07/11/2017No Comments

Motion Capture Fun with the Rokoko Suit

Work should be fun right? So when we have the chance to have a go with a new bit of kit, and it really makes us smile, we know we're doing something right!

As part of a new project with Superla, we had chance to have a go with the Rokoko Motion Capture Suit!

This is very nice bit of kit indeed. In a nut shell, the Rokoko suit records the actors movement, which can be re-applied to a virtual character. Motion capture is often used in films and gaming as a way to simulate realistic movements, and it does a very good job. Check out this clip about how motion capture was used in the Pirates Of the Caribbean films.

 

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

Stuart from Superla, capturing some questionable driving.

As I've mentioned, he process of motion capture isn't anything new, the technology has been around for decades. However the suit contains new technology, meaning that motion capture process totally different from what came before. Usually to do motion capture, you'd have to hire a studio which was specifically design and equip for motion capture. This is both expensive and very restrictive.

The Rokoko suit doesn't need a studio, all the motion sensors are built into the suit, meaning you can capture motion almost anywhere. All you need is the suit, a laptop and wi-fi.

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

Data captured and applied to a virtual character.

But what makes it fun? There are several reasons as to why I strangely consider this fun. I love new tech, especially when it's affordable, so that's the first point. I'm always drawn to affordable tech, from 3D printing to 360 cameras.

I also think it's brilliant that you can do something very technical anywhere, and see the results right in front of your own eyes. OK you have to edit, refine and make changes to the data, but the instant feedback is great. The laptop we used wasn't anything spectacular either, so the guys who developed the Rokoko really haven't alienated themselves from a lot of users.

Generally the whole experience is easy and straight forward. No one likes a clunky process, or un-intuitive piece of software.

Motion Capture Suit Rokoko

And of course there's the skin tight suit, always worth a laugh right?!

Over the next few weeks, we should be able to show you what we used the Rokoko motion capture suit for. It's quite a unique project, mixing motion capture, 360 video, and some dodgy driving!

Dean

14/06/2016No Comments

Virtual Reality is here!

Virtual reality is here, and there's no hiding from it!

As we all know, the tech world doesn't stand still, new devices and innovations are constantly being brought to the market place, and it's very easy to become overwhelmed by the constant stream of new tech. However one area of technology we're very keen to get our hands dirty with is Virtual Reality!

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D

For those who are less acquainted with the concept, virtual reality is essentially a way to immerse yourself in digital environments and content, via a wearable headset. In the past, the term "virtual reality" has been used for numerous 3D based ideas, such as interactive walk-thoughs, but it is now being commonly used in context with the headsets.

Anyway, why are we excited by it? Well firstly we love new tech! And secondly I believe this is a step towards fully 3D content for everyone. 3D TVs came and have almost gone (fantastic!), and virtual reality should be the next big thing.

There are many headsets on the market now, such as the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift, but the one we have gone for is the Gear VR. Out of those 3 we have perhaps chosen the least powerful, weaker graphics, and not quite the cheapest even, but what it does have is the ability to go anywhere, it's fully mobile, literally.

The Gear VR is essentially a Samsung smart phone (ours is the Galaxy S7), coupled together with the gear VR headset. The viewer inserts their phone into the headset, and straps on the Gear VR, and they are immersed into Virtual Reality! The HTC Vive and Oculus Rift both need to be connected to a powerful PC, for which gaming is a must, but we feel this limitation will be a huge sticking point for a lot of casual users.

Virtual Reality Headset VR 3D Samsung Gear

The Gear VR Headset.

Most people now have smart phones, and just about any modern Android phone can be turned into a virtual reality headset with either the Gear VR or Google Cardboard, and I'm sure the likes of Apple and Microsoft won't be too long in releasing their own versions.

So what can you do with a virtual reality headset? The easiest, and perhaps one of the most interesting things to do is go and watch some amazing 360 videos. Youtube, Facebook and others now host 360. There are also 100s of apps and games to play and use, from simply watching Netflix in virtual reality, to engaging, playing and meeting people in virtual social worlds; even Facebook has plans to turn their social network into a VR experience!

But what about what we plan to do with VR and the Samsung Gear? Firstly we're going to have some fun! We're going to fire up some VR apps, watch some 360 videos, and research (yes researching can be fun!), and we'll see what grabs us, and what doesn't. There's no point in diving straight in and producing content that either doesn't work, doesn't engage, or isn't useful.

