Sculpting Tomorrow: The Next Wave of 3D Tools

Maitree Mervana Parekh
3 min readNov 15, 2023

When I was 12, I was convinced I wanted to be an animator. I grew up engrossed with animated films and transported to different realities through them. I built a zoetrope for my elementary school science fair and took a clay modeling + animation class in middle school. Suffice to say, I’m not here writing this as an animator, but have built an appreciation for the complexities that exist in developing the beautiful visuals that we get to experience in film, games and more — many of which take years to create. Processes are long because each asset, texture and motion require significant design and development. Tools are just catching up.

Last year my partner Vishal Lugani and I wrote about our perspective on emerging platforms of rich, immersive environments for consumer connection and experience. We wrote: “we believe we are on the precipice of a technological platform shift that coincides with changing consumer behavior. On the former: we see a near-term shift with new hardware & form factors, improved compute, improved connectivity, improved bandwidth, and more…Consumers have shown repeatedly the desire to find connection through immersive virtual experiences and those experiences are only getting richer.” We highlighted the opportunity for improvement in creative tooling to make these platforms more pervasive. We’ve since seen exciting announcements by Apple and Meta regarding new mixed reality hardware and we believe the opportunity is more ripe than ever.

We’ve observed a few key problems:

  • 3D development is painstakingly difficult and cumbersome: it requires significant time, resources and expertise. There are a number of steps in the process from concepting / 2D imaging then 3D modeling/sculpting to UV mapping and texturing to painting and then rigging (prior to animation)
  • Many stakeholders, and a disjointed workflow: There are often several different stakeholders assuming various parts of the workflow for a finished product. Handoffs are required from 2D designers to 3D designers then to technical artists and riggers and then animators.
  • Tooling is complex, outdated & fragmented: The major incumbent tools for the 3d modeling are highly intricate and often times fragmented due to better functionality for singular functions. For new designers, the tools can be extremely complex and challenging to learn.

In fact, below we mapped some of the stakeholders in a game development process (production phase), the tools they’re using and some of their key pain points.

We’re excited by some of the innovation we’re seeing in the space across a number of different dimensions. From offering more intuitive user experiences and real time collaboration to leveraging AI to augment design processes, there are a number of ways startups can offer a better experience for development of these experiences. Some examples below:

  • Asset / Scene Generation: Either through genAI (ex: Sloyd, Luma) or more effective imaging/capture (ex: Polycam), these tools are streamlining preliminary asset / model generation for utility in a number of different use cases
  • Textures/Materials: A fairly nuanced process within 3D design, companies such as Poly are leveraging AI to generate textures that can easily be imported and wrapped on models
  • Design tools: Companies such as Bezi are revolutionizing design processes for more immersive experiences by offering progressive, comprehensive and collaborative design suites across mixed reality and web.
  • Animation: Companies like Anything World (an Acrew Capital portfolio company) are leveraging AI to automate the rigging process — a fairly cumbersome process within animation that can take extensive amounts of time

We believe we’re just at the cusp of an exciting revolution in creative tooling which will result in enhanced productivity for several sectors (ex: architecture, manufacturing, design) and more immersive experiences for consumers. If you’re building in and around this space, we’d love to hear from you — feel free to DM me on X or drop me a line