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InnovationRCA Start-ups Revolutionise 3D Design, Print and Play

A pioneering iPad app has been launched by Gravity Sketch, a technology start-up supported by InnovationRCA. A team of four Innovation Design Engineering (IDE) graduates – Guillaume Couche, Pierre Paslier, Daniela Paredes Fuentes and Oluwaseyi Sosanya – have developed the app, which significantly increases the accessibility of 3D design, enabling users to rapidly materialise and share their ideas.

Users of the Gravity Sketch App can easily create 3D models by directly sketching in real time using an iPad. The app features a set of intuitive tools, which enable users to create 3D shapes in seconds. A partnership with 3D printer Shapeways means 3D prints can be ordered and delivered within days. Alternatively users can share their 3D visualisations on social media using Sketchfab.

‘Gravity Sketch is on a mission to lower the barriers to 3D literacy, the ability to create and manipulate 3D content,’ explained Pierre Paslier. ‘With the lowering price of 3D printing, and the rise of virtual reality, our team really believes that 3D accessibility is the key to the future for science, creativity and entertainment.’

The Gravity Sketch App has a broad range of applications, from students and teachers illustrating their projects, to children creating their own toys, or crafters keen to incorporate 3D printed elements in their creations. Gravity Sketch makes the act of digital design more tactile, and the integrated ability to order prints narrows the gap between digital and physical creation.

‘IDE was an incredible experience because there was such a diverse mix of backgrounds. Being at the edge of design and technology, it gave us the audacity to challenge the current 3D creation tools’ explained Pierre. ‘For Gravity Sketch, we took inspiration from sources as varied as psychologist Howard Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences or choreographer Wayne McGregor's design process, which were later embodied in prototypes using Virtual Reality. It's in the IDE culture to embrace that wide and deep thinking.’

InnovationRCA, the College’s centre for enterprise, entrepreneurship and business incubation, has supported Gravity Sketch throughout the development process. ‘Gravity Sketch started as a student project and InnovationRCA helped us right from that time, even before graduation,’ Pierre explained. ‘They provided more than just support and guidance. InnovationRCA has been our home for the last 18 months. It's not like any incubator, here we feel we are part of a community of entrepreneurs with art in their DNA.’

Over five years InnovationRCA has launched 25 start-ups, which have created a combined turnover of £27.9 million and created over 250 in-house UK jobs. InnovationRCA has helped start-ups to secure £14 million in investor funds as well as £930,000 through successful crowd-funded campaigns. It also provides support and mentoring across a range of topics, from helping incubatees develop a better understanding of the market they are launching into, to providing legal advice on intellectual property.

Dr Nadia Danhash, Director of InnovationRCA described how Gravity Sketch fits in with other start-ups launched with their support. ‘InnovationRCA's start-up support programme is sector agnostic and while we are known for supporting a rich and diverse mix of hardware companies, we also back some amazing, truly disruptive digital ones. Take Gravity Sketch for example, which is about to shake the world of design and creation. With the Gravity Sketch App, it's quicker and easier to design, in 3D, a whole new gadget, than it is to describe the App! We expect great things for this company, which is soon to be presented to our AngelClubRCA investor network.’

Another InnovationRCA-incubated scheme, Tio, are currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the launch of their unique building blocks. Peter Spence, Ashley Wiltshire (both IDE graduates) and Mario Morello, are the designers behind the product, which aims to foster creativity and long-term play.

Tio are robotic building blocks, aimed at children aged five and older, which are controlled through a simple smartphone or tablet app. The blocks feature motors that can be synchronised and programmed to rotate at different speeds and LEDs, which can also be programmed to change colour. A Tio Kit comes with accessories such as magnetic mounts, wheels and pulleys, which allow the blocks to be connected to almost anything, from recycled craft materials, to other technologies and 3D printed objects.

This ability to be combined with household items, or much-loved toys, allows the blocks to be incorporated into everyday creative play, breaking down the barriers to learning about technology and programming. Applications are as extensive as the user's imagination, from building a Lego robot, to a GoPro racer, or a cardboard crane.

‘Tio combines digital and hardware innovation’ explained Dr Danhash. ‘Everything about Tio speaks quality and commitment. I've heard it described as “the Lego of the future” and can see how it's Invention Kit toys will inspire a new generation of engineers and inventors.’

Further information about Gravity Sketch and the Gravity Sketch App can be found on their website.

The Kickstarter campaign for Tio ends on 4 April.