After that we'll know more about the direction we want to go in. At the moment we see two paths, 360 video, and interactive environments. 360 video is become quite well established, with YouTube and Facebook both supporting 360 videos natively inside a web browser (essentially all you do is load the page, and the video will play, so no need for any software downloads). 360 videos are relatively straight forward to create, similar in a way a CGI image or animation is created, however ensuring the user is engaged, entertained and even guided by the content will be just as important as the content itself.

Interactive environments and worlds are more complex to create, and are quite comparable to computer gaming and interactive walk-thoughts. An entire environment is created, and the user can play, explore or even learn through interacting with the virtual content. How the user interacts depends purely on how the game or app is created. With some apps you can look at an object, and press the button on the side of the headset to "click" the object, and other you may need a gaming controller to move easily though the world.

Both 360 videos and interactive environments have their pros and cons, and as I've already mentioned, once we've done our research and had chance to digest what we think works and what doesn't, we'll then start to take steps to produce demos and really get our hands dirty!

For now, all I can say is we're excited and really can't wait to get stuck in and start creating brilliant VR experiences!

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.

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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.

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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

19/05/2014No Comments

3D Printer Arrives at Ard Digital

After recent success with 3D printing using several external 3D printing companies, I decided to take the plunge and invest in a 3D printer, and here it is, a FlashForge Creator!

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Image: Printer hiding away.

One of the key reasons for purchasing a printer, rather that using external companies is speed. In previous posts I had mentioned that the turnaround from sending a 3D file, to the time it is delivered is from my experience around 2 weeks. Don't get me wrong, 2 weeks is fast considering how long it would traditionally take to manufacture some of the items I created, however I felt that for 3D printing to be really useful, it needed to be even faster and easier.

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Image: Dual printer nozzles.

Another reason for purchasing the printer was cost. Just ordering a handful of items to be printed externally, most of which were novelty to be honest, cost quite a lot, so by printing items in-house, the long term costs is reduced, even if the initial investment is high. Owning a printer also means that designs can be pushed and tweaked, as the cost of a failure is minimal, with time perhaps the biggest loss.

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Image: Printing!

The printer works by layering very small layers of molten plastic on top of each other. Each layer is less than 1mm, it can be as low as 0.1mm, and as the print head moves forward, backwards, left and right, the yellow plate moves up and down to control the height.

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Image: Mini me?

The printer builds 3D prints from bottom to top, so when designing and printing items on this printer, real consideration has to be made as to how the printer can actually print it. For objects where there overhangs, the printer can build supports, which are easily snapped off the print, but do require some cleaning up afterwards.

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Image: Printed miniature.

Once objects are printed, the prints can be finished, or left as they are, depending on the purpose of the print. The finish of a print straight from the printer can be bumpy and rough to touch, but I see the prints in a similar way to a carpenter would see a piece of wood from a lathe, they still need refining, painting, sanding, or what ever finishing technique is required.

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Image: Miniature close up.

3D printing is truly fascinating! Anyone who comes into the office is transfixed by how it works, and the incredible things it can produce. Needless to say I am still getting to grips with the printer and the processes involved, but it's certainly something I will continue to experiment with, and I guess only time will tell where this leads to!

If you would like to know more about 3D printing, rapid prototyping, modelling making, or anything else, please feel free to get in touch!

Dean

02/05/2014No Comments

3D Printed Custom Duplo Blocks

Carrying on from previous posts and test, I decided to experiment further with 3D printing by creating custom Duplo blocks. Currently my 3 year old son is fanatical about Duplo and Lego, so for his birthday I though it would be nice to make some unique parts for his collection.

I didn't want to just copy some Duplo parts, that would be pointless as genuine Duplo bricks can be bought for a lot less that it would cost to print, and the quality of Duplo is far superior to 3D printing too. So I decided to make some unique parts, which as far as I know, can't be purchased anywhere.

After throwing around some ideas, I decided to 3D print 4 items, 2 double sided pieces, one cube, and one birthday cake (well it was my son's birthday!). I measured several original Duplo pieces to figure out the general dimensions, transferred the measurements to the 3D software, and adapted, build and created the custom blocks in 3D. The 3D files were then sent away again to 3D Print UK to be printed in nylon, and this is what came back in the post a week or two later....

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

The printed blocks generally fitted very well with the original Duplo blocks, and overall again the print quality was excellent.

With these blocks, I wanted to make them fit further with the original Duplo, so I decided to finish them using either spray paint, or Airfix paint. Bright, saturated colours were chosen to again fit with the Duplo blocks.

