The Viridian Design Movement

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 interested.

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 modeling program?"

(((I'm a novelist, man! You can bet I'm tired of that!)))

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."


Pro Engineer:

Ren Shape 450, a resin-based syntactic tooling foam made by Ciba Specialty Chemicals in East Lansing, Mich:

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 object.)))

"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 virtual world

Contributing Editor

"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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