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3D Models and Augmented Reality in Digital Marketing

Understanding how to utilize 3D modeling and augmented reality in digital marketing can be of great importance in 2020, especially in e-commerce. Whether for a product photography studio, a webshop or online retail, 3D models can bring new life to digital product experiences, provide more valuable information to potential customers and better promote brands and websites overall.

3D Marketing: The Use of 3D Models and Augmented Reality in Digital Marketing

Today’s digital marketing in e-commerce revolves around communication and how well marketers can communicate information about online products to potential customers. Brand promotion relies just as heavily on things like product presentation and web page design as they rely on advertising and promotional campaigns, so the more life you can give to the product experience, the better.

Especially nowadays, it’s difficult to not only attract customers’ attention but also to keep customers on your webpage for longer periods of time. Because of this, advertising trends are rapidly evolving to look less like advertising, to be more suitable for readers on mobile or to utilize smart technologies like 3D modeling for augmented reality to reach wider audiences.

In this article, we’ll look in depth at 3D eCommerce, 3D models, and how 3D modeling and augmented reality play into today’s digital marketing strategies. 

Interactive 3D model photography light

Use of 3D objects in marketing

Until recent years, the primary domain of 3D modeling and augmented reality was mostly in the training of new employees, especially for those in highly technical or specialized fields. This provides new employees the ability to experiment with and learn from complex tasks earlier than with standard training and before they need to perform procedures in reality. 

Nowadays, however, advances and cost reductions in this technology mean that 3D modeling and augmented reality are becoming more and more popular, in wider use and available on various platforms including with support for mobile interfaces. Apple and Google specifically are now at the forefront of pushing augmented reality forward, and many others are likely to follow suit, especially as 5G technology brings new opportunities to this sector.

The benefits to utilizing 3D modeling and augmented reality, particularly in digital marketing, are clear.

  • Offer potential customers something extra in the flood of webshops and online retailers.
  • Provide more information on products with 3D presentation, product descriptions of individual parts, or animations to help viewers understand product operation or features.
  • Benefit from small file sizes of 3D objects (the typical 3D file size is approximately 10-30 MB), as well as from animation options and color variants.

Multiple viewing angles 3D product light

Photogrammetry: one of the most universal methods for scanning objects for 3D modeling

Photogrammetry is one of the most commonly used methods for scanning objects for 3D modeling. It involves obtaining reliable information about the physical object by recording, measuring and interpreting imagery in order to replicate the object in a digital 3D model. 

Why photogrammetry, however?

  • For objects of different sizes. 

Most widely used scanning methods require the exact position of the scanner from the object being scanned. Today, mainly "targets" are used for this. With photogrammetry, these targets aren’t necessarily needed. 

  • For a wide range of scannable surfaces. 

In this respect, photogrammetry is somewhere in the middle when it comes to versatility. There are also systems that cope well with glossy surfaces, but these have other limitations, such as the size of the scannable object, that need to be weighed in comparison.

  • For speed.

With photogrammetry, the scanning for 3D modeling alone will take no more than an hour. Compare this to other systems, and photogrammetry is often up to 10 times faster. Then, with PhotoRobot, scanning time can be reduced even further, down to a few minutes per product.

  • For texture quality.

Another one of the key features for use in digital marketing and the main advantage of photogrammetry is that you can offer a texture resolution of up to 16384x16384 pixels, truly enriching your product experience.

3D photography turntable setup

How objects are scanned for 3D modeling

Photogrammetry uses a series of photographs to create a 3D object. At PhotoRobot, we found photogrammetry was a perfect fit for integration with our hardware and software solutions for product photography, 360 degree photography and 3D modeling.

PhotoRobot’s CENTERLESS TABLE, for example, makes shooting the photos for 3D models quick and easy. Its design means it is suitable for a variety of objects. Whether you’re shooting small or large objects that are glossy, light, or dark, the spinning glass table allows you to capture images of anything from the size of a ring to a suitcase. Shooting through the glass is also possible, so you can capture the 3D object from below as well as above.

