08/01/2016No Comments

Virtual Reality Aids Nasa Training

It's of no real surprise that massive organisations such as NASA are using virtual reality to help test, train and develop their environments and users, in fact you'd expect them to be the leaders in new tech, and demoing things which we hadn't even heard of.

So when I saw this short video, showing a user controlling a robotic arm to simulate lag in a zero gravity environment, I was a little surprised to see them using an off-the-shelf Sony VR headset (Project Morpheus), which will be available to buy in 2016, presumably to be primarily used with the Playstation 4.

For myself, this is quite a big deal, the virtual reality headset will probably be priced at around £500, and to consumers who only want to play games this may seem high and hard to justify, but if you think about it, the price is much lower than a new TV, and will likely give you a much more immersive experience than a TV or monitor.

Playing games is one thing, and ultimately gaming has really driven this technology to this level, but what about the other possibilities for this kind of hardware?

Of course we can look to use the headsets for interactive architectural walk-through, or to visualise new products in full 3D, and I'm sure we'll see an increase in demand for these types of projects. Selling a housing development "off-plan" may be replaced by selling "off-VR", allowing potential buyers to walk around their future neighbourhood, and explore their future home.

 vr_head_set_nasa_training_virtual_reality_02The VR headset and controllers in action.

However I also see a massive use for VR in development, simulation, testing and training, which is what the video explores. Again architecture and product design may find virtual reality useful to develop and preview architecture and prototypes, uncovering potential design flaws, or perhaps even for user testing and focus groups, which could potentially mean architects and designers could trial several designs in a much more cost effective manor.

Training and simulation could also be a great use for virtual reality. As the video shows, the software can be programmed to different scenarios for any environment. A factory could be tested before it's built, and any design flaws could be rectified before actual construction of the building, saving companies a huge amount of money and time.

vr_head_set_nasa_training_virtual_reality_01Virtual robotic arms.

Staff could also be trained to use new machinery, even before it's physically there. This could cut down on training time, and also allow users to familiarise them selves with the machines in a very safe way.

Simulations can also be run, perhaps allowing users to experience an emergency situation. The software could be programmed to record and feed back on the users decisions, speed and alertness. The information could then be analysed, reviewed and acted upon, perhaps making the training more valuable and useful for both trainers and trainees.

The technology behind the VR headset is of course cutting edge. We haven't really seen any consumer based VR head sets before, OK there's the Samsung Gear, Google Cardboard and arguably the Oculus Rift, but with 2016 looking like it will be a bumper year for virtual reality and headset hardware we could see the use of VR rocket and become almost mainstream.

For sure, a VR headset is on our wish list for 2016 and there's quite a choice of headsets too. There's the Sony VR headset, HTC Vive and the full release of the Oculus Rift, all of which look impressive, and should in theory be around the same price range, so the choice looks like it will be down to software compatibility and personal preference.

The future of VR is looking strong, and we can't wait to become a part of it, pushing and playing with new technology whilst creating new virtual worlds and environments! We simply can't wait to get our hands on a headset, and see where we end up!

Dean

 

05/01/2016No Comments

Inspiration – Best small spaces of 2015

I've always had a thing for small spaces and buildings. For others large open spaces are brilliant, and I agree to a degree, but I think small scale architecture is really a work of art. I love the idea that no space is spared, and each area has been very cleverly designed and thought though in order to maximise the space.

small spaces outbuilding garden house room diyCosy home-made outbuilding.

So when this feature on Dwell popped-up, I thought it was worth a mention....

Most Popular Homes of 2015: Small Spaces

The article features apartments, outbuildings and floating homes, however my favourite has to be the home inside a grain silo!

house grain silo small spaces homeYou wouldn't expect a home here!

The house features all the things you'd expect in a home, bedroom, kitchen, bathroom and living areas, but the really amazing part is just how brilliant it looks, and actually how spacious it appears to be!

house grain silo small spaces home kitchen livingroom livingFantastic custom walnut and black metal kitchen and stairs!

The 190 square foot space apparently all custom made, with the Eames Wire Chairs being the only non-custom items, very impressive! The contrast between the wood and black metal work is also very nice, and it's a real credit to the owner in their boldness and design to use these dark colours without making the space feel small and claustrophobic.

house grain silo small spaces home garden outside landscapeThe beautiful landscape garden.

