Area 56

Flowing from an article on BotJunkie actually I was checking out the work of Goro Fujita whos site goes by the name of Area-56. He has a range of images on his gallery from 2D digital to full 3D work. You can see here one that came third in a CGSociety challenge and some that are for CGSphere (I still havent done an image for that site yet). The reason I am showing his work here is to show that we all start somewhere and all arent the gods of the genre - but can all contribute, improve and do great work.


[images from Goro Fujita's gallery]


BotJunkie

In looking at the tech of robots, AI and their design and interaction I came across the great little blog on the topic by Evan Ackerman by the name of BotJunkie. Here are a few images from recent posts on the site showcasing robotic developments.

[post images from botjunkie]


Vincent Callebaut and the Lily-Pad City

From Vincent Callebaut Architectures comes a cool nature-derived floating concept city. The design is intended to show what a city of the near future could be, floating around on the newly risen oceans. Though the premise may be a little gloomy and this 'solution' unwarranted, it does bring to the fore a host of energy, planning and social ideas (ideals even).


[Images of the Lilipad design from the Vincent Callebaut Architectures site]

When I first saw the images I thought it might be a form of super-cruise-holiday where the island literally comes along for the ride. This may indeed be a more fitting reason to build such a thing, a truly inspired ocean voyage it could be. [see also Inhabitat and Future Architecture coverage]

VCA has a very digital outlook on design, and his site details some of the approach and theory behind the work which is explained in a resoundingly academic language, here are a few quotes:

Each architectural project at any scale, wants to anticipate through this digital hybridization, the future lifestyles by inventing new imaginary worlds.

In order to outline the first research of this “living” architecture, all the recent projects and those presented in this second monograph “ARCHIBIOTIC” use the “digitalization” not only like a theoric process of conception leading to a first essay of artificial intelligence in architecture, but also like a useful tool of construction to retranscribe the virtual architectures in the real and concrete world!

Here are a few more images of his project work:

[Project images from the Vincent Callebaut site]


Holiday

Had a week on the Gold Coast where I didnt shell out for an internet connection - so its been quiet around here on da blog. I did squeeze in watching Transformers (the CG still amazes), TMNT and Stardust again which are all fun films with a reliance on CGwork.

Themepark 4D
One of the themes of themeparks these days is the inclusion of '4D' shows where we get to wear the polarised classes and see things in 3D. They then add other things like mist, smoke, water spray, air jets, rocking chairs and more.

The qualty isnt at that of IMAX, but they are still great fun and very engaging for a wide audience. They like to play with the 3D-ness with things poking or flying out over the audience - it is fun seeing the kids squeel in delight.


Science Podcasts and Youtube

I listen to quite a few science related podcasts including Steve Mirsky's Scientific American podcast Science Talk, our own Robyn William's Science show on ABC radio national, The Naked Scientists from the UK. Others occasionally pop in there to be complemented by things like the Philosophers Zone and the ever popular Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

Anyhow I got onto this topic because I found myself at the New Scientist Youtube Channel. Because I was looking at these two videos showing off some robotics research. This field brings together design, clever thinking, engineering, AI and development into a potent package.


X-World Day3

Here at X-World's last day I kicked off with the iPhone fun of course (very cool - see below) then I had a whole morning of Mac SOE/MOE workshop from Adam Reed (also from ANU) which was informative and covered a variety of levels from detail up to higher strategy type thinking.

One interesting snippet was that their media image (large one) for the mac that they deploy is a whopping 112GB. Here in FBE our lab image is about 75GB growing and that scares people. I have been wondering when we might hit 100 but these guys are already waaay over that.


iPhone arrives

Well the iPhone is now officially available here in OZ and as one would expect there were eager folk lining up outside stores to grab one. As I sit here waiting for day3 of X-World to start there are strangely enough an acer and asus laptop amongst the sea of apple kit - they seem out of place. It is interesting to see how hard to use on a lap the eepc actually is... Anyhow, the SMH coverage this morning covers some of the issues with the new iPhone. The plans just arent inspired, they are dangerous and dont encourage takeup. Armed with a good set of plans these phones could seriously be everywhere - these plans will either just confuse or actively scare people away...

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One of the guys here in the lobby is sitting here with his brand new iPhone - very coooool. He is on the $49 Optus plan and is (like many of us) going to be relying on WiFi to get much of the usage at home and work...

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In my workshop the guy next to me had his brand new iPhone all functioning away. He found a store without a huge queue almost by accident - so he popped in and grabbed one on Optus pre-paid.
After the conference I popped down to the Apple Store to check it out - alas I couldnt get in at all unless I was prepared to wait in the huuuuge line. Since the whole store is glass I could see pretty well though. Actually, what I could really see was just another queue inside the store :-)
I will have to go back and check it all out when things arent quite so crazy.


