see more that you have.