30/04/2019No Comments

Punch Infinity // Blog Series

 

Punch Infinity // Blog Series

At the start of this year we completed Punch Infinity, our interactive configurator, to make it easy for customers to easily allow our clients to visualise products.

Punch Infinity is Here!

Check out this one we generated for Mosiac Village, helping their customer visualise their tiles easier.

Over the next few blog posts I’ll be digging into Punch Infinity and talking about what, why, how and the future plans for our interactive configurator. In the blog posts I'll be picking the ONE thing that helped really focused Punch Infinity into what it has become.

Below are the links to the individual 4 blog posts. So have a read once they're available! If you have any questions or queries or think Punch Infinity might be great for you marketing, then drop us a message or give us a call!

Punch Infinity - What is it? (Coming soon - Tuesday 13th May)

Punch Infinity - Why? (Coming soon - Tuesday 27th May)

Punch Infinity - How? (Coming soon - Tuesday 10th June)

Punch Infinity - The Future (Coming soon - 24th)

11/07/2016No Comments

A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement

A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement

We have been playing, tinkering and mainly having fun with virtual reality, all in the name of research of course! The sheer number of apps, videos, experiences and games already available is amazing, and we've only really scratch the surface with our research. However one piece of virtual reality content really stood out, and that's "6x9: A Virtual Experience of Solitary Confinement"

Blog Virtual Reality Solitary Confinement App Video 360 VR

Created by The Guarding and The Mill (see more info here), this virtual reality experience is a great example of how a virtual reality experience should be! It places the viewer in a horrible 6x9 cell, and gives us a glimpse onto just what solitary confinement may be like. Let's just say it's not very pleasant!

Blog Virtual Reality Solitary Confinement App Video 360 VR

6x9 is one VR experience that really stand out for us and does so for few reasons. Firstly it's based on interesting and engaging content. Real convicts who have been in solitary confinement talk about their experiences. Even if 6x9 had been a news article, or a pod cast it would have still grabbed my attention.

Secondly the visual experience is good. OK the graphics aren't photo-real, but to me that doesn't matter. The room is dark, dirty, and not a very nice place to be all. The room changes, weird effects happen to suggest different feelings or even hallucinations that an inmate would have. The user is guided through the experience, and one thing I like is that you can look behind you, but the content is delivered in front of the user, so you can sit comfortably on the sofa without having to break your neck or stand up and turnaround to see the content! Sometimes you almost forget about the quality of the CGI as I found myself listening to the audio or reading the graffiti style text.

Thirdly, and perhaps the most important reason why this works so well in my opinion, is that the creators have taken great content, and then chosen the best medium to tell the story through. In this case they've used virtual reality, and by doing so they've enhanced their content and experience. Too often I see people with the thought of "we have VR, how can we use it?". This can lead to badly built experiences, and people simply trying to force their content into virtual reality. Look at how many best selling mobile games are being butchered to use VR, simply to jump on the band wagon to be part of the VR scene. It's lazy, cheep, and will damage the reputation of virtual reality as a medium if we're not creating brilliant content.

Anyway, back on topic. The 6x9 is a lesson in how to produce virtual reality experience. Please check out the app, all you need is a smart phone, Google Cardboard, GearVR or something similar. There's also a little trailer if you can't get your hands on a VR headset....

Enjoy (if that's even possible in a 6x9 cell?).

Dean

18/04/2016No Comments

3D Printing is literally child’s play!

Does the future of kids toys lie with 3D Printing?

Anyone who knows me knows I love 3D printing! I also have a very curious 5 year old son, who always wants to see my 3D printer in action and always asks "what are you printing now Daddy?". So when I came across the ThingyMaker, a 3D printed designed to print toys, I was very excited in deed!

The concept behind ThingyMaker is quite simple, you (or your children if you really have to share), can customise and 3D print toys! Yes I've seen 3D printed toys, there are 100s of 3D models available for free to download and print from sites such as Thingiverse, but what ThingyMaker promises to do is make the process as simple and straight forward as possible, so in theory even a child, with little or no knowledge of 3D modelling, or 3D printing, can create their own 3D printed toys.

3d printing toys kids education applicationThe ThingMaker 3D Printer.

The actual hardware inside ThingyMaker doesn't look to offer anything new, it appears to be a single extruder (it prints 1 colour), inside an enclosure, and possibly a heated build plate (although finding exact spec has proven difficult). But to me it has all the essentials it needs as an introduction for kids to 3D printing, and it's even quite cute and toy-like in its design.

3d printing toys kids education application

The ThingMaker Design app.

Alongside the 3D printer is the ThingMaker Design app, which is where you can design and customise your toys. It's available for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play. I downloaded the app, and had a very quick play, and to be honest the app really did exceed my expectations. The way you build your toys is very straight forward and intuitive; you simply drag components into the view-port and the parts snap together, so you know instantly if what your designing will actually fit together. You can then pull, rotate, swap and even colour the different parts. There also appears to be 100's of components, giving you an almost infinite number of possible combinations to build.

I had a very quick play in ThingMaker Design, and came up with some kind of helicopter-space-creature, which had very little "design" and is merely a mash-up of components I stumbled across! However it did show how quickly anyone could manufacture a unique "toy", with no experience of 3D modelling or manufacturing.

3d printing toys kids education application

The Heli-Space-Beast toy, coming soon...

Once you've created your "masterpiece", you can then export it to be 3D printed, and this is the part of the app which really impressed me. The app will de-construct and align all the components so you can print them straight away, and it will even separate the different colours into different prints, so you could in theory print in the correct colours if you have the right coloured plastic filament.