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

3D Printed Duplo Blocks

Most blocks required several layers of paint to achieve a consistent colour. The cake block was the trickiest to finish, as this required small parts to be painted by hand. The last time I did this was as a kid myself!

Overall I'm very pleased with how the blocks have come out. Creating the designs in 3D and having them printed was defiantly the easiest part, and hand painting was the most difficult. On the painted 3D blocks, you can still see the 3D printing layers,

which leaves a rough, bumpy finish. Perhaps for future prints it might be interesting to experiment with different techniques for achieving a smoother finish, such as sanding, or using a high-build paint primer.

Now it's time to hand them over to my son, let's hope he likes them!

 

If you would like to know more about 3D printing, rapid prototyping, or anything else, feel free to get in touch, contact details are on the contacts page.

Dean

25/04/20141 Comment

3D Printed Custom Pen Holder

Following on from the 3D printed chair model blog post where I printed a chair model I created for a client, this post focuses on a 3D printed pen holder which was designed by myself and printed by 3D Print UK. The main purpose behind creating this model was to create something functional, unique, fun and intricate.

 

 

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The pens sit neatly behind the angular polygonal front panel. Extruded and embossed text was added to give the panel depth and to also experiment with the tolerances of the 3D printer.

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The initial design used hollow cylinders to hold the pens, but the design was quickly modified with unusual geometric circles. One of the advantages of 3D printing is the freedom to create these intricate details without worrying how these parts could be constructed.

 

The translucent effect from the nylon material always looks good in natural sunshine. It seemed a shame to paint this, however I really wanted to see how well the intricate parts would come out.

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Black aerosol spray paint was used first. Several thin coats were applied to avoid any paint runs. The extruded text was then finished with white Humbrol air fix paint.

 

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This 3D printed pen holder has impressed myself with the level of detail achievable. The finishing of print is perhaps the downside as even after numerous layers of spray paint the print layers are still very visible. Perhaps a thick primer would give a smoother finish, however in this instance I didn't want to lose the text detail on the front.

I think this piece really outlines what 3D printing is currently all about, the ability to quickly turn and idea from a basic concept, to a physical item you can use. It might not be a "polished" piece, but as a tool to explain or demonstrate ideas or design quickly, 3D printing is absolutely brilliant!

If you would like to know more about 3D printing or rapid prototyping please feel free to get in touch!

 

27/07/2012No Comments

Augmented Reality Testing & Development

During non-project time, I like to get stuck into some to something further my skills, improve my portfolio,  or sometimes to do something different. Recently I have been pondering the use of augmented reality applications.

I have always had an interest in real-time applications, mainly architectural walk-throughs or gaming, but augmented reality feels more exciting and more engaging than walk-thoughs. The idea that you can hold something digital in your hand, or view the world around us differently to what is perceived by our eyes, is a very strange concept. It's also something very hard to explain unless you can show someone, but I guess this is the same for 99% of new technology.

The other reason why I'm taking an interest to augmented reality is the craze with "3D" TVs and films. "3D" TV isn't really 3D, it's just some added effects to try to trick our brains into adding depth to what we are seeing, and to be honest, I think it ruins good films, and is a gimmick to sell bad films.

Augmented 3D, or even 2D, is different, and allows the user to see the content how ever they wish (to an extent). This for me is 3D, and this is what makes it exciting.

This quick video shows 3 examples I have put together to simply explore the workings and possibilities of actually making something useful and deliverable. The main aims for these test was to see how well it worked on various media, how quickly an app could be made and to try to see it's limitations. All of the tests are very basic, but each explores different techniques and features.

Ard Digital | Augmented Reality Test 01 from ArdDigital on Vimeo.

Ikea's 2013 catalogue looks like it will feature some augmented elements, as well as links to videos and other content. I believe this is Ikea's way to get customers to interact on-line and through their mobile, rather than using augmented reality as a tool, which is fair enough, so long as it engages and doesn't become tedious or boring.

So the future does look slightly more augmented, but will we see much more in the coming years? The technology is here and evolving fast, but maybe it needs a games console, film, or something else to really spark it off. Sony are creating the Wonderbook, a Harry Potter augmented story telling game, using a magical book, allowing the user to interact with the game. Maybe this will be a massive hit, or maybe it will pass by as simply "another game for kids". The possibilities of augmented reality, for me, are very interesting, and I can't wait to experience some real 3D in the coming years!

Be sure to keep an eye out on my blog for more updates, and testing, as I'm sure there's more to come!

 

Deano

 

Sources -

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/07/ikeas-augmented-reality-catalog-lets-you-peek-inside-the-malm/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-18327724

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