26 December 2007

Fabidoo - custom toys via 3D Printing

I've blogged about several companies in this space before - Fabjectory, JuJups, and FigurePrints among others - but in some ways Fabidoo seems the most likely to succeed. First of all, they've got their pricing in a range - $15-$50 - that supports an impulse buy. Second, their toys seem to be designed for the cell-phone hanger, back-pack hanger space that's quite popular.

Right now, their site is available only in German, so I had to struggle with a Google translation, but they seem to have a pretty good marketing plan. Technically, they are cutting no new path - judging from the photo, they are using a ZCorp 450.

This is still very early days for this business model, and you can be sure most will fail or at least fade away, but as the tools for 3D printing get more robust and less expensive it will continue to develop.

25 December 2007

20 December 2007

17 December 2007

Social Networking for Grownups: Part 1, MySpace

This one is really the easiest to dispense with, because it's really not for grownups. MySpace has a busy look to it, and its communications tools are quite simple and not very useful to me. I created a MySpace page to check it out, but I look at it rarely, and I have just 12 "friends", most of whom are musicians I like.

Music is the best thing about MySpace, and the worst. It works well as a platform for musicians and bands to promote themselves, and I have found some new music through its connections. On the other hand, I personally hate web pages that play music when you go to them, and MySpace pages are designed to work that way.

MySpace has always had a heavily commercial feel, and the user is bombarded with ads at every step (even before News Corps bought it). MySpace seems to work well for its target audience - pre-teens and teens who use it as a gossip amplifier - and for them it's clearly irresistible. For me, it's pretty useless as a social networking tool, but handy for tracking music.

16 December 2007


Back two lives ago, when I was living in New Jersey and teaching at Glassboro State College, I met a young man named Kyle Cassidy. I can recall first noticing him in the Academic Computing Office - he had long blonde hair streaked with purple dye. I soon discovered that he was not only one of the more exotic looking people in sleepy Glassboro, he was also one of the most interesting and charismatic. I can't remember exactly what his real major was - English, maybe - but he hung around playing with computers, learning and teaching in equal measure. He was the first person to show me what a MUD - Multi-User Dungeon - was like, and the first I knew to meet people from around the world via the (pre-WWW) internet.

I managed to talk him into taking my "Computers and Society" class, shared a number of bean-and-cheese burritos with him at the local Taco Bell, and took a couple of short road trips with him. He created a memorable online article about a trip we made to Gettysburg. The online format for the article, while it looks commonplace now, was quite innovative in 1998 and seemed rather amazing to me. I was always impressed by Kyle's writing, photography, and videography, which always had a spark to it that was beyond the ordinary. I also had the privilege of attending his wedding, an amazing happening at a hippie house in the South Jersey woods. At least, I think it was a wedding although I've never been certain - it was definitely a work of performance art.

By the time I left Glassboro New Jersey in 2000, Glassboro State College had become Rowan University, and I had somehow abandoned my role as a professor of computer science to become a college administrator. I'm not sure which was more unlikely but obviously the latter made a bigger impact on me. Kyle had already moved on to work as a systems administrator at the University of Pennsylvania, ultimately serving in a dual role as sysadmin and house photographer for the Annenberg School at Penn. Every now and then I would exchange an email with him or take a look at his web site.

And now, seven years later, he has published a book of photography that's received wide attention both as a work of art and a work of popular anthropology. Armed America: Portraits of Gun Owners in Their Homes, has received rave reviews in publications from The Washington Post to Guns and Ammo. It's great to see such a talent receive the attention he deserves. I'm so happy about this and can't wait for my copy to arrive from Amazon.

14 December 2007

3D Printing Google Group

A new Google Group, 3D Printing Methods and Applications, has just been established - subscribe here.

New Business Models for 3D Printing

Two recent arrivals -

FigurePrints has a license agreement with Blizzard to print your World of Warcraft avatar using a ZCorp printer.

Jujups will help you create a one-of-a-kind picture frame, also printed using ZCorp.

It's still early days but it's exciting to see the development of new business models based on custom manufacturing/3D printing. Some of them are still checker playing dogs, but fun to watch nonetheless.

