Shapr3D: A new perspective on spatial computing

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The launch of Apple’s new Vision Pro spatial computing headset has got enterprise software vendors excited. Stephen Holmes headed to the Budapest headquarters of Shapr3D to see how the company is bringing its own product design capabilities to the Vision Pro

With the bulk of CAD software programmes locked into PC ecosystems, it’s been interesting to see which companies have been fastest to create tools for the Apple Vision Pro. Swimming somewhat against the tide is Shapr3D, which has been building its CAD and visualisation offering since 2016, when it first appeared on the Apple iPad – and was launched as part of the Apple keynote that year, no less.

Shapr3D quickly switched to the Siemens Parasolid kernel, cementing its desire to be a professional 3D CAD software, and has continued to evolve ever since, moving onto the Mac desktop, spreading onto Microsoft Windows, and adding elements like 2D drawings, a visualisation toolset for rapid rendering, and now parametric history-based modelling.

All of this continues to work in unison across multiple devices – from an iPad sketch concept on the train, to the Windows workstation on your desk, to a design review on a wall-mounted Microsoft Surface Hub power screen. Throughout, the software retains its intuitive nature, preempting tool choices in the menu as you hover over surfaces or edges, whether you are using a mouse or an Apple Pencil.

Its versatility, accessibility and price has made Shapr3D a rising star among teams concepting new product ideas. Its ability to run on Apple devices, buoyed by its longstanding connection to the Californian company since the early iPad days, has put it in prime position to embrace Apple’s latest hardware.

Initially sceptical of the world of head-mounted displays, even Shapr3D CEO István Csanády has been impressed by what his company’s software can achieve in the world of spatial computing.

Destination: Budapest

In March 2024, I visited Shapr3D’s headquarters in Budapest, Hungary, in order to trial the software it has built specifically for Apple’s Vision Pro headset.


Before strapping in, Csanády explained that the product is now an integral part of the Shapr3D ecosystem and workflow. “It is going to enable you to collaborate and design in a way that you have never experienced before,” he said.

“Thanks to the unique capabilities and the incredible power of the Apple Vision Pro, we’ve managed to build a workflow that is unparalleled and going to elevate your design reviews and design workflow to a whole new level.”

Much of this comes down to the seamless pathway between devices – Shapr3D on the Vision Pro needs no tweaking, optimising or rebuilding. This immediately reduces current workloads, by using native CAD and rendering and results in fully editable models that can be updated instantly.

Collaboration and design reviews take full advantage of this technology, where one person hosts the meeting and has control over editing the model and applying materials, while other users can join in and see any updates in real time. For those in the same room, the shared model works over the local network between headsets, without need for expanded WiFi connections.

The emphasis on ease of use is palpable, allowing other stakeholders in the design process – who may not have access to CAD or high-end workstations – to get a better understanding of the product and join in review sessions just as if they were in the same location as the designers. An easily shared link and an Apple headset is all they need.

The Vision Pro experience

Given the build-up around the hardware, finally slipping one over your head is a relatively standard XR experience.

Apple’s not the only company to have made its goggles lighter, better fitting and easier to adjust. The video passthrough was bright enough, if still a little like looking at the world through a filter.

Shapr3D’s XR capability takes designs off 2D screens for deeper exploration by designers

However, it was the application, not the device itself, that we were here to evaluate: Shapr3D’s CAD and visualisation abilities running in real-time XR.

A car dashboard and centre console was accessed quickly, with Shapr3D’s product manager Mátyás Barsi controlling the session via hand gestures and the standard Apple keyboard and trackpad.

The models didn’t disappoint. Textures such as the leather grain were all distinct, the colours were sharp and the ambient real-world lighting rolled off the curves of the dashboard. Reflective elements like chrome picked up on nearby colours like the green of a nearby plant, further adding to the realism.

The workflow that takes your CAD model or your renders and immediately places them into a detailed 1:1 scale environment via an off-the-shelf product makes this markedly more impressive than anything else we’ve seen in XR, outside of super high-end set-ups.

With just eight years of development under its belt, Shapr3D is clearly looking to use its nimble, crossplatform abilities to its advantage, wedging itself further into designers’ workflows. Its XR ability is a usable collaboration and review tool, and a brilliant way to take designs off a 2D screen and validate them at your desk.

The company’s move into the virtual realm comes as it prepares for real-world expansion. The new office space in the city overlooking the Danube is soon to be a hive of activity, with new team members from as far afield as the US and Spain relocating to Budapest to join the business.

Demand for Shapr3D’s Enterprise offering, which will include the XR ability, is reportedly driving this growth. And with the software’s continued development looking to lead not follow, a strategy epitomised by this new capability, then there’s a lot to look forward to.

This article first appeared in DEVELOP3D Magazine

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