iPhone XS and XR in 3D Visualization and 3D in general

iPhone XS, XS Plus and XR are here, so let’s take a look at their place in 3D visualization. Apple might have lost some of its shine in the past years, but let’s focus on their latest products. I’m not going to hide my personal opinion about Apple‘s products. I think they are great in general, all have some issues here and there, but nothing if you compare it to PCs with Windows or handheld devices with Android. The fact that they have a limited amount of devices that they have to build their own operating system for is an advantage. As simple as that.

iPhone XS and XR are the latest phones from Apple. At the time of writing this article, these devices are all on preorder, so I can only give my opinion based on their existing iPhone XS – which is the iPhone X without the S. First, let’s take a look at the tech specs of the new iPhone XS and XR.

iPhone XS and XR Tech Specs

iPhone XS has two versions, one with 5.8″ display and one with 6.5″. iPhone XR is in-between with it’s 6.1″ display. Last years iPhone X is on the lower end of the spectrum with its 5.8″ display. The interesting part of these displays are the resolutions. 2436 by 1125 pixels go in the “small” devices (with 5.8″ display) and that is well… insane. The iPhone XS Max has a resolution of 2688 by 1242 pixels, which makes it one of the best platforms to use for virtual reality content. I’m a lucky owner of the iPhone X, and when I’ve tried its VR capabilities I was blown away. Previously I’ve heard that VR devices are too pixelated and give a cheap feeling, even if they cost a fortune. That is not the case with the retina displays. As technology evolves, these issues will definitely go away. Today, however, the situation is that if you are looking for a decent virtual reality experience, you might want to consider buying a high-end smartphone instead of a dedicated VR device.

iPhone XS and XR compared to dedicated VR devices

Let’s take an example of the iPhone XS vs. the new HTC Vive Pro VR headset. The price of the new iPhone X line starts from $749, the Vive Pro starts from $798 (on Amazon). OK, iPhone still needs a case to make it work like a VR device, which you can pick up from around $10-30. The big difference that you are going to experience is that for the HTC Vive, you need a powerful PC as well. It’s not really going to do anything on its own (as far as I know). Want to have hand-held controllers for the Vive? Add another $600 to the price. But let’s stick with the headset for now. Roughly the same price for the two devices, you can only use the Vive for VR. iPhone XS? Well, many things.

iPhone XS – Probably the best for VR experience?

Let’s take a look at the hardware in the iPhone XS. Today’s high-end smartphones are filled with insane power, that goes for the iPhone XS as well. Games are trying to catch up with the visuals that consoles achieved so far, and in some cases, they are already there. 3D visualization requires a lot of calculations for the complex shaders that mimic real-world materials. There still are some limitation on the developing end of 3D for smartphones, but with some workaround, a pretty similar look can be achieved. I’d say around 90% match with the desktop version of the same visualization. The small differences will fade away in the coming years, and if you ask me, I’d rather pick a VR device that is also an insanely good phone as well over a VR device that you can use for a few hours and after its collecting dust on the shelf.

Thanks for reading the article, if you need help with developing for the new iPhone XS and XR, Archviz 3D is ready to develop your idea. Click Here to start a VR project.

WebGL Archviz, WebGL Visualization in General

WebGL visualization sounds really promising, however, it is either going to happen in the farther future or never at all. Let me jump into this. I’ve seen what is available, I’ve seen a website which does exactly what this article is about. Also seen a video… yeah, as probably if you try it yourself through an internet connection, it is going to be really slow. Let me share what I’ve experienced when trying out the technology.

The WebGL problem

First of all, its far from beautiful, WebGL is limited in a few ways. I’ve seen bits and pieces of effects that are essential to achieving a nice realistic look in visualization, but not all at once. Never. So to raise the question of why? I have a simple answer, it is too slow. At least for now in 2018. Archviz 3D visualizations are at the minimum file size of 100-200 megabytes. This comes from the 3D models itself as well as the textures covering the 3D models. What would you do if you have a choice of waiting for minutes, maybe a half an hour (depending on your internet speed) for something to load? Would you wait looking at a web browser window or download the file in the background and start it whenever you want? You also have to take into consideration that an error whilst loading the WebGL content can break the whole thing. Then you have to start it all over again. I mean the downloading.

Lacking Speed of WebGL

There are parts of a visualization that cant be avoided to make it look really good. Shadows in the current state of real-time experience are not generated in real-time but calculated before it is presented to the viewer. When the artist builds the scene. Therefore they are stored as different resolution images in the 3D scene, which takes up a lot of space. So let’s take an example of a wall with a wallpaper on it. You might think that a wall with wallpaper is ok, something that you can repeat. With the same pattern repeating, however, it has nothing to do with the shadows on that exact wall. Baked shadows on objects are a new layer of images to be included with a nice visualization.

An average display in 2018 is at the screen resolution from 1300px (average laptop) width to 2500px (27″ inch iMacs). So to make that wall look sharp, we need textures of at least 1300px width. Obviously, there is a height as well, but for this example, it is not that important. So we need at least fullscreen size images, sometimes two or even more for one object when the material needs different textures. This is to make it look realistic. Physics-based 3D materials are complex calculations. Sometimes they also need a lot of textures to channel in the material. So this is the main reason that boosts the file size of real-time 3D visualization and makes it fairly impossible to achieve a nice visualization in real-time in a web browser.

WebGL Visualization Conclusion

Lacking the advantage of an already downloaded file has, WebGL visualization won’t be able to catch up until internet speeds will increase to the point where a few dozen megabytes to download will happen in the blink of the eye. That is not going to happen in the near future. We reached great multipliers in different areas of technology – like storage. Not in internet speed though. This is the greatest bottleneck of WebGL. This leaves the WebGL technology to be in an overoptimized state which is not optimal for great looking stuff.

However! Archviz 3D offers WebGL technology based visualizations as well. Probably the best use of WebGL today is to use it as a platform to show 3d objects in a browser and keep it as simple as possible. To achieve the best look, a normal interactive 3D visualization has to be built first. In this scene, we can capture 360-degree panorama images that can be used as a texture for spheres to look at in WebGL and that is the best result you can get from it at the moment. This is a decent way of using WebGL for visualization, and have some interactivity as well. Think of it how google maps works. You can look around and click on the arrow to move a bit away from the current view into a new one. However, I have to warn you that captured 360 spheres have a limit on resolution, sadly.