Friday, August 29, 2014

3D Models to iBooks Author

Welcome back everyone! I hope this year is going to be a great one!

This is a quick post. I hope.

The Inspiration
After spending an amazing week in San Diego at the Apple Distinguished Educators Global Summit I really wanted to use iBooks Author as a tool for students to document and share their learning. It's so much more engaging and interactive than other methods.  

The power of the software is that students are now the authors of their own content and have a HUGE amount of flexibility in what that looks like. The finished products will also serve as exemplars for future students in my multimedia class. 

The Classroom Need
We use Sketchup a LOT in my Multimedia a Design Studies class, and I've always wanted students to have a way of sharing their models in a meaningful way. We usually use screen shots from Sketchup to share our models, but iBooks author has blown me away. 

Full disclosure, this is not a new process,  iBooks author has always handled 3D files call .dae files, but what's awesome for my class is figuring out that Sketchup can easily export these files. This is also not new but I'm excited because it's new to me!

The WorkFlow
I tried it today with a low poly mammoth model from Thingiverse . To import it into Sketchup you need an STL importer plugin which can be downloaded from Trimble's website. Installation is a breeze from the Preferences menu. 

From Sketchup I exported the mammoth files to a .dae file that iBooks Author likes. 

I then dropped in a 3D Widget into my test iBook and I chose the mammoth.dae file and it worked great! The 3D model was fully interactive in Preview mode in iBooks Author!

Uses in Other Classes and Hiccups

I see this being very useful in many classes, not just Multimedia and Design. Students could access any Thingiverse .stl models, and design immersive 3D environments in Sketchup for say, a unit on ancient Greece, illustrating the life and times of Greek civilization. These environments could then be exported as a .dae file and brought into a iBook as part of their project. The pros of having so many 3D files at the fingertips of students on Thingiverse or even the Sketchup Warehouse is that they don't necessary have to spend a ton of time with modelling it themselves, and can focus on the content and outcomes in the curriculum and analyzing how life in an ancient time might have been like. 
For my class where understanding, creating and presenting 3D objects is in the curriculum, we will focus on construction in Sketchup.

One thing I would caution is using models with a large polygon count. You might find that complex models with a lot of curves, and bumps will take a long time to import into Sketchup, or may even crash Sketchup. This temple took about 15 seconds to import for example. The Gnome model was so complex I had to force quit Sketchup because there were just too many polygons making up his body. 

There are ways to smooth models before importing them, but that's another post on its own. 


I'm excited to see how my students will use this workflow to share their learning of 3D modelling techniques with iBooks Author.

All the best everyone! 

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