Converted from "Viridian Note 00421 The Virtual Actual.txt"
- Key concepts
- haptic modelling, CAD-CAM,
force-feedback gloves, virtual clay, Dominic Muren,
IDFuel, virtual reality labs
- Attention Conservation Notice:
- I'm keynoting SIGGRAPH
in a few days, so I'm getting up to speed on all things
virtual. None of the stuff in this Note is really
working yet, but, being a futurist, that's why I'm
SIGGRAPH 2004, where I plan to deliver a
screed entitled "When Blobjects Rule the Earth."
Here's a cheery thought: China industrializes, burns
all the coal left in China, and we all perish.
Doesn't that mean that, when we buy Chinese products,
we're paying to choke ourselves? Huh, maybe
multilateral trade agreements make sense after all.
(((I just discovered this "IDFuel" site, and I kind
of like it.)))
"Let Your Fingers Do the Walking
Posted Friday 07.30.04 by Dominic Muren
"Are you tired of having to flesh out all your
styling concepts on paper before you get them into a
(((I'm a novelist, man! You can bet I'm tired of
Have you ever wished you could just reach in and
tweak the file the slightest bit with a finger?
Fear not, computer scientists are hard at work on
these problems. The newest in haptic modeling is
looking better than ever.
"While Alias and Pro Engineer are pretty awesome
for exacting specification of final design specs,
their sketch-abilities are pretty counter-intuitive
for designers who grew up using renfoam, Chavant clay,
and pink foam to sculpt sketch models."
Ren Shape 450, a resin-based syntactic tooling
foam made by Ciba Specialty Chemicals in East
Chavant, since 1892 the finest name in model clay:
"Haptic devices allow physical feedback and input to
a digital file, hopefully creating a more 'natural'
experience for the modeler.
"One of the newest concepts for these interfaces is
being developed at the University of Buffalo's Virtual
Reality Lab. Using force and position sensing on a
glove, researchers are able to duplicate the
deformation of a real clay lump in an onscreen Virtual
Clay lump. (((Great, huh? Now imagine reversing it.
You make anything on a screen, and the system outputs
it as real clay that you can fire as a ceramic
"This system is the first to use real clay
as the force feedback mechanism, which is pretty smart,
since the major problem with current systems is
figuring out the mechanical system for providing force
feedback. Unfortunately, this technology won't be
available for a few years (at least, probably more
like a million).
"If you're keen on checking out a commercially
available system, your best bet is the Phantom Haptic
Interface from Sensable Technologies.
The Phantom Haptic Interface from Sensable Technologies
"The system includes a 3D force feedback stylus
which is motorized to allow users to 'touch' 'pull'
and 'squish' models with real resistance, and a special
software modeling environment. (((I've tried one. It
more or less works. It is extremely uncanny.)))
"The gallery shows that the software is best suited
to either very complex product sketch models, like
shoes, or actual sculpting, like action figures and
animatronics skins. But it's amazing if you're working
in those areas (I got to use one for a summer to
rehabilitate stroke victims, and let me tell you,
it's a completely strange trip. The stylus can
replicate inertia, and 'feel' like it actually has
mass and weight!).
"But you're waiting for the bad news right? This
system doesn't come cheap – they don't list prices
on the site, but the last time we saw, it was in the
few thousands for the stylus and software. They have
an $800 Developer kit available for a limited time,
but the modeling environment isn't included.
"But don't despair. If cost is an issue, then these
may be just the ticket. Amorphium, and Amorphium Pro
are both real time 'squish modeling' software that
allow you to work with a virtual ball of clay.
"Granted, they are pretty low fidelity, and you
definitely wouldn't use them for a final model. But,
for a quick sketch, or for a preliminary presentation
board, they aren't bad, and you can work off the base
model in Rhino or Alias when you decide on a final
design. It even allows basic painting to be done inside
the program, so you can try out color schemes kind of
like marker rendering.
