Dassault, which is the conglomerate behind popular professional 3D softwares such as CATIA and Solidworks, are putting another big step forward with their (coming) debut of 3DVia, which is a web-based 3D modeling interface for people to create CAD models:
3DVIA is the newest of the 6 Dassault Systèmes brands. Its mission is democratizing the usage of 3D so that everybody can use it in its everyday life, either at work or at home, through the web. Our objective is to give you the power of 3D.
This is certainly a radical branch from its stable of sophisticated (certainly with price tags to match) softwares traditionally only operated by professionals, be they designers or engineers. This is all about increasing the accessibility of 3D software: free (accessible to more people), online (accessible anywhere) and easy to use (accessible in terms of learning curve). In a world where many are increasingly immersed in virtual worlds – be they games like WOW or universes like The Sims (I still don’t get Second Life though) – giving people a foothold in creating 3D artifacts online seems really logical.
It is certainly worth thinking of the implications of a move like this – what does it hold in the future, if it succeeds? What if 3D literacy is as common as computer literacy? What would that imply? Think of how the PC overthrow the mainframe computer; or how blogging opens up mainstream journalism. It could be a case of massive rapid prototyping, where each person creates their own products around them as easily as creating a Facebook profile today. Or products can be developed like a Wiki or open-source software, with each participant crafting a specific part (this is already sort-of happening with BugLabs).
How would designers evolve? Would technical operators of traditional 3D softwares becoming extinct, just as we don’t see many computer operators around anymore? The designers who succeed would then be people who can readily harvest the massive growth of a 3D-literate online populace – how would you position yourself to be the next Bill Gates for 3D?