February 21, 2024

A team of ex-Googlers launched a new digital creativity platform today, room.xyz, enter Beta testing. Backed by $10 million in seed funding led by a16z, the startup offers a browser-based tool for designing 3D spaces — or “rooms” — using drag-and-drop, editable objects, or code , allowing users to express themselves through creative play as they design the rooms, base games, or other interactive activities contained within these small online spaces.

The idea is somewhere between a simple creation tool like Minecraft and a more advanced world-building platform like Roblox. Or, as the company describes it, it’s like “the digital equivalent of Lego bricks.”

Image credits: room.xyz

The idea for Rooms was inspired by a number of factors, the co-founder explained jason toff — That is, today’s 3D model creation is too difficult.

Prior to Rooms, Toff spent ten years at Google, on and off in product marketing and product management, including stints at YouTube, Area 120, and VR/AR. Before that, he was a product manager at Vine for several years, including after it was acquired by Twitter. Most recently, Toff worked at Meta, where he dabbled in experimenting with new products such as magazine maker E.gg and music production app Collab.

After leaving his last position, Toff took a sabbatical and decided to fill the time by trying to learn how to make 3D models – he always thought it sounded like fun. However, it turns out that the process is actually quite complex and involves the use of complex software. Around the same time, Toff’s 6-year-old son had just started playing Minecraft, where designing with 3D models was easy, but had to be done one at a time.

This inspired the idea of ​​a middle ground for 3D design, where the process is almost as simple as in Minecraft, but the building unit is not a single block. Instead, in Rooms, you can search for, edit, and add an entire object to your space — such as a door, sofa, table, bed, car, decoration, pet, or anything else you can add dream.

The interface allows you to change the properties and functionality of an object, such as its color, size, position or style, or what happens when it is clicked.

The project also draws inspiration from other projects Toff has worked on at Google’s AR/VR division, such as Poly, its VR and AR app-building service (another causality for Google in 2020), and 3D modeling for VR. Tool Blocks. Co-founder of Rooms Bruno Oliveira Also working on these projects at Google, which is how the two first met.Meanwhile, the third co-founder and iOS engineer Nick Krugerfrom Smule (where he was Director of Product Design) and uberin addition to Google, he worked On YouTube Mobile and YouTube Music.

“Basically, I set out to make the digital equivalent of Lego bricks for the company,” Toff explained. “The idea was that Lego was one of the few things that kids liked, that adults liked, that adults wanted their kids to play with,” he said. But LEGO has limitations due to its physically printed plastic nature. It can be expensive, and you can lose parts, for example, Toff points out.

Like a box of Lego bricks, Rooms lend themselves to open-ended play, objects that people can use to express themselves in some way—whether it’s building miniature versions of real-world rooms, dream rooms, or by creating some kind of interactive space such as A simple game or an instrument that you tap to play, or something.

The startup seeded its community with 1,000 creator-commissioned Voxel 3D objects that can be added and customized in your own space. Each room is also public by default and can be “remixed” — that is, used as a template or a starting point for designing your own.

Image credits: room.xyz

The software is also educational because you don’t just interact with objects through the user interface – you can click to reveal the code as well. Rooms uses Lua, the same language used for coding in Roblox. This might help introduce younger users to coding concepts before moving on to Roblox’s more advanced editing tools.

While the rooms themselves are interactive and can be connected to each other, there isn’t much to do after the design is complete other than share their URL with others to show off. “Camera Mode” lets you snap a photo or a smooth shot of a cart, but the end result isn’t one-tap postable to social networks. Users also cannot create avatars that can move or interact with others or participate in chats.

“It was a deliberate decision—in part to be as safe as possible,” Toff explained. “Because once chat is introduced … people do horrible things,” he said. Plus, he added, people had already focused too much on avatars and dress-up avatars, and the team wanted to pursue something different.

“For all I know, it would have been a huge mistake if we didn’t have that — it might make sense to introduce some sort of social experience in the future,” Toff admits. “But for now, it’s like a website or a game you play. It’s all personal.”

Image credits: room.xyz

Ultimately, Rooms could make money by selling items for purchase, subscriptions, or licensing its software for educational use, but that’s all very much to be determined. As startups begin beta testing, the goal is to understand how early adopters use the product and what they end up building or requesting, Toff said.

However, one area they are exploring involves the use of ChatGPT. Now, they have created a fortune teller object (Zolta!) you can ask it questions, and the OpenAI chatbot will answer, speaking just like Zoltar. Users can copy the code and use it for their own AI-enabled objects, editing prompts in the code to change how their objects respond.

Also in development is an artificial intelligence tool that would let users instruct software to write code for what they want and how it should behave.

For example, you can tell it to make your object rotate when clicked, and the AI ​​will create the code you need. However, this feature is not yet public.

Start-up companies– something company – Founded in 2021, raised $8 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz (a16z) and from various angel investors including Adobe Chief Product Officer Scott Belsky and Instagram Co-Founder Mike Krieger Raised $2 million. After initially burning through money too quickly, the team whittled down the 10-person team to just three founders to maintain enough runway. Rooms.xyz has been around for about four years now, Toff said.

That could give the company, which was built on Unity, more time to launch on other platforms. Currently, an iOS app is in development to serve as a companion for exploring rooms others have built. But the team also envisions extending these creations to Apple and Meta’s AR/VR platforms in the future.

“We were like, ‘Let’s get this beta out now,’ because once Apple launches its (AR/VR device), we’ll see what it does, and then we can figure out how to integrate it,” Toff said . “It’s all built in such a way that it can be easily mounted on the headset,” he added.

Rooms.xyz is open beta testing and free to use.