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Importing SketchFab Models into AR for the iPad or iPhone

In order to put your own 3D models into Apple's AR QuickView, they must be converted to a .usdz file from the more traditional .obj file. Two methods are outlined below:

What you need

Do you want to play around with converting models but don't have any of your own? Feel free to use our example model below or download one from Sketchfab or from our Digital Scholarship Collection (see Sketchfab instructions below)
object360filtered.7z
15MB
Binary
Sample Model for Conversion
For simple projects, using a combination of Sketchfab and Reality Composer on an iPad is recommended.
Whether you have created an original 3D digital object or generated a model from a real-world subject, many times the software you are using does not allow for a direct export to .usdz, the file format required by Apple for use in its AR toolkit. While there are many plugins and tools available that can make the conversion from different platforms, here we discuss two simple workflows using Apple's Reality Converter and the online 3D repository Sketchfab.

Converting your model in Sketchfab

Sketchfab makes it very easy to convert your model; in fact, it is automatically converted when you upload the model to the site!
Note that Sketchfab is free for anyone willing to make their models publicly available to download with a Creative Commons license. If you wish to charge for downloads or keep them private, you must create a paid account.
  1. 1.
    Go to sketchfab.com and click the Sign Up button in the top-right of the page. Choose your username and confirm with an email and password.
  2. 2.
    Once signed in, click the orange Upload button in the top-right. This will bring up a page that lets you drag and drop a wide variety of files for upload. If you are uploading an .obj that includes a texture, the easiest way is to zip the .obj, .mtl, and .jpg files associated with the model together, and drop the entire zip file into the uploader.
  3. 3.
    Click Upload Files and wait. Depending on how large your model is, it will take some time for the processing to complete. While you wait, you can add a variety of metadata to make your model more findable, including placing it in categories and tagging it with keywords. At this point, it is also necessary to click Free under the Download section on the right side of the page, unless you have an upgraded account on the site.
  4. 4.
    Once the processing is done, the orange Publish button in the bottom-right corner will become available. Click it, and your model is now published!
Once published, you will be able to access your model's Object Page, which allows you and others to manipulate your model, see options for embedding it in another site, and see other model information. This is also where you can download your model as a .usdz. Just below your username beneath the model is a Download 3D Model button; click the button, and a variety of download types are available, including Augmented Reality Format (USDZ). Hit download and you're done!
Note: it can take a few minutes even after publication for your model to be available to download. If you select Edit Properties in the top right, you can both edit your metadata and, if your model is not yet ready for download, a yellow box will inform you that the model is still being prepared

Converting your model in Reality Converter

Reality Converter is Apple's 3D conversion tool for creating .usdz files. Its process is quite easy as well and allows your models to remain private (if that is important to your project).
  1. 1.
    Download Reality Converter to your Mac (Apple ID required for download) or from the App Store to your iPad/iPhone.
  2. 2.
    Once downloaded and installed, open the program on your device.
  3. 3.
    As with Sketchfab, Reality Converter accepts a variety of files and opens with a Drop files here screen. Drop your .obj file to be converted here.
  4. 4.
    Your 3D model will convert and should appear in the window, yet it will probably only be a view of your mesh with no texture. To add the texture, select Materials in the top-right, click Base Color and then navigate to the texture file (usually a .jpg) associated with your .obj.
  5. 5.
    Your model should be looking better now! To save your file as a .usdz, simply go to File --> Export and choose where to save your converted model

Opening your model in Reality Composer

Reality Composer is Apple's no-coding-required platform for creating basic AR experiences. Here we will talk about how to open your model using this app and create a simple experience that allows your model to appear in AR and when tapped.
  1. 1.
    Download Reality Composer, free from the app store for iPad or iPhone, or downloaded as part of the free XCode for Mac iOS (Apple Account Required)
  2. 2.
    After installing and opening Reality Composer, the first screen asks you to choose an anchor for your model. We won't go into all the details here (see the full guide for more), so simply choose a horizontal anchor so it will act as if your model is sitting on the table or floor.
  3. 3.
    A grid surface will appear with a little square box, along with a small placard sitting in front of it. Feel free to delete this sample object (or keep the placard if you want; if you click on it and scroll down in the properties pane on the right you can change its text to fit your model). To add your converted model, click the + sign in the middle of the top toolbar and click the Import button (Mac) or the large plus sign beneath the word import (iPad/iPhone). Navigate to your converted .usdz file and select it.
  4. 4.
    Your model should appear in the window! At this point, you may need to rotate, scale, or resize your model. Clicking on the model will open up the Properties pane, which allows you to change the scale. It also creates x-, y-, and z-axes around your object, allowing you to move it around your window. Clicking on the arrow header of each axis allows you to rotate the object along that axis. For now, simply make sure your object is rotated so that it makes sense for viewing.
Note you can also change the location and rotation of your object in the Properties pane. For more information on basic tools in Reality Composer, see the full tutorial.
Bonus: want your object to move about when viewed? Select the object and click the Behaviors button on the toolbar (looks like an exploding arrow pointing to the right). Click the + sign to add a new behavior and click Tap and Flip to automatically set up this behavior. See more about behaviors in the full tutorial!
In some cases with using models of real-world objects, the spatial "center" of a model may not line up with the object's center, and this may continue through the .usdz process. This is noticeable when, for example, you try to spin your object around its central axis. If this is the case, using Sketchfab to convert your file should reset the central axis to the center of the 3D object

Exporting your Scene

Now you are ready to export and share your model in AR!

On an iPad/iPhone

It's very easy to share your model from your iPhone or iPad. Simply click the ... button (triple dots) in the top-right corner of the toolbar and select Export. At this point, you can choose to share an entire project or just this scene. As we only have one scene right now, select Current Scene and then Export. Depending on what apps you have installed on your device, you can now share via Messages, Gmail, AirDrop, or a variety of other methods

On a Mac

On a Mac, go to File --> Export and again you have the option for Current Scene or whole project. Choose where to save, and it will save a .reality file to that location, which can then be shared in whatever way you wish. Reality files can be opened directly by iOs devices in AR or be imported into Reality Composer by whomever you share it with to be used in their own projects.