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Cultural Heritage + Social VR: Sketchup and the Edorble Creator Tools

by Gabe Baker
Checking out a reconstruction of the Basilica of Maxentius

With the Edorble Creator Tools, you can use or create 3D models and scenes and turn them into multiplayer environments, letting students explore them together, or holding a class inside of them from PC, Mac, or VR. In this blog post, I'll talk about how we took a brilliant Sketchup model of a wonderfully recreated 4th century Basilica from ancient Rome and used our tools to make it a "social" environment, a world which people around the world can explore - together.

I'm actually a Latin major (go figure), so I have an especially soft spot for this stunning architectural accomplishment from the ancient world. Completed by the Emperor Constantine in 312 CE (but begun by Maxentius), this Basilica was an architectural display of Constantine's victory of Maxentius at the Milvian bridge - and a symbol of the Christianity emerging during the reign of Constantine. Earthquakes in 847 and 1349 brought down much of the structure, and it fell into disrepair throughout the Middle Ages and beyond. All that's left of it today, while still remarkable, is a looming figment of what it once was. I'm lucky to have seen the modern remains in person, and they spark the imagination: what might it have looked like when it was in use in the fourth century CE?

The modern ruins of the Basilica

I found this incredible model of the Basilica on the Sketchup warehouse. There are many other cultural heritage models (lots are free!) on sites like Sketchup and Sketchfab.

Here was my flow to turn it into multiplayer, VR environment:

  • Downloaded the Sketchup model
  • Opened the Sketchup model in Sketchup 2017 and convert it to a .fbx file
  • Opened the .fbx file in Unity 3D (free)
  • Used the Edorble Creator Tools (a plugin built on top of Unity 3D) to publish the scene as a multiplayer VR environment.
  • Opened Edorble and explored the environment. Tomorrow I'm meeting my co-founder Cederik in the scene to show him around.

3D + Virtual Reality tech can be used to visually transport people to other places. It can also be used to transport people to other times. Naturally, any reconstruction of how a place "might have looked" is always a matter of interpretation. But it's worth trying - and it's worth discussing the merits of any reconstruction. What better place to discuss a cultural heritage reconstruction than within the reconstruction itself, and what better medium for viewing is there than immersive VR?

You can use the Edorble Creator Tools to bring places, past and present, to life. You can use a wide variety of creation tools: Sketchup, Tinkercad, Unity 3D, 3DS Max, Blender, or 360 Cameras like Matterport or Richo Theta 360. You can grab existing models from the Sketchup Warehouse, Sketchfab, and other sites. Interested? Head to and get started.