Today, 3D objects integrated in our reality are not very surprising. After all, some companies have already use augmented reality as a powerful PR move to promote their products. But the idea that anyone can create and share images in AR as quickly as voice messages or text files still seems to be the invention of science fiction writers. But the future is much closer than we think. An item of evidence – USDZ files that can be opened by any user of the new iPhone model.
History of the new file format
USDZ is a relatively new file format for Apple devices. The company, together with Pixar, presented it in 2018. It is based on the USD format, which appeared much earlier. But innovative development has its own characteristics that make it unique. USDZ’s invention for AR can be called a breakthrough: it is now available to a wide range of users.
A file from Photoshop or Dimension can be easily converted to this format and opened on a smartphone or tablet. Sharing 3D objects that become part of the surrounding reality on the screen of a mobile device is as easy as sending a photo or audio. The only difficulty is that Android smartphones do not support USDZ.
It is notable that the files are supported by older operating systems, starting with iOS 12. If you cannot update the device to one of them, you will not be able to look at the image in augmented reality. But even with such restrictions for users, the creation of a new file format literally means that in the nearest future we will be able to place any goods from online stores in the room space and view them from different angles. For the marketing and entertainment industry, the development of USDZ has become a significant step forward.
Main features of USDZ files
USDZ is an archive, but there is no need to extract files from it, since data encryption or compression is not applied to objects created in 3D graphics editors. Their quality is preserved when transferring information from one device to another. Other important features of the format:
• Improved diagrams for sharing shading, shape and skeletal deformation of models;
• Sound architecture flexible enough to adapt to the needs of the AR-objects authors;
• High performance when searching and rendering data;
• Ability to convert file types originally selected by the user.
Universal Scene Description is the format behind Pixar animation. In fact, a file with a similar name, to which the ending “Z” has been added, is a package of components for a full 3D object in augmented reality, combined into one file. Apps can reference it when trying to load an AR model. You can open it with one click on a link or an image, which makes the format even more convenient for an ordinary user. The Adobe Creative Cloud suite of apps supports the new format, which is good news for developers.
USDZ application fields for AR
Already today, files of this format are widely used in various commercial and non-commercial areas. One of the first apps created in the new format is Mera (Measure). Using computer vision, a simple program measures the length and width of objects that fall into the lens of a smartphone. This is useful when you do not have a ruler at hand. But everyday use is far from the main area for which files of a new type are created.
If we talk about the sales sector, experts note that often the purchase is postponed precisely because it is impossible to touch the object before buying. This is obvious when selling premium items. An additional opportunity to interact with the product allows customers to “try on” furniture for the living room or see how a branded bag looks against the background of a favorite sofa. Often the emotions from digital contact outweigh, and the consumer makes a choice in favor of the company that has chosen this way of presenting goods.
It is also impossible to ignore the fact that the creation of the USDZ format has opened up a lot of new opportunities for artists. Previously, 3D graphics were not available to the general public for one simple reason: it is inconvenient to view it, since photos and videos do not give the viewer complete freedom to interact with the object, and there was no special app installed on all devices. But today augmented reality has become more widespread, which means that 3D artists have more chances to share their creations with the world.
USDZ files can also be widely used in scientific and industrial fields. In particular, they can be used to make drawings needed by architects and design engineers much more accessible. In the educational field, interactive models will help students and schoolchildren to better absorb the knowledge.
If you have a suitable iPhone model, it will not be difficult to open the USDZ file. Just click on the image below, and you can see how the model created with the help of the graphic editor appears on the table or bed. You can interact with such an object by rotating it around the axis. This will allow you to view the object in augmented reality from different angles. An iOS smartphone will allow you to see the images below using Apple Quick Look. This is a special program that supports this format.
The format is already actively used in dozens of commercial, art and other industries. Accessible augmented reality is gaining more and more popularity. In the future, it can be expected that most large companies will take this method of data transfer into service and use it to create content. But until AR in a format convenient for smartphone users has become a part of our everyday life, it can and should be used to achieve a wow effect.