"In the end, none of these comes even close to the
ease of the real thing (How long would it take you to
model a convincing cell phone in clay; 2 minutes? What
about digitally? Yeah.) The technology is going to
keep marching forward, and it's definitely worth
keeping an eye on. We can't wait. (((Me neither.)))
(((Meanwhile, back at the lab:)))
"'Virtual clay' brings act of sculpting to the
By JOHN DELLA CONTRADA
"Researchers from UB's Virtual Reality Lab have
developed a new tool for transmitting physical touch
to the virtual world.
"Their virtual clay sculpting system enables users
to replicate in real time on a personal computer
the physical act of sculpting a block of clay or
other malleable material. The resulting 3-D electronic
shape shown on the computer screen then can be
fine-tuned for product design using standard
computer-aided design/modeling software. (((Why not
just make stuff directly?)))
"'This technology will give product designers, or
even artists, a tool that will allow them to touch,
shape and manipulate virtual objects just as they
would with actual clay models or sculptures,' says
Thenkurussi Kesavadas, director of the Virtual Reality
Lab and associate professor of mechanical and aerospace
engineering in the School of Engineering and Applied
Sciences. (((That's right, he's a virtual reality
clay maven named "Thenkurussi Kesavadas.")))
"Using technology developed by the UB researchers,
virtual blocks of clay can be shaped on the computer
screen according to changes made by hand to an actual
block of clay. The technology provides an intuitive
first step for product design and prototyping.
"'We believe this tool will be a valuable first
stage in the sculpting or molding of complex shapes,
leading to the design of a variety of products for a
variety of industries,' Kesavadas adds. (((When do
we get the k-12, kid-friendly Play-Doh version?)))
"Kesavadas developed the tool with Ameya Kamerkar,
(((That's right, "Ameya Kamerkar"))) a graduate student
in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace
Engineering. A provisional patent on the technology
has been applied for by the Office of Science
Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach.
"The technology utilizes a ModelGlove developed
by the researchers to record the force exerted by hand
when depressing and shaping a block of clay. This
force-feedback information, as well as information on
hand position and speed of fingertip motion, is
instantaneously communicated to a personal computer
where a virtual block of clay – possessing
characteristics mimicking the physical properties of
the clay – is shaped precisely to the contouring of
the actual clay.
"In tests conducted in the Virtual Reality Lab,
the researchers have used the technology to sculpt
and then design a prototype car hood, for example.
"The technology improves upon existing freeform
NURBS (Nonuniform Rational B-spline Surfaces) modeling
techniques, the researchers say, because it is the
only technology capable of transferring touch directly
from the user's hand to the virtual object. Other
technologies on the market require users to shape a
virtual object via mouse and keyboard by clicking on
selected points on a virtual object and then inputting
data to change its shape.
"'Our technology is far more intuitive than
click-and-drag virtual prototyping tools currently
in use,' he explains. 'The most natural tool for a
designer is his or her hand.'
"Currently, the ModelGlove is equipped with a
single touch sensor on the tip of the index finger.
On the computer display, the user's finger is
represented as one of three virtual tools: a sharp tool
for making small deep holes, a medium size for gauging
or molding the clay and a large diameter tool for
rough shaping of surfaces.
"The next generation of the ModelGlove will have
sensors on all fingers and on the palm of the hand to
give users full finger control of virtual clay. This
will enable users to perform complex touch actions –
such as kneading the ball of clay – in the virtual
environment, according to Kesavadas.
"Eventually, the UB researchers hope to develop
an array of sculpting tools using the technology.
"'Anything used by hand in an artist's shop can
be converted into a tool, even a potter's wheel or
chisel,' Kesavadas says. 'The whole purpose is to
translate the natural feel of working with clay or
other material to the computer and to have the
computer understand what the designer or artist
is feeling and doing.'
"Kesavadas and researchers (...) also are working
on touch systems with medical applications, including
technologies to transmit the feel of a patient's
abdomen over the Internet and a system to capture and
replicate the force exerted by a surgeon with scalpel.
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HEY, THAT TICKLES
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