Overall the building is incredible in almost every sense, and the attention to detail is fantastic! It really is a unique use of a very unusual building, and perhaps we as a society and culture should embrace these structures more. The individuality in this building is what makes it what it is, so don't try to copy it, instead be inspired!

So that's a little bit of inspiration for the start of 2016! To read more about the converted grain silo home, check out the Dwell article. I'll be sure to blog more about these incredible small buildings and architecture in 2016!

Dean

 

23/12/2015No Comments

Merry Christmas! Here’s to 2016!

Well it's that time of year again....

....so first of all, Happy Christmas everyone!

We're almost at the end of 2015, and I find it's always great to look back at what we've done over the past year. We can smile and pat ourselves on the back at the great work we've produced, but also to reflect on the hurdles and obstacles from the year!

I hope this year has been a great one for you, I know we've had a good year, producing some great work for you guys! As usual we've focused on creating architecture, interior, and product CGIs, but we also explored other area such as 3D printing and virtual reality. I find it's always great to explore and play, even if it's just to glimpse at what might be!

So I'll leave you with a short selection of our interesting 2015 projects for you to browse with a mince pie and sherry....

Student Mattress Room Set -

interior cgi bedroom matress student visualisation

The student mattress room set was a continuation from 2014, but is still worth of a mention. We really enjoyed working on this project, partly down to the fact we were given a lot of creative freedom with regards to the set design, and also to how well the final image turned out. It was technically challenging matching the CGI with the real mattress, but the end result was worth the extra effort!

New Broadway -

architecture arch viz vis building residential 3d cgi

2015 saw an increase is architectural visualisations for us, and the New Broadway project was perhaps one of the more interesting projects to work on. The images were photo-composites, set at dusk, which meant we could play with light and colour much more than a typical day-time CGI.

Construct & Configure Interactive Application -

interactive configurator kitchen realtime cgi interior

The Construct & Configure app finally went live this year, and although it's not 100% finished, it shows the potential of what we can do, and the direction we see things going in the next few years! We will be finishing and improving the app, and it will be used by clients to interactively visualise their products. Give it a go if you haven't already!

3D Printed Miniature Figures -

3d printing print scan scanning subutteo

As part of our need to explore and play with new tech, we have been busy with the 3D printer and scanner, turning folks into miniature figures! We honestly didn't know what would happen when we bought the printer, and it still feels very novel, however the miniature model railway guys have been taking advantage and we've been producing miniatures to go along with their trains, platforms and scenery!

There's been so much more happening in 2015 which I haven't mentioned, from virtual reality, to kitchen CGIs, along with all the other little things which crop up, and perhaps get lost along the way!

In 2016 we of course want to continue to produce amazing CGIs, animations and interactive projects, and as usual we will continue to play and explore! On our "wish list" is a VR headset, perhaps an Oculus Rift, or HTC Vive, which will allow us to really see what the future may hold! Also we will most likely launch another website, dedicated to the 3D scanning and printing, as the interest in this niche is definitly something we want to expand.

Also, away from the "doing", we want to attend more events, exhibitions, and such to make sure we're surrounded by new and exciting things. We'll be travelling all over the UK to various cities and events, so if you want to meet-up for a brew, chances are we could be passing by some time soon!

So that's it for 2015! Time to step away from the PC for a week, re-charge, rejuvenate, and hit the ground running in 2016!

Dean

02/12/2015No Comments

3D Printed miniatures from 3D scans

Recently I have been exploring the use of the 3D printer, and one of the avenues I've been experimenting with is using the 3D printer to produce miniature figures.

The process is relatively straight forward, we use a 3D hand scanner coupled to a laptop to 3D scan the person. This captures the figure in 3D, and works incredibly well. We then refine the 3D mesh, fixing errors, or adding parts which the scanner hadn't quite scanned correctly, and then we send it to the 3D printer.

3D Scanning & Printing Railway Modellers 16mm

The above figures were created for use with model railways, and are printed at a scale to match the railway. These figures stand at approximately 95mm high (a scale of 16mm - 1ft), but figures can be produced to other scales quite easily.

Once the prints are complete, they are then handed over to the customer, who can refine, sand, and paint the figures as they desire! Here are two figures I painted, badly, but if gives an idea of what can be achieved!

