Introducing Koru

20 Dec 2016

Some of you may noticed that extra button on the main page of the site. Well, today we release a very first preview of our new application named Koru. Click “Read More” for more details.

What Is Koru?

Koru is our answer to 3D PDF and a modern way to showcase your graphics to the world: it is a WebGL authoring tool. Translated to human language this means Koru helps you prepare your 3D graphics to be displayed in browser. With all the bells and whistles, of course.

A Bit Of Histroy

The “Last Mile” Issue

Most of our products are for designers who want to showcase their 2D artwork in 3D. This helps designers themselves to see results, this helps their customers to better understand ideas and so on. This need is quite obvious and we help with that for more than 10 years.

Our apps make 3D objects, compose 3D scenes and render them, but there always a “last mile” issue with showing designs to end customers or to the whole world.

Good Old Images

A standard solution is to render a nice 3D image and that’s what we do in Boxshot and Owlet. This works fine, works everywhere and this is probably the most common way of showcasing designs. The only thing is that images are not interactive, so viewers can’t rotate or zoom the objects.

Here Comes 3D PDF

Almost everyone has Acrobat installed, so making a 3D PDF of your design seems to be the answer. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. The problem is that 3D PDF has very poor support of advanced materials and only basic features are available.

The second problem is that Adobe themselves wiping it out of their products, which means we probably have just a few years to find a replacement.

We added 3D PDF export to our products a while ago and the reaction was quite positive, but we also received a number of questions regarding the lack of features due to the format’s limitations.

Image-Based VR Objects

We released Boxshot VR that does the job a slightly different way. You render turn-table animation in Boxshot, then process it with Boxshot VR and get your interactive design in browser. Best of all, it doesn’t need a lot from the browser so works almost everywhere.

The problem is that it takes a while to alter the design, and it becomes much more complex when you need to showcase a different material or scene composition: you have to re-render everything from scratch. It is still actively used by our customers, but there is a need for a better tool.

WebGL Is The Answer?

Introduced a few years ago, WebGL lets you see 3D right in your browser without installing any additional plugins or viewers. It is currently supported by all the modern browsers, so it was a perfect candidate for our new application. We created an experimental WebGL exporter for Boxshot and got a very nice feedback, so Koru uses exactly this technology.

Why A New Application?

Really, we could simply improve WebGL export in Boxshot and everyone will be happy. Couldn’t we? I don’t think so and here’s why:

First of all, not all our users have Boxshot. Some of them use completely different 3D software, some use both and they all may need a way to present their designs on the web. Limiting them with Boxshot was not the right thing for us.

Secondly, Boxshot is perfect for composing scenes from built-in objects, but when it comes to the external ones it may be not that easy, as it lacks some essential tools. Adding them is not an option, as we try to keep it as simple as possible for all the customer base. It is already too complex for some of them, so making it even more complex will ruin their user experience. That’s why we have Owlet and that’s why we made Koru.

The third reason is that WebGL has its own limitations and some of Boxshot or Owlet features cannot be done with WebGL. On the other hand, WebGL can do things (like specular glow) that cannot be done in Boxshot or Owlet without post-processing. Mixing them will lead to compromises, we’ll discuss this in the next section.

Finally, not all the users need WebGL at all. Think of blocks: each block does one task and does it well. You get the blocks you need and build a solution that works for you. Koru is a block. Use it if you like it, replace it if you don’t.

There are plenty of non-packaging-related areas where Koru can be used by itself. You can make a nice 3D logo of your company for your reception desk, for instance. Just an idea :)

Why Is Koru Better Than …. ?

There are few products around, mostly of two types: exporting plugins for various 3D editors and online services. All of them are evolving, so there will be no detailed comparison chart here, but there are several points to mention:

  • Every 3D editor has its own materials system. When making an exporting plugin you have to find a compromise between “master” materials and their WebGL representations. With Koru you design in WebGL terms, so you’ll get in browser exactly what you see in Koru. No compromises!
  • Most of 3D editors are really complex apps. It may take terribly long to simply compose a scene and export it, especially when you are not familiar with the software. We focus on simple user interfaces for more than 10 years and you will definitely feel the difference. Especially if you tried Owlet before, as Koru shares many user interface ideas with Owlet;
  • There are some nice online 3D services around, but sometimes you simply want to own your data yourself. Koru gives you that, but doesn’t prevent you from uploading them online if you want.

Simplicity, WYSIWYG and offline processing are the key features of Koru. As long as you share our vision, this is the main reason why Koru is better than any other product alike.

What Makes Koru Special?

Koru tries to be physically-correct as much as it is possible with WebGL. For instance, it supports IOR tables for better physics-based metals representation. Another feature is thin-film interference which we first introduced in Owlet - that’s those “rainbow” reflections on oil drops or sunglasses.

Koru supports better snapshots with simple animations, you have probably already tried it in our gallery. You can change scene items position, visibility and materials with snapshots which makes them a perfect tool for showcasing complex designs variations.

Finally, we have tons of plans for more Koru features: metadata, templates, animations to name a few. This means it is just the beginning :)

Intergration With Other Apps

We’ll add “Export to Koru” option to both Boxshot and Origami in the near future. So far you can use Collada or OBJ as intermediate formats for sending models to Koru. On Origami you can also use “Boxshot Model” format, which Koru understands well. All the shop models are also supported by Koru.

Is Koru Ready For Production?

Koru is still a beta, so issues are possible. It is more than safe to use it instead of 3D PDF (i.e. to send your design to customers).

As for the online usage we’re going to change things here or there with the next few releases to simplify the HTML integration of Koru. If you are familiar with HTML, CSS and Javascript you can easily start using Koru on your site like we do here. Otherwise, you’d probably better wait a bit before we settle the things down.


We at Appsforlife wish you very nice Holidays and a productive new year. Have a rest, try Koru, leave your comments below and see you next year ;)