Build 3D models with TinkerCad For IPad and AR

Happy New Year! I hope you had a Merry Christmas!  Santa Claus very kindly brought me a new toy so that I can explore the world of augmented reality in the world of iOS.  Over the years, I have enjoyed connecting makers, students, and educators to my favorite 3D modeling tool: TinkerCad.com.   From the start, TinkerCad focuses on easy usability for early-stage makers and students. AutoDesk has just released an iPad edition of TinkerCad.  I especially appreciate that you can now preview your work using augmented reality. It works really well with Apple’s ARKit technology.

If you’re comfortable with the existing TinkerCad experience, you’ll feel right at home using the IPad app version.  My gut says that this iOS app re-uses the existing browser-based screens. I personally will continue to leverage a PC to produce content. I do believe the touch interfaces for the IPad work fine, but I feel more productive using a mouse and keyboard.  I did share the TinkerCad app with a five-year-old to see if they could produce any content. I would say that the student did pretty well. You can see a few screens below.  


Do you want to build a snow man?

From the start, TinkerCad has offered a variety of interesting formats for exploring work.  You can export 3D models to paid 3D printing services. This is helpful for people who don’t own a 3D printer.  You can export your 3D content to standard 3D modeling formats for printing or 3D game design. You can even export your designs to Minecraft and Legos.  The AR viewer experience works very simply. At the top of the design window, the user selects the “AR viewer” button. The app switches to a camera view where the user can place their 3D content on a table or floor.  The user can navigate their view around the 3D model by simply moving around. The app also enables the user to translate, scale and rotate the object as needed. I also like that you can take pictures of your work to share with friends!

From a few quick experiments, it looks like the software tries to keep the relative scale of the object as defined in TinkerCad.  Given Autodesk created the software, I expected that AR content would match the scale of the model 1 to 1. To test this assumption, I created a unit cube of 1x1x1 meter.   When I measured the 3D model using a ruler, the output was not exactly a meter. For most users, this isn’t a big deal. TinkerCad focuses on creating small objects.  (not room-scale furniture) It’s just something to keep in mind. 

Unfortunately, the TinkerCad IPad app needs an active Internet connection too.

All in all.  I’m excited about the IPad format of TinkerCad and the AR feature.  Hope you find it useful too!

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