Once the app has done this, you can follow a link on your PC, and you can download the components to then print them on a 3D printer, pretty neat right?

3d printing toys kids education application

Downloading the parts to be printed.

The last step does seem a bit "clunky", but I'm guessing that when the 3D printer is released on sale later this year you won't need to manually download you design and send them to your printer, instead I imagine the app will communicate directly with the ThingMaker printer and automatically print the parts. If it doesn't I'll be very surprised.

But for now we'll just have to do things manually, and I will be testing the printing side of things very soon. Perhaps I'll let my 5 year old have a go, and see what he creates, and of course print it! I'm sure it'll be a random mash-up of skulls, wings and flowers!

3d printing toys kids education application

3D printed toys and parts in various colours.

Being able to design and create unique toys is going to be amazing for children (and us bigger kids), but I also see another massive advantage, you can re-print any broken, lost or even chewed parts in minutes. But will this also de-value the toys? Will there be an unlimited supply of components, or will Mattel be very clever in limiting the number times a certain component could be downloaded or printed? And will they expect users to pay for "special" components via in app purchases? Will we have to buy a licence to make these toys? The price for the ThingMaker (pre-order here) is a mere $300 / £210, which is very cheep for a 3D printer, so I can't honestly see Mattel selling the printer at this price, and giving away all it's content and apps for free, they just wouldn't make any money, would they?

But here's a thought, will Mattel expand on its current offerings? Will they allow users to 3D print other items, perhaps Barbie accessories, or Hotwheels cars? Will I be able to even print non-toy items, something like a broken oven knob, or remote control battery cover because mine has gone walk-abouts again?

The whole concept of printing toys at home certainly seems very novel and fun. I believe the "fun" will be in the designing, printing and constructing the toys, rather than actually playing with them, much in the same way as a child may play with playdoh; the fun is in the process rather than making something to keep. But to me the ThingMaker is more than just a toy, it's a way to make 3D printing accessible to everyone, and to become part of a normal household, much in the same way as PCs and mobile phones have become over the past 20 years.

Once people see the potential uses for 3D printing, people will want to learn, engage and to fully see how 3D printing can be more than just a novelty. 3D printing, I predict, will become part of our everyday lives, but as to whether it's just for fun, or for something more serious, only time will tell.

Until then, I'm going to have fun creating!

Dean

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

 

05/11/2015No 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

 

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

 

06/07/2015No Comments

Creating an alloy wheel in 3Ds Max

Many of the 3D models used inside my scenes and environments are created from scratch, either from drawings, sketches and even photographs. This always helps projects to feel unique and different from other studios and work, and ensures images aren't restricted by stock 3D libraries.

This quick video time-lapse shows the creation of an alloy wheel for a future project, and gives a brief insight into how I create custom 3D models, from the simplest of information.

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

13/04/2012No Comments

Auto shutdown PC after rendering with Backburner

Recently I have been rendering images over night. I have been submitting jobs after I have finished work for the day, and then leaving the PC to do it's job. The only problem was that the PC could be sat idle for hours at a time after rendering has finished, especially if I didn't have too much to render. In the past I have used Team Viewer to remotely log in, and shut down the PC, but this relied on 2 things, me knowing approximate when the renders would finish, and me being awake to log in!

This was far from ideal, so I started searching around, and found a solution, which after some time tweaking, has become a real addition to my work-flow.

This solution is dead easy to use. I use 3Ds Max 2012, Backburner and Windows 7 64 Pro, and so cannot guarantee it will work on anything else, but it probably will!

 

1. Download this script shutdown.ms (you might have to right click, save as)

2. Copy the file to your 3Ds Max scripts folder (this isn't essential, but it's where I keep it)

3. Edit / open the script using either the Max Script Editior, or just note pad.

4. Where is says YOURCOMPUTERNAME, delete this and replace it with your computer name. You can usually see this in My Computer. Save the file, and close.

5. Open 3Ds Max, and open the Render Set-up window. Scroll down to the Scripts Tab.

ad_blog_shutdown_001

6. In the Post-Render area, click File... and select shut-down.ms

7. Tick Net Render, and hit Render. Submit the job as you would normally, but assign a priority higher than your other render jobs (by higher I mean lower priority, usually above 50. I use 99 just to be safe!)

8. So when you have submitted the shut-down job, and all your other jobs, you should have a Backburner which looks like this -

ad_blog_shutdown_002

Notice how "shutdown" is the last job, so your PC will only shut-down after each job has rendered.

And that's it! The reason why I use this technique is because I can re-start the shut-down job every time I need to use it. I know I could apply the shutdown.ms script to the last job, but if I needed to restart the job then the PC would shut-down every time that job rendered, and there's no way to stop it once that script has been run!

I should also note that this method came after reading a post by Sergey Pogosyan, sadly my scripting knowledge isn't brilliant, but I get by!

Anyway, I hope this is useful to someone!

Happy Friday!

 

Deano

11/02/2012No Comments

Sneek peak at 3Ds Max 2013?

3Ds Max 2013? I've only just got use to 2012! But hey progress is fast right?

If this video is to believed

it doesn't really show many additions or new features to 3Ds Max, but it maybe does hint at the fact that perhaps Autodesk are looking at some of the issues which have been bugging the hell out of many users.

Simple improvements such as being able to freely move around the view-ports whilst doing simple tasks such as slicing a model will be warmly welcomed, if not a little late! But still, these improvements do look promising, and improvements are always welcome, but without some substantial new features and updates, will 3Ds Max 2013 be worth the upgrade?

Dean

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