The Manifesto

gradientspace is a 3D software product studio located in Toronto, Canada.

What's a "product studio"? It was a new one for us, too. It means we build and ship products. Like a consultancy, we'll help you build and ship your products. But we also build and ship our own products. A big part of building any product is building infrastructure, and we can leverage the infrastructure we build for our products to make yours better. 

We're focused on a particular kind of product: 3D design tools. This could be a general-purpose 3D tool like Autodesk Meshmixer (which we invented), or something more specific, like a tool for designing 3D-printable prosthetics (which we also had a hand in). Maybe you need an Augmented Reality iPhone app for showing architecture clients design alternatives in the real world? A web-based VR app for designing custom-built garden sheds? An interactive visualization of city zoning requirements? We do that kind of thing.

We're the experts you've been having a hard time finding. 3D user interfaces, geometric computing, 3D data structures and algorithms - that's our wheelhouse.  That cool 3D-printing paper you saw at SIGGRAPH? There's a good chance we reviewed it. That 3D-scanner you bought for your iPad? We can explain how it works, why it does such a terrible job sometimes, and how to make it work better. We've invented completely new ways to interact in 3D. We've pushed the state-of-the-art in Additive Manufacturing and Geometry Processing. And we've put these inventions into million-download products we designed and implemented. From scratch. 

We know how to design 3D interfaces for the job at hand. If you want a sea of sliders, hotkey salad, and camera controls that are always ending up sideways, well, we aren't interested. Find someone else. But if you want to make great tools that solve real problems, we can help. It's...a little embarrassing to admit, but we actually love this stuff. It's literally been our life's work.

We believe in open-source infrastructure. 3D tools are too hard to build, because there's no Angular, or Qt, or UIKit. Games engines like Unity are a great starting point, but 3D tools aren't games. We need higher-level abstractions to build complex 3D interactions. Even basic stuff like undo/redo for runtime mesh edits, you'll have to roll your own. Every 3D company has their own cobbled-together 3D-tool infrastructure at the core of their products. It's not critical IP, but it's locked down 'because lawyers' (or embarrassment). We're trying another way. We're making this part open-source, with commercial-friendly licenses. Rising tides lift all boats, that sort of thing. And, of course, you can hire us to help you use it.

gradientspace is not a venture-capital-fueled grow-at-all-costs operation. But we're not just a consultancy, either. Our end-game is to vastly lower the bar to building awesome 3D products. Today if you need a custom 3D tool, you have two options. You can write a plugin to monolith like Maya, AutoCAD, or SolidWorks, and tie your fate to them. You're stuck with tacked-on clunky UI, weird scripting languages, and big bucks per seat. Or you can build on a "cloud platform" like Forge or OnShape, and it's basically the same monolith, except now you pay server fees and have to find 3D javascript developers. We see a third way, where with the right infrastructure, standalone 3D tools could be built for an order-of-magnitude less (cost, time, headache, etc). Like Unity did for games, or Xamarin did for mobile apps, we're going to make that happen for 3D tools. 

This isn't a "growth category". There aren't any unicorns. It's not going to go viral. But in the past few years 3D has quietly slipped into most of our technologies. On one hand we have AR and VR, allowing millions to directly manipulate 3D stuff without the impenetrable menu-and-hotkey UI. On the other we've got 3D printing. Now that the home-printer hype is over, we can get down to the real work of revolutionizing medicine and manufacturing. On another hand, phones are getting 3D scanners, drones are mapping construction sites, and our cities may soon be filled with self-driving 3D sensors. That's like, 6 hands. We think it's a good time to be in the 3D-tools business.

So, here's the master plan:

  1. Help clients build awesome 3D tools
  2. Use the proceeds from that to build our own awesome 3D tools
  3. Use the proceeds from that to build an amazing 3D tool platform

Simple, right? 

 

The People

 

Ryan Schmidt
principal typist