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

 

10/08/2015No Comments

Interactive Car Configurator Demo Now Online

Over at our sister website, www.constructandconfigure.com, we have been busy putting together our third showcase demo interactive application using the Construct and Configure Interactive Application. In this demo we used the existing application, but decided the push the number of options and configurations by showing how the app could be used to visualise a vehicle, in this case a Mini Cooper, a car of which I've admired since it's release 15 years ago.

Interactive CGI car vehicle interior configurator application

Configure the Mini Cooper on any device.

In the app you can configure the paint colours, wheels, brake calliper colours and much more. Creating this app was slightly more complicated to create than the kitchen configurator and the furniture configurator simply because of the number of options. We could have added more options, there are no limits within the application its self, but felt the number of configurations possible (27216 unique configurations to be exact) was enough to give a taste of how powerful the application can be.

ad15_mini_cooper_configurator-1024x767

Visit the app website to test the configurator.

We also wanted to showcase the layering of the various CGI elements and options. For example the decals sit perfectly over the paint work, and the brake callipers sit under the wheels, all of which is reflected perfectly on the floor. OK we like to show off, but we're proud of what we've created, and we feel this demo shows the potential it has to showcase any product.

 

In other Construct and Configure news, development of the Share function has begun, and will hopefully be complete in a few weeks time. We're really excited by this, as the Share function will make it extremely easy to share configurations with friends, family and anyone else via email and social media, which in turn will raise the profile of the products.

 

If you'd like to know more about the configurator, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

 

Dean

 

05/06/2015No Comments

Interactive Configurator Launched

Over the past few months, I have been working with a web development team to create a new interactive application, which utilises the flexibility of CGI with some web programming magic. We wanted to create an application to allow users to interactively configure anything, then share, save or print their configuration.

The application has been given it's own brand new website, check out www.constructandconfigure.com to see what all the fuss is about, and to play with the two demo applications.

The application is a "configurator" and has been designed to enable users to change finishes, features and other options by clicking on buttons to access menus. In the kitchen demo, the user can change the kitchen finish, the door handles and the worktops, but almost any visual element of a product, space or architecture could be configurable. In the kitchen demo we could if we wanted to add the ability to change the appliances, the stools, or even the floor and wall finishes. This is one reason why using 3D is great, we can create these CGI variations quickly, store them digitally, and present them in a way which is quick and easy for the end users to see.

The interactive kitchen demo application.

The application has been designed to work on most modern devices, PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones, iPads and anything else with a modern web browser and a reasonably fast internet connection. We wanted to make the application accessible to as many people as possible, so it made sense to make the application run inside a web browser, without the need for any software downloads.

As standard, we have added 3 features to the app, save, print and share. The save button will download an image, overlaid with a description of the configuration, to your device. The print function simply prints the configuration, and again with a description so you know exactly the chosen configuration. The share button is perhaps the most complex function, but something we felt was required to allow users to share their configuration quickly and easily. When the user clicks the share button, a pop up window is displayed with a unique web address. The user can then highlight, copy and paste this address to Twitter, Facebook, email or anything else. When the address this then re-opened in a web browser, the users configuration is displayed. For this app we wanted to avoid user log-ins and passwords as we wanted the experience to be fast and user friendly, and using a unique web address works perfectly.

The app works on touch screen devices, as well as a traditional mouse.

We see this app to be primarily used to visualise and configure products. A sales team could use the application to show potential buyers the various configurations of their product, which may help the buyers visualise their potential purchase, and hopefully secure a sale. Similarly the app could be used in show rooms, where it's physically impossible to show all the product variations, but with the app customers could quickly and easily see any configuration they wish.

The application could be used by housing developers to show potential house buyers their new home, and then allow them to choose fixtures and finishes, which many house builders now allow. The possibilities for the app is limitless!

Use the app on the go, but be careful using it on 3G or 4G as data charges may occur!

The application has been fully custom made to suit our requirements. We did this for one important reason, we can modify, change, or add features to the application when required. The application is web based, and with the advances in HTML 5, more and more is possible. As an example we could add a clip board, user log-in, or even link the app with an e-commerce website allowing the users to purchase directly from the app.

View the configurator anywhere.

Currently the configurator doesn't allow the user to build products, they can't alter the kitchen layout for example, but this isn't why we created this application. In order to visualise the products in a photo realistic manor, the app uses pre-rendered CGI images, layered on top of each other to create the users configuration. Advances in real-time visualisation has shown we can create almost photo-real visuals using technology such as Unity 3D or the Unreal game engine, however using this kind of software means the users have to download plugins or software suitable for their device, which is something we didn't want to do. In the future I'm sure this will change, but for now we believe our current approach is the best way!

So head over to http://www.constructandconfigure.com and play with the application demos.

If you have any questions or comments about the configurator, please get in touch!

Dean

08/05/2015No Comments

3D Interactive Furniture Demo 02

In-between projects I continue to tinker and play with new tech, software, and areas of interest. Usually these side-projects are different from the typical 9-5 projects, but allow myself to look, play and develop new technology and ideas.

Anyway, following on from 3D interactive test 01, this latest revision shows some changes, mainly the inclusion of drop-down menus, and a new way of rotating around the object (the user now clicks and holds down the left mouse button, then moves the mouse) is much nicer to use.

At this stage of development, the main purpose of these demos is to build functionality, hence the very standard looking menus, but once the functions and workings of the app are working, adding the finer detail and visual elements is the easier part (in theory!).