X-World Day2

Today was basically two hands-on Workshops for me.
First up Nader Nafissi (Apple) walked us through the current Leopard Podcast Producer which we had a play with as well. He then showed off some of the upcoming features of Podcast Producer 2 coming in Snow Leopard like the workflow editor.

The second half of the day was Andrew Wellington (ANU) showing us in a hands-on demo a set of iPhone web dev. We were using DashCode 2 and the iPhone Simulator to expand upon the built-in web-app templates. He also showed us some of the HTML5 features in the new Safari including CSS animations and transformations.

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Not heaps of info on CSS5 animation yet - but check webkit to get started.

This pic isnt actually the Apple Sim, but a web version at testiPhone showing this very blog:


[screengrab of a portion of the testiphone.com site showing this blog]


X-World Day1

Before things kicked off (plenty of us were mighty early as it was a leisurely start) it was fun to see all these macbooks and macbookpros on people's laps using the wireless provided - lots of little lit apple logos in all directions.
The main discussions around the room were about the iPhone and the confusion around plans, options, pricing and more. Apparently NZ is really suffering with the plans being presented. It is fascinating how much uncertainty there is, but that said how much enthusiasm. Plenty of us have been holding off on dealing with our current phones in anticipation of the new baby coming.
It s still interesting to me the utter male dominance of events like this and the profession at large obviously.

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The first day was primarily 3 presentations which explored various ways that technology (mac-centric) was being used at Universities and technology coming our way. These are the brief details from the program:

Nader Nafissi - Apple Inc, USA
10 Things You Didn't Hear at the WWDC Keynote
(From Address Book Server to ZFS
)

While the iPhone 3G was the big launch at WWDC there were many other announcements made that were just as important. This feature presentation will fill you in on all the other stuff from WWDC...Alexandre Bonucci - Université Lumiere Lyon 2, France
University Lumière Lyon 2, a "built-in" podcast University

The presentation will cover the political and technical problems encountered with the integration of podcasting in University Lyon 2's Digital Working Environment, including:
- the likely reactions, level of participation and fears of teachers, staff and students;
- the consideration of user-friendly workflow in the deployment of podcast producer technology;
- the appropriate place for podcasts in the sets of digital services that a university can offer.James Harper - Auckland University, New Zealand
Triple Booting & Using P2P To Make It Happen

James Harper is the Chair of the IT Technical Forum at the University of Auckland and has been integral in developing a triple booting solution for large Mac labs. They recently deployed 240 Macs replacing PCs in student computer labs (by July they will have replaced a further 150) and migrated their lab image to Windows Vista (including triple-booting the Macs between Vista, MacOS and Linux), and developed a novel system of deploying OS images to both PCs and Macs using peer-to-peer network tools.


SolidWorks Rendering

With the possibility of my tutoring in the real-time course this coming session I will need to dive into SolidWorks. This has been on my TODO list forever and given the course will have section using it to create models which will be imported into the game engines - this is a good incentive to get in there over the next few weeks.

One of the things I was intrigued about (the modelling should be fun and neat) was the rendering. Traditionally Solidworks wasnt strong in this area, but it seems that PhotoWorks can dish out some pretty nice stuff for some styles of rendering. We have been used to seeing VRay work around FBE for a while now, but this is pretty good without plugging in Maxwell or something...

[examples of PhotoWorks rendering from Solidworks from the Solidworks site]


WowWee Robots

WowWee make a range of robots, toys really, but which have a host of capabilities far beyond their toy status. We had the Aibo dogs from Sony (and rumours of a PS version that links with the PS3 coming) and a few others of course. Where WowWee come in is that they have a range of prices, styles and functionality.


[image matrix of the robotic models from WowWee]

Lets see some vids of these things in action in a variety of ways:
First up their brand spanking new Rovio, here being shown off at CES2008 for Engadget:

The Roboquad is very clever and can have fun with pet dogs or as in this clip be made to act as per voice commands via a skype session:

Here is the Femisapien also on show at the CES2008 - classy stuff for the price and size:

Lastly check out MrPersonality :-)


Geekologie

The Geekologie site is one I have come across for some real fandom type articles on a range of topics from lego to computing, gadgets and media. By way of just showing some fun stuff here are three neat articles on A Lego Tower, A Lego Ship and a Transformer like construction:


[images from the Geekology site]


BMW GINA

The concept car work of BMW with their GINA Project is fascinating - moveable, flexible, adaptive skin for a car. I have been commenting for a while that the metal skin we are using on cars seem like a strange choice in many ways - particularly the finish. Anyhow this whole design is about the ability of a car skin to be more like fabric defined by underlying structure than its own rigid shape.


[images of the BMW GINA concept car from the WorldCarFans site]

Pay close attention to nice details like the headlights opening and closing, the operation of doors, seats and the bonnet. It is great to see BMW not just having the idea, but going far enough to have it looking live. [More info: Geekology, WorldCarFans, Drive]


Webbing

Well we are on Firefox3 now and this version seems like a great improvement. Its handling of images and downloads is better - much better. There are some interesting web things happening at work as well with explorations on Joomla and some design work on the FBE site continuing.


