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Using the Looking Glass 3-D Model & Animation Importer

Using the Looking Glass 3-D Model & Animation Importer

The Model Importer allows you to easily view 3D models on your Looking Glass. This tutorial will take you through that process step by step. In this beta version , only glTF, OBJ, and glb file formats are accepted.


Step 1: Preparing your models

In order to view your model in this (beta) version of the Importer, it needs to be in glTF, OBJ, or glb (binary glTF) format. If you haven’t yet exported your model from you modeling software of choice, you can download a glTF exporter plugin or, if it doesn’t have animations, export as an OBJ. At time of writing, glTF exporters exist only for Maya, Blender, 3DS Max, and Unity.

If your model already exists in a different file format and has animations, there are numerous converters that will output glTF files. There is a complete list of converters on the same page as the list of exporters. We recommend using Sketchfab as their converter is especially robust, however this will require you to create an account and there is a bit of processing time associated with their conversions. That said, they have one of the biggest repositories of glTF files, so you can see a bunch of cool models while you wait!

Whether you are using an exporter or converter, be sure to choose an option that exports to glTF 2.0 rather than 1.0. The model importer was designed to import this newer format, and may have some errors importing glTF 1.0 files.

Step 2: Opening the example model in the Model Importer

If you haven’t run a Looking Glass app before, be sure to see our Getting Started tutorial before continuing in order to set up your system correctly.

Now that we have a glTF or OBJ model ready, download and open the 3D Model and Animation Importer from the Looking Glass App Library. With the Importer open, you’ll see a button on the top left of your main display that says “Load Model.” Click this.

Doing so will open a file explorer on your system. Using this, you will be able to go through folders on your hard drive and locate glTF, glb, OBJ and zipped files.

By default, the file explorer opens to a folder called “Models” in your app’s streaming assets. It is in this folder that any models that you unzip using the Model Importer will be stored. In it, you will see a folder called “MechDrone_by_WillyDecarpentrie.” This contains a glTF model of a robot by artist Willy Decarptentrie (which you can find on Sketchfab). Feel free to open this model by double clicking the “scene.gltf” file. Conversely, you can open a sample OBJ model by opening the folder called “Robot_by_ArtemShupa-Dubrova” and double clicking the “Robot.obj” file.

Here’s a quick 15-second run-down of how to download files from Sketchfab. When downloading something, don’t forget to check the CC and license-use for the file and always credit and link back to the artist if possible! For this project, we used Willy Decarpentrie’s Mech Drone model.

If you would rather open your own model, navigate to it in your hard drive and double click it to open it. Again, if it is a zipped model, it will unzip into the “Models” folder that the “Load Model” button opens to by default.

You should now be able to see your model in true 3D on your Looking Glass!

Step 3: Exploring your model

The Model Importer uses a special type of controls to allow you view your model from different perspectives in 3D. You can rotate around your model by left clicking and dragging. You can pan around the scene by right clicking and dragging, and you can zoom in and out by scrolling.

The unique aspect of our orbit control system is the ability to “refocus” on a particular point of your model. You’ll notice, if you zoom in on your model, that the parts closest to you become blurry as you zoom in. To prevent this, you can double click on any part of your model to set this point as your center of focus, so that it never becomes blurry as you zoom in on it. If you double click off of your model, the center will be reset to the center of the model.

Step 4: Advanced settings

When a model is open and displaying in the Model Importer app, you can click the “Advanced Settings” button to adjust the scene. Clicking it will open a tab with numerous settings.

(L) What you see on your 2D desktop. (R) The image cast into the Looking Glass display.

You’ll see there are three tabs: “Model Settings,” “Lighting Settings,” and “Quality Settings.” Let’s start with Model Settings, which controls how your model looks in the Looking Glass.

Model Settings

Model Settings tab for a glTF model with animations.

You’ll see at the top that you have an option to change the type of material your model is using to render. The “Metallic” option gives you the ability to add a metallic, reflective sheen to your object, which the “Specular” material only allows you to alter the smoothness. The “Vertex Lit” option is a unique case specially tailored for models (like those made with Tilt Brush, for example) that use vertex colors. If your model loads into the scene and has no color, try switching to “Vertex Lit” materials. If there is vertex color data, it will now render. Beneath the material types are the “Material Settings,” which allow you to adjust the appearance of your model’s material once you have selected one that you’re happy with.

If your model is a glTF file and has animations, like our Mech Drone by Willy Decarpentrie, you’ll see there are additional options. The first is a toggle that allows you to play or pause the animation. Below this is a slider that controls the speed of the animation. If your glTF model does not have animations, these options will be hidden.

Model Settings tab for an OBJ model.

OBJ models have different options, as they do not support animation. Instead, there are a number of buttons that are used to set different textures for your model. This is especially important if you don’t have a .mtl file with you model, in which case the textures will be unset, or if the textures load incorrectly. The “Load Albedo Texture” allows you to set a base color map for your model. “Load Specular Map” sets the specular channel, “Load Emission Map” sets the emission texture, and “Load Bump Map” sets the bump or normal map. Any of these textures can be removed by pressing the “Clear” button next to it’s load button. In addition, the intensity of the bump map can be altered by adjusting the “Bump Intensity” slider.

At any point, you can click the “Reset to Defaults” button to return all the sliders to their original position.

Lighting Settings

Lighting Settings adjust the overall visual presentation of your scene. The first toggle, “Use Backdrop,” creates a gray backdrop behind your object to allow for shadow casting. The slider beneath it moves the backdrop, where “0” sets it equal to your current focal point and “1” sets it all the way to the back. Note that, as you scroll, the backdrop will stay in the same place, but the value with change as you have changed the size of your visual scene.

Beneath the “Background” settings you’ll see a section called “Light Adjuster.” These sliders control the direction of the light in the scene. The first moves it from left to right, the second from beneath to above the model.

You can also adjust the intensity of your lighting in the “Light Intensity” section. The first slider changes the brightness of the directional light, the second the intensity of the ambient light, and the third alters the contrast. These are powerful tools to give your scene the right visual settings for your model.

As with the Model Settings, you can press the “Reset to Defaults” button to reset all the values of the sliders to their default settings.

Quality Settings

Finally, we have our “Quality Settings” tab which helps us make the app run better. If you’re on a lower-end computer, this will be especially helpful for you. The first section determines the quality of the 3D rendering in the Looking Glass by allowing you to toggle between graphics quality from High to Low. This will be the single greatest determinant of frame-rate, but also the visual quality of your scene.

Beneath this, you’ll see a slider for “Cursor Precision.” The lower the number here, the less accurate your 3D cursor will be in following the depth and the normal vector of the part of your model you are hovering over. However, lowering this accuracy may help improve performance.

The last setting is “Timeout” for model loading. This is the number of seconds the app will wait before cancelling a model import. If you are loading particularly complex models or are on a lower-end computer, you may want to increase this value to give your computer more time to process the data.

All of the settings under the “Quality Settings” tab will be stored by the app and set to your preferences each time you open it up, so if the first time you run the app your frame-rate is too low and you need to drop the quality settings, you won’t run into this issue the next time you open the Model Importer.

Congratulations! You’re now ready to view models on the Looking Glass Universal 3-D Model and Animation Importer!


If you have any other questions or feedback, email future@lookingglassfactory.com. To the future!

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