Make 3D model into USDZ

How I’ve Created AR Critic Trophy (2D/3D/USDZ Embed /AR Quick Look)

Yesterday I have decided to award Blue Sky Paint AR Critic Editor’s Choice award. I don’t award this immediately after reviewing, even if the app is out of the ordinary. I take my time evaluating other similar apps if they exist, taking some time to let things sink in and then, alongside other factors I decide whether to award a certain app that excellence award or not.

Blue Paint Sky joins other games like Defend It! AR, Meddling Martians, Sketch AR, Smash Tanks and other important AR apps and games that I think left a significant mark in the AR landscape.

After Apple has released iOS 12, even before that, I’ve already had an idea to take the award logo design and transform it into something in 3D and share it as USDZ.  Yesterday I’ve decided to make this idea a reality. I thought this would be an amazing thing, being able to share a reward with someone, in a way that feels more physicalized, personal, unique and exciting.

AR Critic Award 3D model in AR Quick Look
AR Critic Award 3D model in AR Quick Look

Because I am not a 3D modeler, I had to figure out how I do that exactly. I did my research on available tools that can help me achieve what I wanted. I knew I needed a tool that can transform a 2D object into 3D, then something that can attach the award 3D shape into a unique object to make it stand out and look like an award. Third, I needed a way to apply some modifications to the icons like applying color, maybe make it appear metallic or like glass. Then I needed a tool that can export the 3D container file (in my case it was a .slt file) to USDZ. After that, I needed to find out how exactly I embed this in the review.

After reading and doing some searching, I found out how to do each step. In fact, some services gave me an answer to a few steps that I needed to accomplish and all in all, it turned out better than I thought. Of course, there are always ways to improve things, but this is a start.

If you have iOS 12 installed, you can try it yourself here. Keep in mind that if you want to see the trophy in augmented reality, you’ll need not just an iPhone or iPad running iOS 12, but also an ARKit-enabled device. By the way, I’ve tried it on my iPhone 5S with iOS 12 (without AR) and it worked great, so no worries about running it on older devices, just make sure you have iOS 12 installed and browse this page using Safari.

USDZ award image 2018Just click on the image that links to the USDZ file and let the iOS 12 AR Quick Look do its magic The USDZ file was quite large, around 1MB if I remember right. The reason is that I wanted it to look great but of course, there is always room for some optimization.

So how I did it?

I will explain how I did it step by step, so you can make something similar yourself if you’d like.

  1. I first used a high-resolution PNG image of the award logo with transparency
  2. I’ve converted the PNG image file into 3D using a website called Selva 3D (selva3d.com).
  3. On that same website, I’ve chosen the trophy object which seems like the best fit. That option was a paid one, so I paid $5 and downloaded it to my computer as an “.SLT” file.
  4. I imported the SLT file that contained the 3D object into an online 3D modeling tool called Vectarty (vectary.com). There I applied the yellow (golden) color, make it 100% metallic (This is why you see such a beautiful metal reflection)
  5. I then exported the result using the same tool to USDZ using the export option.
  6. Victary sent me a link to the USDZ file. There I could download the file to my computer using the ‘Download’ button.
  7. I’ve uploaded the USDZ file to Amazon S3, set the header to ‘model/usd’ as required and used the suggested HTML markup with rel=”AR” on
    the link.

That’s it, the award was ready for people to use on that review. I checked it and it worked beautifully.

After settings things up, I’ve notified the developers about it and asked them to check it out. I thought to myself, maybe I am the first one who actually gives a review award in a USDZ form.

Well, the developer like it and it made me happy. He even shared a short video showing the trophy in his room. That was an amazing experience seeing how the virtual trophy is shared and arrived in someone else’s place. It’s like I was able to give him something which felt more physical, although it was entirely virtual.

Even not less exciting is seeing another developer, Devid Liu, borrowing his trophy and playing it in his house, check out how often the reflection maps update. You can check out the entire thread here on Twitter.

It was a great experience making that trophy, let alone sharing it and watch other people receiving it and interacting with it. What a better way to award an AR developer than giving him an AR trophy for his excellent work. I felt inspired by the process and after hearing the reactions from people, I felt that it was all worthwhile. That trophy is here to stay and Blue Sky Paint is the first app that received it in its USDZ form, so congratulations!