3D Scanning & Printing Railway Modellers 16mm

I'd love to see what a professional miniature painter could produce, if you are a painter, get in touch, it would be amazing to collaborate!

Anyway, that's what the 3D printer has been doing recently, and it's definitely been a learning curve, but adds something a bit different and alternative to the Ard Digital portfolio!

Finally, if you're potentially interested in being imortalised as a 3D printed miniature, have a read at the 3D Scan & Print a Miniature You page and of course get in touch!

Dean

11/11/2015No Comments

360 Degree Video Test – 3D Interior Apartment

Earlier this year YouTube made it possible to upload 360 degree videos! If you don't know what they are, 360 videos enable the viewer to look around the space, as if they were there, whilst the video is playing!

I wanted to see what the possibilities could be for CGI and 3D rendered environments, I'm always interested in new tech, and different ways of doing things, so it made sense to spend some time investigating, testing and developing.

The video below is the test video I produced. It's a very simple interior room set, with a basic camera movement forwards and backwards, but that's all I need for this test. When you play the video it will play just like a normal YouTube video, however if you click and drag (if you're on a PC browser) on the video you'll be able to look around the 3D environment! Give it a go....

The video can also be viewed on Youtube here.

If however you are viewing the video on the YouTube app on your smart phone (I have a HTC One M8), then hold the camera as if taking a picture of a wall, and move the phone to look around! It really is quite amazing!!

However the fun doesn't stop there, whilst in the YouTube app, you'll possibly see the Google Cardboard logo, and if you have a Google Cardboard (if you don't, jump on Amazon and order one for around £15!), click the Cardboard logo, and now you can view the video in the Google Cardboard head set!

Google Cardboard VR Headset Interactive

The Google Cardboard.

So what does this all this mean? Creating demos like this are always extremely valuable to do, they allow me to test, experiment, fail and play with something new and exciting, and that's half of the reason why I love the industry I work in!

But does it have any practical future applications? I'm sure when it comes to presenting content to users, more immersive and engaging content is going to be a massive plus to any project. I don't see why an architect couldn't use a 360 degree video to present their new building, or instructors aid their students with more engaging training, or even being able to watch a theatre performance as if stood in the centre of the stage!

The possibilities are endless! Of course there has to be a purpose to using 360 videos, in some applications it just wouldn't add anything, but in many situations I see the potential use of 360 videos to push video and user engagement to the next level!

05/11/2015No Comments

New Development Project – Loft Office

From time-to-time, we get the chance to try new things, move in a different direction (even it's only for a short while), and experiment with something outside of the day-to-day work, and being in the CGI / visualisation industry means that nothing stands still, and there's always an opportunity to develop, test and explore.

One area I've been wanting to explore is the interactive / virtual reality side of the industry. Interactive walk though, virtual reality, and other tech like this has been around for decades, and it's concept is nothing new, but I'm sensing a trend towards these applications more and more. The hardware is more accessible than ever, with it the computing power required now literally pocket sized with the advances with smart phones and tablets.

Anyway, I digress from the blog posts title, over the next few weeks / months / when time allows, I will be creating a virtual reality environment, a loft style office. The user will be able to walk around the space, explore the architecture, and interact with several objects. How far the interactivity goes may depend on time, but I think it would be great to add some quirky elements in there too.

2015-11-05 11.19.06

Quick sketch to kick off the new project.

I will be learning and building the virtual reality environment inside 3Ds Max (my standard 3D application), and Unreal Engine 4. Unreal Engine looks very exciting, giving a massive amount of control to us creatives, whilst making the programming less complex than other packages.

In the past I have sometimes viewed virtual reality as a bit of a gimmick, with no real purpose and too many limitations, but recently my attitude has changed as I see a massive improvement of visual effects that may soon rival traditional CGI, and the access to consumer-ready hardware, meaning you don't need a £2000 PC to view a simple interior.

Also, I'm very excited for 2016, when it looks like we may be treated to more virtual reality head sets. The Occulus Rift will be out of development and consumer ready, and others such as Sony, and HTC are also releasing their versions very too which all look very promising and may really shift the industry and projects more towards virtual reality.

Anyway, the loft office project has started! It may take a while to complete, but I'll be posting small updates as soon as I can, and also check out my instagram (@punch_ard_digital) and Twitter (@deanpunchard) for even more frequent, and even slightly random posts!