Launch 3D Interactive Furniture Demo 02

3D_Furniture_Interactive_Test_02

The app is built with Unity 3D, which very knidly allows the app to also install and run on mobile devices as well as the web. An augmented reality version is also being developed which I will record very soon to show.

Any comments, please let me know!

Dean

25/03/2015No Comments

3D Interactive Furniture Demo 01

Recently Unity3D (a fantastic piece of software to create interactive projects and games) became free, along with features such as real-time lighting, and fancy materials.

I've wanted to have a play with Unity3D for a while, so during a bit of downtime I opened it up and created a quick test project to experiment with and play....

Launch 3D Interactive Furniture Demo 01

3D Interactive FurnitureA screen grab from the demo.

At the moment, to change the furniture style, press buttons 1, 2, 3, 4, and use your mouse to rotate around the chair, and the mouse wheel to zoom in and out.

The next stage is to add buttons (some programming needed, which I know very little of!), and to also give options to change colours of parts of the furniture. The app can then be ported to tablets, phones, desktops, as well as websites.

Currently the 3D Interactive Furniture Demo is a very basic demo, only really scratching the surface of what is possible.

18/05/2012No Comments

Mobile 3D Interactive Walk Through Test 001

Recently I have been exploring the use on 3D applications on mobile devices, and the first step was to build a basic scene, and test to see how well a 3D environment would work on a small mobile phone.

This is a quick video showing the test application which uses Unity3D to create an interactive first person walk-through on a basic smart phone. The phone used was the HTC Desire S.

Surprisingly, the demo runs very well, and although the HTC Desire S that I used is only a year old, it is by no means the most powerful smart phone out there. The release of the Galaxy S3 with it's more powerful dual core processor and slightly larger screen, is likely to be perfect for this type of hand held 3D application and, I'm sure pretty intensive 3D environments can be achieved as better and faster hardware is made available.

Also what was useful to learn from this demo was the navigation, which after only a few minutes of playing, I was able to quickly navigate around the environment. It also felt very comfortable and easy to use, which is very important.

This simple test gives a quick insight into the use of 3D applications on mobile devices. This demo was by no means a finished project, but a demo to show how it works, what it looks like, and how well 3D performs on an average smart phone. It was also good to try to figure out a work-flow for this type of project. Moving from 3Ds Max, to Unity3D, then to the mobile was tricky, but relatively straight forward after some testing.

If you would like to know more about this application, or would like to try it for yourself on your Android phone, please drop me an email!

As mentioned in the video, the 3D environment was created by Marko Dabrovic and can be downloaded here hdri.cgtechniques.com/~sponza/files/

15/03/2012No Comments

Interactive Test 002

Here is another interactive test, this time with a more traditional exterior environment.

Click here to have a play around!

I wanted to keep the emphasis on the building it's self, but also to explore some of the nice features of Unity Pro, and to see whether it is worth the price, or whether to stick with Unity Free. Unity Free is brilliant, and I love the fact that you could build an entire game just using the free version if you wanted to. However the features that Unity Pro has that are missing in the free version, are the lovely, juicy bit we all love, such as real-time shadows and post-effects.

In Interactive Test 001, I built the scene using 3Ds Max, Vray and Unity Free. With this test, I used 3Ds Max and Unity Free, and a very small amount of Vray (only for the reflection cube maps). With Unity Free, you don't have real-time shadows, so all the light info has to be rendered to a separate pass, and don't get me wrong, this can often be a great way of achieving great results, but the time spent unwrapping objects, tweaking UVs, rendering, and then realising that something isn't right, and going back through the whole process again and again can be very long and tedious. With Pro, you have real-time shadows, which eliminates the need to bake lighting, but can give flatter results, due to lack of GI, but for exterior environments like this, I think the advantages of real-time lighting out-weighs the benefits of baking lighting and GI. I may do a test with the Interactive Test 001 scene with real-time lighting, and see how they compare. I'm guessing the real-time version won't look as nice, but, the time saved might be the key to making this process one that could be put into a production work-flow.

So far I have barely touched the surface of what Unity can offer, but already I think I am achieving nice results, that should run across many different PC, and other platforms too such as iOS and Android. I am finding it hard however to program in any features, but the Unity forums are great and answer pretty much any question, whether or not I understand the answer!

I also had a quick play with the built in tree editor (hence the crappy trees, I need more practice!), which again added some nice flexibility, and the fact that they slightly move with some added wind, makes them a nice little touch. I added a quick function to hide the trees also just in-case they killed any PCs (please let me know if you have any trouble with the file!) but this also made me realise how useful real-time shadows are, as when the trees are hidden, the shadows also hide, something that would be very tedious, although do-able, with baked lighting.

So, that's test 002 done, let me know what you think, what would be nice to add and to do, and whether or not you can brake it!

And before anyone asks, I really don't know if the Pro version is worth the extra cash over the free, I guess a few more tests and I might be able to tell you!

Updates will follow!

 

Deano

 

 

 

13/03/20121 Comment

Interactive Test 001

Recently I have been playing with Unity3D and trying to get to grips with it all. I'm really excited by it, with cross platform publishing, including iOS and Android, as well as a pretty straight forward interface, and a logical way of doing things. I'm not saying it's perfect, there are many glitches, problems with graphics, and I am still trying to figure out the best work-flow to make this

kind of application easy to publish, but it's definitely going in the right direction!

Anyway, click here to play with the first of hopefully more testing and development of interactive applications.

The model is originally from Marko Dabrovicand can be downloaded here. I just like the model, and it works perfectly for this type of testing.

Dean

 

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