WoWing

I have been using Cosmos lately and this is new to me having all this juicy extra data on hand from Auctioneer and Omen etc - very nice experience and making WoW feel a little new again. I have also been enjoying the trades so far, dealing with another reason for the gaming which isnt just about slaying, but about creating.
The Shammies are still great fun, SM was a blast and seeing all those totems is neato.
Off to learn how to do Dragonscale Leatherworking then...


Lego art

Have been building a bit of lego with the kids (perhaps to use the figures in a D&D game even). This seems like a good excuse to post some images by people out there who have recreated Escher's wonderful imagery in lego no less.

Andrew Lipson's work is very clever, starting with Relativity, then Ascending and Descending and the more cheaty Waterfall:




[images sets of escher/lego constructions from Andrew Lipson's site]

Check out his neato homepage image as well - very clever.

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Since we are on the topic of lego - we should visit the Brickartist himself Nathan Sawaya. The work is clever and brings a level of thought as well as artistry to the medium. Much like computer work which might have to built things with limited pallets or low resolutions - the lego work is all the more intersting because of the limitations.


[images of 3 pieces od Nathan Sawaya lego art from his website]


Diablo 3 and cinematics


[diablo 3 logo from the official site]

Yep Diablo 3 has been announced by Blizzard and it is interesting how dominated the Blizzard site is by it considering the rest of their stable (WoW, Starcraft). The Diablo III flash site is awesome looking of course. I played Diablo 1 a fair bit as it was kinda new at the time (felt a little like a graphical nethack) and had a good replayability about it. Diablo 2 I didnt touch and the gameplay here looks new and exciting though perhaps a little console-like.

The graphics, animation, effects and rhythm shown in the Gameplay trailer really show off how good at games development these guys are. You just want to get in there and control what we see on screen. There are special creatures of course, but some truly excellent action-movie-like moments where everyone's jaws drop. The interface is very clean and simple and has the Blizzard styling all over it. There are some great screenshots, but lets do video:

Here is the Cinematic preview trailer:

Go to the Diablo site for the extended gameplay trailer (or here on gametrailers) - but this little vid on gametrailers shows off the evolution from Diablo 1 through to today.


Office Laptops

We have been looking at laptop upgrades for the office, the budget seems to be able to bear it and they are on schedule for an upgrade. We have grabbed a heap of Dell XPS1330's over the last few months for staff, plus a few desktops for the last bastions of such things for staff. We did grab another XPS1730 where real grunt was needed, but most of us have no intention of carrying something this big around. :-)

The most popular option at present is looking like the 15" MacBookPro for us. This puts a machine in our hands to support the growing number of OSX users (staff and student) as well as our ongoing windows dominated software suite. Given the 8600M GT in the machine we have decent graphics grunt to do the main things which is equivalent to the XPS smaller form factor range. The XPS1730 can have a pair of SLI 8700s which is a significant step up.

Alas going to the droolish Alienware Area51 m15x which can sport upgrades that take the price into orbit isnt an option for us. The fact that the 15" form-factor can sport an 8800M GT is awesome - and the upgrades from there just keep coming.

So interestingly we may have a full support crew armed with Mac hardware soon enough. It would be just as cool to see us all walking around with Alienware University jumpers on - both companies make gorgeous hardware.

[MacBookPro, Dell XPS1730 and Alienware x15m images from their respective sites]

also of note are Dells new Studio laptops which look nifty.


Education from various angles

I have spent a bit of time over the last few days finalising marking for the Collab Studio work. It is really interesting to see the various amounts of energy put into things from the various groups and individuals.

It has been valuable to see IT and education from various perspectives this session, as a Tutor in the studio, as a student of online COFA courses and as IT support for the FBE.


Forum8's Realtime Roads

Last week we had a demo of the UC-Win/Roads software from Forum8 which was all about real-time visualisation of urban areas with a focus on road and transport projects. The software was actually rather too roads centric still, with some nice tools for creating roads and integrating them with the landscape with cut'n'fill, bridges, tunnels etc. The traffic flows along the roads obeying road rules, lights and has some nice controls for traffic types and densities though it isnt a simulation - it is visualisation.
There is some nice connectivity for the Civil3D, 3ds, Exodus, Inroads and LandXML. It seemed quite similar to some demos of SimUrban, but with a road-centric feel a nicer interface but without the same level capability under the hood.

The game engines we have been using deliver far superior visuals, but lack a way to 'play' the map without the software which this one does, though it is a cost per player which becomes just as prohibative.

The cool thing is that it was all live in 3D on her laptop.This is just the beginning of such things still, but this real-time approach still holds fascination for me.


[image of the uc-win/roads software from the Forum8 site]