Sunglass, the cloud-based 3D modelling collaboration platform which announced $1.7 million in funding this past March, is announcing the availability of its API today. The API provides a way for desktop CAD software, as well as web-based tools like SketchUp to integrate directly with Sunglass, making it easier for designers to come together, work on and share their work without having to worry about the source of the file they’re hoping to collaborate on.
The API also makes it easy to integrate Sunglass into Dropbox and Box and access their cloud storage, so that designers can basically run their entire workflow in cloud-based products. This is another step in the path to significant disruption for Sunglass, which is looking to shake up a market that’s seen relatively little in the way of dramatic innovation and is still ruled by desktop software industry giants like Autodesk and Rhino.
Those solutions are pricey, and that’s where Sunglass is poised to make waves – it uses open standards to accomplish the services it provides designers for free. “We think that design is a good lever for productivity, so our mission is to democratize access to design,” Sunglass co-founder Kaustuv DeBiswas said in an interview. “Traditionally, design tools have cost a ton of money, run on the desktop and needed years of training, which means not everyone could get access to the best. The other thing which is exciting is where these ideas are coming from: you aren’t going to have annual release cycles, but new ideas in ‘what you see is what you get’ modelling, ideas in protein folding, ideas in video game modelling and applying these to the way we think about product design an architecture.”
Sunglass provides a way to harness these ideas, which come from sources who wouldn’t traditionally have access to make them a reality or share them, and get them circulating. That, DeBiswas thinks, will help revolutionize the way people approach design.
A big part of getting these ideas out there depends on the software hooks Sunglass can provide to plug into existing tools and get people transitioning onto its platform. The API provides that, and lays the groundwork for Sunglass’s future app store, where it will provide both free and paid applications built by developers that plug in to various CAD tools and outfit Sunglass with additional powers and capabilities that could, in the long term, make it a much more all-in-one solution for designers.
“In the next several months, as we track streaming and version control, and as the apps appear people will say ‘oh okay, this is more comprehensive,’ and so the profile of the people who are using the software will change between now and three months from now, from experimenters to more experienced professionals,” he said. “There will be a full app store architecture that’s coming, but already we know of people who are doing very interesting work in cloud-based fluid dynamics, for example.”
The app store will also provide Sunglass with its path to monetization. By offering developers a chance to provide affordable services related to 3D design in the cloud, it’ll change the way people pay for these kinds of services; instead of software that updates on an annual cycle and can cost around $5,000 a year, users can pay for specific plug-ins and services on an on-demand or subscription basis, getting only what they need when they need it at a fraction of the price.
Sunglass faces challenges in terms of convincing an industry to look away from entrenched tools and toward something new, but its goal of empowering an entire segment of the population who previously had no access to the kind of software it provides should help it gain significant traction. It’s a little reminiscent of what Pixelmator has achieved by providing Photoshop-style services at a fraction of the cost, but even more forward-looking because of how accessible it makes the tools, and the way it uses the cloud to handle previously processor-intensive tasks on a variety of hardware, including, DeBiswas says, mobile in the near future.