How to show a 3D model in AR inside your website

Google I/O 2019 has just finished and has all been about new augmented reality features. One of them, that comes together with ARCore 1.9, is the possibility of embedding 3D models inside your website, so that they can be seen in augmented reality by your users by just tapping on the screen of their smartphones. Isn’t it cool? It is and it is also fairly simple to implement.

Do you want to discover how? Well, you are in the right place…

Google ARCore

Just a quick rewind for everyone: ARCore is Google’s answer to Apple ARKit, a framework that lets people enjoy augmented reality from their smartphones without using external hardware or markers. It works quite well, but it can be used only by the most recent phones that have been certified by Google for ARCore (all the other ones, can try this hack).

Usually, people develop augmented reality applications using Unity or Android Studio and this means that the user has to download an external app to enjoy AR. However, recently, Web AR is gaining always more interest because it lets people play with AR by just following a link and avoiding installing anything. This is very powerful and will probably lead on the long run to the spatial Web 3.0, where all the world will be painted with data. Of course, Google itself is very interested in this.

ARCore Scene Viewer
augmented reality arcore web
A chair seen in augmented reality through ARCore Scene Viewer

At Google I/O 2019, Google has announced Scene Viewer, a web element that lets you see 3D elements in augmented reality from an Android browser.

In the Android browser, if you see a web page with a Scene Viewer, you just see a rectangle with a 3D model that rotates slowly. Using your fingers, you can swipe to rotate it (it works also on desktop PCs using the mouse). On the phone, you will see a little button with a cube inside next to it. If you click on it, you will see the model going full screen, so that you can preview it better and still rotate it with your fingers (this only happens on smartphones).

arcore web button
That circular button with a cube inside is what lets you preview the 3D model in full screen or in AR (Image by Google)

At this stage, a new button may ask you to view the 3D model inside your space. If you click it, the system will show your back camera feed, asking you to move your phone and map your surroundings. Once the ARCore system will have found the floor, it will show you that 3D model in augmented reality in your room!

arcore 3d models website
By pressing this button, you can see this 3D model in Augmented Reality (Image by Google)

Using your fingers, you can move it (by moving your index finger in the region close to the base of the model), rotate it (moving your finger elsewhere) or scale it (by pinching). There is also a button to take a picture! And all of this without requiring the user to install anything, just by going to a web page…

What if you don’t see the “View in your space” button?

Most probably your phone has not ARCore 1.9 installed. This means that:

  • Your phone is not compatible with ARCore (sorry);
  • Your phone is compatible with ARCore, but you have not installed it. In this case, please run to Google Play and get it!
  • Your phone has ARCore installed, but it doesn’t feature ARCore 1.9 yet. At the time of writing, ARCore 1.9 has not been deployed to Android phones, so you have to get it from GitHub and install it via ADB.
How can you implement ARCore 3D model view in your website?

Google claims that adding such an amazing feature, requires just three lines of code. After having tried it, I can confirm that this is amazingly true. Google does all the heavy lifting for you and you have just to add a Scene Viewer element in your webpage to have the AR view out of the box.

So, first of all you have to load the required dependencies adding these two lines

<script type="module" src="https://unpkg.com/@google/model-viewer/dist/model-viewer.js"></script>
<script nomodule src="https://unpkg.com/@google/model-viewer/dist/model-viewer-legacy.js"></script>

Then, every time you have to show a 3D model, you have to insert a scene viewer in your page with a line similar to this one

<model-viewer ar src="https://cdn.glitch.com/162a6be2-293d-4554-8610-6011a9f71fef%2FChairExp.glb?1557485499409" auto-rotate camera-controls alt="Chair" background-color="#455A64"></model-viewer>

In this example, src specifies a link to a 3D model that is around in the web, alt is the alternate name of the model and background-color is used to choose the background color of the component.

Done, that’s it. 2 pre-requisites lines and 1 line for each time that you want to show a 3D model and let users have the possibility to take AR photos with them!

gundam augmented reality arcore web
Max fighting with an AR Gundam Zaku. The possibility to snap pictures directly from the web component is a plus that opens new funny possibilities
3D Model format

The model that the model viewer can visualize must be in GLTF 2.0 format and respect various rules that are enumerated in the documentation. Just to quote some: Max 30,000 vertices, max 10 materials, max 10MB total dimension.

I tried getting some models in GLTF format directly from Google Poly or Sketchfab, but no one of these worked. In the end, I found a way to add all the Google Poly models:

  1. Find a Google Poly model that you like;
  2. Hit the “Download” button, if available. If there is no download button, you can’t use that model;
  3. Select OBJ format;
  4. Open the downloaded archive and unzip it. You should find there an OBJ file, usually together with an MTL file and some textures;
  5. Open this free online converter;
  6. Drag all the downloaded files inside this converter (if there are textures, they have to be dragged inside it after the MTL and OBJ files have been uploaded);
  7. Convert the files and then get the resulting GLB file.
  8. Have fun using your GLB file with Google APIs!
Sample code
how to ar arcore 3d model in website
Previewing the addition of a new chair in the office in AR. This photo has been shot using my sample app. Notice how Google also takes care of adding the shadows

Do you want to experiment a bit with it? Well, it is very easy if you use an online coding tool called Glitch. It lets you create simple web pages for free and lets then others take your code and remix it in new projects. Think about it as a GitHub on steroids for simple web projects.

There I have created a simple project called SkarredShop where I imagine a shop of the future where you can preview items in AR in your room before buying them. I think that it can be one of the possible amazing uses of this new AR feature! See it in action here:

You can find it at this link. Have fun visualizing the 3D elements in AR in your room and shooting pictures with them! And if you use the menu in the top right corner of the page, you can access the source code and remix it to create your own.

Conclusion

Create web pages with fast preview of 3D models on Android phones has become super easy. It can be incredibly handy to create the next gen e-commerce websites, to do some original marketing for your AR/VR game or just to make your websites a bit more original. And remember that Google is now starting also to index the 3D models that you will add to your webpages, so if you are among the first to add 3D models this way, you may also rank better 🙂

Have fun!


Disclaimer: this blog contains advertisement and affiliate links to sustain itself. If you click on an affiliate link, I’ll be very happy because I’ll earn a small commission on your purchase. You can find my boring full disclosure here.


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