Introducing ‘ShapesXR,’ a New Tool for Real-Time Collaboration and Prototyping in VR

Oculus Blog
November 11, 2021

Built for designers and remote product teams, VR creation and collaboration tool ShapesXR is available today on the Quest Platform. Tvori developed ShapesXR to make content creation easier, more inclusive, and more collaborative, letting you bring your team together for brainstorming, 3D ideation, rapid prototyping, instant sharing, and real-time co-editing in VR.

ShapesXR aims to democratize 3D content creation, letting you select a premade scene or start from scratch, depending on your comfort level. You can manipulate simple shapes at scale, change materials, research user flows, and pitch scenes in motion with an easy-to-use staging system. Everything’s low-fidelity by design, so folks won’t get hung up on the details too early in the design process. You can import 3D models and images, and you can export and share from VR, via the web, through the Unity plugin, and (soon) to 3D models.

We spoke with TvoriFounder and CEO Inga Petryaevskaya and Head of Community Development Gabriele Romagnoli to learn more about how they created ShapesXR, technical challenges they encountered, and how ShapesXR combines live synchronization and agile design iterations to accelerate product time-to-market.

What was the inspiration behind ShapesXR?

Inga Petryaevskaya: We strongly believe that VR has enormous potential for creation and collaboration. We wanted to build a platform where people wouldn’t just be able to hang out, but to actually create and share their vision without prior experience in 3D tools while shaping what virtual spaces, interactions, and experiences of the future will look like. And we believe that this new level of collaboration and presentation of 3D and spatial ideas helps communication within the team, allowing everyone to contribute to the product being developed.

What are the primary use cases for ShapesXR?

IP: Currently we see two main use cases:

  1. Pre-sale: Before design and development even start, there’s a lot of communication needed with internal stakeholders or clients to pitch ideas, align on the content, and actually secure a project. This is often done with written documents or 2D presentations, leading to a lot of miscommunication and missed opportunities. With ShapesXR, it’s possible to create a complete user flow and show a prototype of your final product directly in VR, engaging every participant in the proposal and making you and your team more successful and effective from step zero.

  2. Early ideation and design: Currently a lot of ideation work is done in 2D, and we all know flat surfaces are very different from the 3D world. Creatives and product owners struggle to communicate their vision to developers, leading to a lot of rework and waste. With ShapesXR, the early design is very iterative and remote teams can sync on a vision in real time at scale before a single line of code is even written.

What should developers know about ShapesXR features?

IP: ShapesXR is fully integrated in your workflow. You can import optimized assets via a web panel, share your space via the browser, and most importantly we’ve built a Unity plugin that allows you to import everything you’ve created into Unity just by typing a six-digit code.

Presenting your product in different states is achievable with our accessible staging system that can be compared with 3D slides or storyboards that can be edited collaboratively in real-time.

What can you tell us about your future product roadmap?

IP: Right now we have sophisticated creation tools, and we also want to advance our presentation tooling. We’re going to introduce a presentation mode where a presenter can control users’ view and perspective, use “follow me” features, etc. Permissions are also very important—as a space owner, you can assign who is going to view your space and prototypes and who can edit it (just like permissions you assign when sharing your docs and slides on the web).

Today, we allow you to pitch and share in VR, via WebViewer, or export your entire space to Unity via the Unity plugin. With the next update, you can also export your selected models and creations in other 3D engines and tools. Integration with different pipelines and workflows is very important.

We currently have a staging system that allows you to create 3D slides, show your prototype in motion, and highlight different states of the product. In the future, we’ll be researching the need for a more advanced interaction system, including building truly interactive prototypes with no code. Accessibility and ease of use are our key priorities.

We’ve also started experimenting with Passthrough API, and we see huge potential here for XR designers.

Anything that users should be on the lookout for?

Gabriele Romagnoli: First of all, you should remember, it's a collaborative tool. You can share your space easily with your colleagues and friends and invite them to co-create or share feedback.

Also, make sure you’re aware that you can import your own models and images, you can export to Unity with a plugin, and share even with those who don’t have a headset with a WebViewer. And stay tuned for our updates—we’re eager already to push the first one after launch.

What kind of response have you seen while demoing ShapesXR?

GR: We started sharing ShapesXR very early on. We built a community of beta testers and ran about 50 meetups to get feedback and learn from creators. People are amazed with how smooth the real-time creation is. They’re usually blown away when we’re jumping between different stages—we see all changes of every contributor in real time. They also enjoy our clean spatial sound. People who don’t have any 3D experience start creating in a matter of minutes while users with some design background soon understand that behind a very friendly facade lies a very powerful tool.

How do you think VR and AR will continue to change the way we collaborate in the future?

IP: Our world isn’t flat—it’s 3D. We believe VR tools have an immense and versatile power to ideate the world we live in at the intersection between digital and reality. Creating and communicating are so much more than a deck of slides, and we believe that it all starts with a powerful creative toolbox that is available for you right now. In the future, which we can clearly see around the corner, we’ll be experiencing designs and ideas and living the stories about our new apps or products rather than watching a deck of slides.

What advice would you give other developers regarding brand awareness and app promotion?

GR: We began with the promotion of ShapesXR as soon as development started. We shared our vision and early prototypes to build a mailing list and invited early adopters to test the app. This gave us the opportunity to connect with creators who helped us amplify our message early on. Sharing your work and building a community is absolutely essential, and we would encourage everyone to start sharing their development progress on platforms like Reddit, YouTube, and Discord (or even LinkedIn depending on the kind of product you’re building). Don’t wait to have something very functional or completed—people like to learn about your journey, mistakes, and successes every step of the way.

As mentioned before, we’ve hosted about 50 meetups with our beta testers and the community members in ShapesXR and started when we only had an MVP of what is now ShapesXR. We’ve been running lots of usability sessions, and we’ve been indeed shaping this product together with our community of early adopters.

What advice would you give to a developer looking to start building for VR?

GR: If you’re just starting, make a small project—participate in a hackathon to build experience and your portfolio. Don’t be afraid to show your work and collaborate with people... ShapesXR is a great platform to do just that. 😉

IP: Think where VR brings that superpower or some significant benefit to your users. Otherwise, there are always flat alternatives that don’t require people to wear any headset.

We think there shouldn’t be questions why you’re doing this task, playing this game, or living this experience in VR and not watching or playing on a PC. Your vision of “why VR” should be bold and the problem should be real.

Stay focused and lean in the early days of your product development. It is changing now, but our market is still in its early days.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

GR: We’re super excited to share ShapesXR with you. This is just the first step in this journey, and we have a very packed pipeline with feature updates. Some of these include more supported file formats for import and export, moderation features, and we’re already experimenting with Passthrough. It’s going to be wild. And we also hope that our tool unlocks XR for so many new creators and makes it much easier to prototype your VR and AR games and apps.

Ready to prototype and collaborate with others in real time? Check out ShapesXR on the Quest Platform today.