Voxcel

Voxcel is an exploration of the possibilities of 3d modeling that takes advantage of the affordances of the web as a collaborative platform.

Overview

Voxcel is a modeler that restricts geometric forms to those that can be represented by voxels (the 3-dimensional equivalent of pixels). This emphasizes that it is an exploratory tool, not intended for architectural modeling. Rather, Voxcel asks how the real-time, cooperative aspects of the web can impact the process of designing physical forms.

Each model that is created in Voxcel sets up a globally unique URL that can be shared with others. When you are working on a model, anyone who opens that URL can watch the process as it unfolds.

A demo model, being worked on by a designer
The same model as seen by an outside viewer

The authentication system allows logged-in users to chat and offer feedback on models in-progress.

Technology

Voxcel uses three.js, a WebGL-based JavaScript library for rendering; React for DOM management; Firebase for data storage and real-time updating.

Future

The issues that Voxcel raises are certainly worthy of further exploration. With multiple viewers looking at the same model from different perspectives (literally and figuratively), how can collaborative tools such as live chatting be pushed to allow deeper communication and feedback? What modeling tools and sources of data can be implemented to further solicit and encourage non-expert participation in the design process?

These questions don’t have single answers, but they are issues that I’m interested in exploring in my master’s thesis at Carnegie Mellon University. More to come.