ShapesXR unlocks a brand new way of designing mixed reality apps

Case Study: Nanome

Creating powerful, innovative and easy to use XR apps for professionals is extremely challenging. Nanome has embraced a collaborative and iterative process to quickly ideate in real-time and find solutions to deliver a well designed and innovative product to their customers, while cutting on costs and development time.

About ShapesXR

ShapesXR is a 3D creation and prototyping tool for remote teams. Designers, creatives, project managers, leaders, and clients can co-create and communicate in real-time within a virtual environment without a complicated setup, expensive hardware, or years of 3Dexperience (e.g. Blender, Solidworks, Unity etc.). ShapesXR is the perfect tool for the early stage of the design process where alignment and communication is key and where making the right decisions is more critical than ever. Keeping the visuals at low-fidelity allows the project team to focus on the functions and experience before the look and feel is finalized. This also leaves more room and flexibility for iterations to evaluate different solutions and ideas in a safe, affordable, and low risk environment.

About Nanome

Nanome is a VC-backed software company that delivers a powerful collaborative XR platform for molecular design in the Drug Discovery and Materials Science industries. Today, Scientists around the world collaborate in real-time in the same virtual or physical space and hold (with their own hands) an atomically precise 3D model of a protein or chemicals and gain an instant, intuitive spatial understanding. This platform for nano-scale design uses spatial computing and 6-degree-of-freedom inputs to enable scientists to directly see and manipulate the proteins in 3D space, unlocking an entirely new way of building, modifying, and rotating 3D molecules as if they were a physical object in front of them. Nanome’s platform was built to integrate any existing and new chemistry simulation tools that scientists need to fit into their scientific workflows and aid in the novel discovery of new life-saving drugs or materials. Despite being so feature-rich, Nanome remains a very accessible tool and a testament to the importance of usability and excellent design when creating tools to put in the hands of highly skilled professionals without prior VR experience.

About the challenge

The Nanome team needed to accelerate their ideation and design process in order to meet strict deadlines for the launch of Nanome on the new Meta Quest Pro headset. Adapting 2D designs in Figma is slow and often misses the ability to convey how the whole experience should look and feel in XR. Moreover some functionalities like the teleportation system had to be redesigned to facilitate sessions in mixed reality made possible by the color passthrough feature of the Meta Quest Pro. Especially in this case standard 2D tools are completely unsuitable to tackle some of the spatial design challenges making designers very dependent on Unity engineers to test and validate any early idea. This resulted in a lot of ideas, but more questions than answers, thus a costly iterative process, constrained designers imagination and limited the ability to innovate and ship a well designed product to their customers.

“We are all stoked to have ShapesXR as part of our XR design process now and it’s something that would have completely changed how we went about building our app if we have had it since the beginning of the company back in 2015.” — Sam Hessenauer Co-Founder & CTO at Nanome Inc

About the process

ShapesXR offered a collaborative environment in VR where the design team could meet and ideate directly in 3D. For some early UI explorations, 2D assets created in Figma were imported as images to test various spatial layouts. Some truly native XR features were instead done directly in ShapesXR as the initial ideation phase. The brush tool and the internal library of primitives provided everything needed to sketch and communicate interactions by moving UI elements in real time.

The passthrough toolset offered by ShapesXR was key to adapting their VR teleportation mechanic to support mixed reality. Two or more team members in the same room were able to toggle passthrough mode and do some initial alignment between the digital content and the real world to collaborate in MR. While in MR, viewpoints were used to simulate the teleportation mechanic, test edge cases, and evaluate permutations and variants of the floor layout that was part of the existing experience. This also allowed them to test the visual appearance and get a good early impression of how various floor styles and mechanics would look and operate when in a native color-passthrough environment.

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Value provided by ShapesXR

Thanks to ShapesXR, Nanome dramatically accelerated their design and ideation process for spatial features such as locomotion. Designers without Unity experience can now test the scale and position of UI interfaces or test ideas for new interaction design of spatial features. Designers finally felt empowered and could directly test, solve and communicate changes before the new designs are handed over to development. Furthermore, the team could brainstorm and iterate quickly through various design ideas without the need for engineers to build a playable prototype in Unity. Consequently, engineers could spend their time on fewer yet better-designed features instead of several explorative test builds, which is very costly. Lastly, ShapesXR proved to be a very powerful tool for ideating how Nanome would behave as a mixed reality application which led to the development of new features that will be a key value proposition for scientists using Nanome for cutting-edge molecular research.

Lightning speed iteration

The time needed to go from an idea to a prototype that could be shared with users and teammates in VR was cut from 10 to 1 day.

More efficient communication

Creating and sharing spatial design concepts improved dramatically leading to a more efficient communication among the product team.

Empowered designers

The design team could work autonomously and produce better designs with very limited support from the dev team.