Dean

 

02/11/2015No Comments

Augmented / Virtual Reality Command Centre Concept

New tech excites me, and this augmented / virtual reality project created for BAE Systems is something I'm massively impressed with. In an episode of Click, a BBC tech based show, they look at how augmented and virtual reality work in partnership to give the user a huge amount of control by immersing the user into a virtual world.

The video can be watched on the iplayer here -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b06bbm1g/click-05092015

The command centre uses a mix of new technology, with perhaps the most recognisable tech being the Oculus Rift (the large head set), but the command centre also takes advantage of gloves, cameras, and other interfaces to allow the users to view, control and interact with the virtual world.

VR AR Command Centre Virtual Reality Augmented Reality

Mixing virtual reality with augmented reality has been used to great effect, in this case the wooden table is used not only to project the virtual world onto, but also to give the user something real to touch. I imagine it's also very useful for resting the users hands, as hovering in mid-air can soon become quite tiring.

VR AR Command Centre Virtual Reality Augmented Reality

The augmented virtual world is mainly projected onto the table, however other 3D objects are visible away from the table, such as the fighter jet, and the personal assistant.

VR AR Command Centre Virtual Reality Augmented Reality

The software developed for the command centre is perhaps the most impressive part of the project, and gives us a brief look into what's possible. In this demo the user can quickly see live video from the real world scene, but the view could view anything they need, from drawings, to written reports.

VR AR Command Centre Virtual Reality Augmented Reality

The video also glimpses at another peice of tech which I love, and that's 3D scanning. In the video the command centre can see real-time updates from 3D scanned data. Presumably the area is scanned with a drone, and the point cloud data transmitted back to the virtual world.

VR AR Command Centre Virtual Reality Augmented Reality

If you're interested in this kind of tech, watch the video, it's seriously impressive stuff! I can't wait until this kind of project becomes mainstream, and eventually the norm, until then I'll just have to keep tinkering and experimenting with my own virtual worlds!

Dean

 

22/10/2015No Comments

Stock and Custom 3D models in CGI Visualisations

Throughout my CGI work, the scenes I create will be primarily populated with the building or product, but to set the scene props, landscapes, entourage, etc are added. These items, big or small have to be created and added to the 3D scenes.

Sometimes we use stock 3D models, which are very similar to stock photography. There are websites where you can download a wide variety of 3D models ranging from costing nowt, to hundreds of pounds. Once downloaded, the 3D models can be dropped into a virtual scene and used within the visualisation or animation.

With the majority of my projects I will 3D modelling various parts of a scene. In architectural visualisations I will model the buildings, landscape and other items, then populate the scene with stock library items such as cars and trees. I do this simply because the stock models available for foliage and vehicles is pretty extensive, and it would be counter-productive for me to start modelling these items, which could make the final cost of the CGIs too expensive for many. A collection of 10 cars can be purchased for a few hundred pounds, where as for myself to 3D model just one car would take at least a week, which makes a typical architectural visualisation just too expensive and time consuming.

architecture_nb_shot_2_final_1600Stock foliage used within a custom 3D modelled environment.

With interior visualisations and digital room sets, I find myself using less stock 3D model, in favour of hand creating custom items. My preference to do this has many factors.

  1. Trends within interior design changes on a monthly basis, and as such many of the stock 3D items are dated, and have sometimes been created years ago. This is OK for the design classics, but for items that change with the seasons it's not ideal, and can really impact on the final image.
  2. I can create almost any item in 3D, without it impacting on project costs or time too much. 3D modelling can be very tricky, and getting items to look realistic can also be hard, if not impossible for some, however when I started in the CGI industry over a decade ago (ouch), my speciality was 3D modelling, and doing it fast and good! Over the years I have continued to build on this core skill, evolving processes with every year, taking advantage of new techniques and software to be able to quickly create virtually anything.
  3. Purchasing 3D models from stock sites isn't always straight forward, first you have to find the right model, at a good price (I am a Yorkshireman after all!), and then trust it's OK to use. Then once I've bought the models, approximately 50% of the time the 3D models will need adjustments such as re-scaling or fixing errors, and nearly every time I need to check the 3D model material finishes to be in-line with my techniques and processes. This can be time consuming, and could also become costly.
  4. If I create the 3D models from scratch, I know the models are good, correct and error free. Maybe I'm not very trusting, or perhaps I just have faith in my own skills! Either way I know when I've 3D modelled an item that it's going to look good in the image, and if it doesn't look quite right, I know how to break it apart and improve it.
  5. The final advantage of creating custom 3D items is that they belong to me! I will add items to my personal library for future use, and I will also re-sell the 3D models though my TurboSquid account to other folk. I must admit I don't receive much in the way of sales, but it pays for my dropbox account at least!