After the shoot, photos must then be processed by special photogrammetry software before they can be used as 3D models or for augmented reality. This open-source software is available to professionals, and there are numerous options for photogrammetry software in 2020.

Scanning and rendering 3D model

Photogrammetry software

Differences between photogrammetry software are considerable in price, speed of calculations, and in their ability to recreate individual objects in general. With photogrammetry, the calculations that the software has to make to create a 3D object are very demanding. It takes up to several hours to create an object, and the degree of automation in the whole process of creating the 3D model obviously has an effect on the overall cost of the model. 

Quality then revolves around the know-how and efficiency of the software’s tools.

Data from the software can have up to several million polygons, so it is necessary to regularly clean files and adjust their size to meet the customer's needs. Adjusting the models to the final form is one of the key stages in creating a 3D model.  

As with any method for capturing 3D models, however, Photogrammetry also has its limitations and some details need to be done manually in the models. A typical case is with the definition of surface gloss.

360 spins vs 3D modeling

3D modeling with CAD data

3D modeling consists of three crucial components.

  1. Geometry: the object’s shape.
  2. Texture of the object.
  3. Surface: Nowadays, physically based rendering (PBR) is mainly used for this to define how and in what place the surface has color, gloss, etc.

3D models can also be created other than by scanning. For example, using CAD models or, an option that is becoming increasingly appealing, 3D sculpting

Modeling an object is very time-consuming and up to 10 times more expensive compared to scanning. In addition, the quality of the model in most cases does not reach the quality of the model from a scan, and the texture for a 3D object created through modeling or CAD data must be done manually.

3D models compared to standard product photography

In order for a 3D model to complement or even replace product photos in webshops, the 3D model must look like a real object. Here, photogrammetry has a clear advantage over other scanning systems. It uses photographs to create an object, even for texture. Thus, it is clear that such an object’s texture is incomparably more detailed than a hand-crafted texture and contains, for example, tiny shadows that indicate the nature of the surface as rough, rugged, etc.

If the 3D model is good enough, it can be used to regenerate 2D images for use in digital marketing, but also for static photos in the webshops or in print.

Rendering and Augmented Reality

For the model to look like it would in real life, it is necessary to have not only a well-made 3D model but also a program that renders the 3D model itself. 

If considering applications for this task, then Unity and Unreal Engine are clearly leading the pack here. 

If considering 3D rendering on the web, then all browsers used today on almost all platforms support WebGL. This is one of the easiest solutions to create 3D objects for your website, and can be found hosted on a variety of platforms.

Interactive 3D product page

3D rendering platforms for your website and digital marketing

One of the easiest solutions to create 3D objects for your website is through one of the many platforms to publish, share, discover and sell 3D, VR and AR content. These are often affordable and easily accessible solutions for your digital marketing campaigns with 3D modeling, especially when on a tighter marketing budget.

If seeking some worth mention, check out the following list. 

  • Sketchfab - Great rendering quality, and a user-friendly environment.
  • Emersya - A variety of configurations at a reasonable price.
  • Vectary - A universal tool, also tools available for creating models.
  • FinalMesh - For CAD assemblies.
  • P3D - For a completely free platform.
  • Marmoset - For high-quality rendering, serving more for presentation of model quality

3D rendering platforms for implementation on the web

If you feel like implementing directly onto the web, there are a few more options worth consideration. 

Finally, 3D data is also for native support through Google and Apple. In this way, the opening and utilization of 3D data is similar to opening a standard image. However, the main appeal to this for digital marketing is in regards to their augmented reality functions. 

Afterall, who wouldn't want to project a sofa that you see online directly into their living room to see not only if it suits the room but also fits there? Or, who wouldn’t want to try on a dress or an item of clothing, all without leaving the home?

These opportunities are now real and need to be addressed in digital marketing strategies with 3D models and augmented reality. They bring products to life, and, at the same time, keep companies up-to-date  with the competition and ready to continue pushing forward new models of marketing products online.