Lagoa has announced a $1.6 million seed round from 500 StartupsAtlas Venture and others as it launches a cloud-based 3D rendering platform that runs in a browser.

Real Ventures, RHO Ventures and several “industry-experienced angels” also participated in the round. Co-founder and CEO Thiago Costa built the Lagoa MultiPhysics physic engine and is now branching out into “MultiOptics”.

A free account with Lagoa offers 5 hours of rendering per month, unlimited public projects and 1 GB of cloud storage. Those looking for private projects will need to upgrade to a premium account.

Lagoa’s cloud features enable speedy rendering and easy collaboration, with multiple people able to work on the same project simultaneously.

Co-founder Arno Zinke, who has a background in physically-based rendering, said:

We take advantage of our research to achieve physically plausible results. Because we can leverage the power of the cloud, we do not need to pre-calculate. The result is stunning realism in materials like cloths, car paint and we even do hair, all at interactive frame rates.

Meanwhile, co-founder Dov Amihod, formerly of Bluestreak and Matrox, serves as Lagoa’s CTO. He is tasked with building the infrastructure for assets data, MultiOptics rendering and collaboration.

I’m not much of a 3D designer, but at first glance, the platform has enormous potential. It’s capable of things that I had never expected to do in a browser. The product did, however, feel more proof of concept than it did market ready.

lagoa 730x386 Backed by 500 Startups and Atlas Venture, Lagoa launches a browser based 3D rendering platformI found the interface to be not quite intuitive. Though some of that is my own unfamiliarity with 3D rendering software, I’d regularly find myself stuck in a menu with no obvious way to get back to what I was doing before. I tend to prefer standalone apps over web apps, and working with software this powerful felt uncanny. The interface also proved to be unresponsive at times as my browser struggled to keep up.

I’ll leave it to the designers among you to decide whether this is ready for your workflow, but I suspect it still needs a fair amount of work before creatives are ready to ditch their existing solutions. Still, this is the kind of startup that I’m glad exists because it offers an unexpected vision of the future. Even if I don’t have a personal need for an in-browser cloud-based 3D rendering tool, I’m excited to watch this one develop.

Image credit: iStockphoto