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI Kitchen

Franke sink and tap created from a handful of photos and dimensions.

Franke Sink Tap 3D Model CGI KitchenA wire-frame shot showing the 3D construction.

Although creating the 3D models from scratch has it's advantages, it also has its disadvantages. Some items can be very difficult to re-create in 3D. Items such as cloth, plants, and other organic forms can be tricky, so much so that it's not uncommon for these type of items to be photographed in the studio, and super-imposed into the CGI in post-production. This is purely a time-saving technique, anything can be created in 3D, it's generally a matter of how much time is available to complete a job.

modelling_toaster_dualit_01_1600

Dualit toaster, available to buy on TurboSquid

Other disadvantages could be that an items has little information or imagery to create an accurate 3D model. For example it's quite rare to find a piece of furniture photographed from every angle, instead usually the only reference is an angled photo, and generally the photograph will be of medium - low quality or resolution. So to create the furniture does require some educated guess work, and as such can't be too accurate. Clients will sometimes be able to physically send items to be turned into 3D models, which means a greater accuracy can be achieved, and is generally the only way to be certain of getting the 3D model just right.

Although I do find creating 3D models from scratch very useful, sometimes I do purchase 3D models. For interior room sets, I will often pick items from Design Connected, and occasionally TurboSquid and 90% of the time I'll be happy with the purchases. Purchasing these type of models will help speed up the process, which is very useful on projects where time is limited.

Both buying and creating 3D models has its advantages and disadvantages, and the majority of the time the decision to buy or make is made on a project by project case. As I've mentioned cost and time are two factors, however if possible I will always aim to use items I've created myself, this ultimately helps keep my work fresh, up to date and unique.

Dean

19/10/2015No Comments

WutheringBytes 2015

A couple of weeks ago I attended WutheringBytes over at Hebden Bridge to demo, show and explain 3D scanning and 3D printing.

WutheringBytes was set-up by Calderdale Council, to allow the public, companies, and anyone else to learn, engage and be a part of various technologies from numerous individuals and organisations. The wealth of technologies within our local area is fantastic, and I hope this event help to open people's eyes to just what's out there.

For my part in the event, I ran a 3D scanning and 3D printing demo. Through out the day I scanned anyone who wanted a go at turning themselves into digital versions.

3d scan scanning print printing

3D printer and scanner ready to go!

The response to the 3D scanning was fantastic, people couldn't wait to be scanned, and see themselves in digital 3D form! The scanning takes a few minutes, and as such the person being scanned has to stop completely still, which is harder than you'd think! The best response to the scanning was from the crowds of primary school children, who all wanted a go!

3d scan scanning male

A 3D scan from the day.

I will be sending the 3D scans to each person once I've had chance to sort and tidy the 3D files, and if they agree, I'll upload the scans so anyone can print or play with the 3D files.

I also gave away 3D printed bottle openers, some freshly printed that day. A penny coin slips into the bottle opener to give a hard edge to stop the plastic from breaking.  This is actually the last one I have from around 100 being printed! There's also the same bottle opener, but has ard Digital logo incorporated. I must print a few more!

Blog_WutheringBytes_3

3D printed bottle opener.

So that's what I got up to at WutheringBytes, be sure to keep an eye out for next years do, I'm sure it'll be a good one!

Dean

19/10/20154 Comments

Udemy 3ds Max & Vray Arch Vis course coupon for FREE access

The guys over at Udemy have given me 50 free coupons to allow my lucky followers to receive this course for free!

https://www.udemy.com/intro-to-architectural-visualization-using-3ds-max-and-v-ray_zillus/#/

The course is aimed at beginners, but as always there might be some tips and tricks even the seasoned pro's might have missed.

AD15_Blog_Udemy_Course

To receive the coupon, all you need to do is subscribe to the ard Digital newsletter, and in the comments section of the sign-up form type "free course", and I will then email the coupon code to the lucky first 50 subscribers!

Dean

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