12 December 2007

Social Networking for Grownups

I've been using MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook with various levels of enthusiasm and usefulness for the last year or so, and it's been interesting to see the shifting levels of usage among these tools. I'm going to reflect on how these social networking sites work for those of us who want to use them primarily as a way to maintain and build professional networks, not just personal networks.

Of course, the first observation is that social networks tend to blur the lines between the professional and the personal. Just how blurry this gets seems to vary somewhat depending upon the tool. That's one of the dimensions I'm going to consider.

09 December 2007

Community Documentation Experiment

There are many photos, videos, and other materials related to Art Center College of Design scattered all over the net. Because our full name is long, and the frequent abbreviations - Art Center, ACCD - are ambiguous, it's not always easy to find what's out there. As an experiment, I've created a new blog - the Art Center Community Documentation Project - to collect links to Art Center materials, and I'm trying to promote 'artcenteredu' as a tag. We'll see if it takes off - or not.

03 December 2007

James Gurney visits Art Center

We had the privilege of James Gurney, author/illustrator of the Dinotopia books, visiting Art Center last week. His excellent blog has a nice article about his visit.

30 November 2007

15 seconds of fame

I recently had the pleasure of providing some video of our 3D Printing labs and projects to Andy Jordan at the Wall Street Journal. He took a few snippets to use as part of his piece that mostly focuses on the Fab@Home project. It's worth watching the entire video, but if you want to see the Art Center portion you'll find it at about 2:45 in.

20 November 2007

One Day Poem Pavilion

One of the best things about working at Art Center is that every now and then you get to see a student work that's just wonderful. Suddenly a few weeks ago, an open dome-like structure appeared behind the building.

I figured it was a sculpture, but actually it was quite a bit more. It's the master's thesis project of Jiyeon Song, from our Media Design Program. The One Day Poem Pavilion combines science, art, poetry, and design to create an object that was one-of-a-kind and very appealing.

The holes in the shell - carefully designed using the computer, and drilled by a CNC machine - use sunlight to project the lines of a poem that slowly appear and disappear over the course of a day. You can see a time-lapse of the entire day here.

I think what appealed to me most about this work is the juxtaposition between ancient and modern technologies. The concept of telling a story through astronomy and geometry goes back at least as far as the Babylonians, the Mayan, and the creators of Stonehenge. But the work was designed and built using computer design and manufacturing techniques. It's a wonderful melding of digital and analog media.

The eternal quality of the work also made me think of the goals of the Long Now Foundation. You can imagine building this pavilion out of the right materials in the right place, and coming back many thousands of years later to find it working exactly the same.

Congratulations to Ms. Song on a really interesting, attractive, and thought-provoking work. (And thanks to her for letting me use her photos, to which she holds the copyright.)

19 November 2007

Desktop Factory named "Best of What's New" by Popular Science magazine

I was pleased to see that the Desktop Factory 3D printer received this recognition. I'm looking forward to seeing them ship in early 2008.

11 November 2007

30 October 2007

24 October 2007

Doris Kearns Goodwin @ EDUCAUSE 2007

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin kicked off the EDUCAUSE meeting with an engaging talk that included some interesting and entertaining anecdotes from her time as a White House aide and assistant to Lyndon Johnson. Most of the talk described her research on Abraham Lincoln and the attributes that make him a model for leadership. To summarize:

universal leadership traits -
1. capacity to listen to differing points of view. his subordinates could disagree and question him. But once decision was made, time for questioning over.
2. ability to learn on the job, acknowledge errors and learn from mistakes.
3. ready willingness to share credit for success. Truman - "you can accomplish anything in life if you don't care who gets the credit."
4. willingness to shoulder blame for his subordinates.
5. awareness of own weaknesses - e.g. slowness to fire McClelland who build Army but not take them into battle.
6 ability to control emotions. would write long hot letters and then put them aside and not send.
7. strength to adhere to his fundamental goals.
8. leaders have to know how to relax and shake off anxieties - Lincoln went to theatre more than 100 times during presidency. Sense of humor. Story about picture of George Washington in English outhouse.
9. going out into the field - managing by walking around

The thing that she didn't mention explicitly but was obviously important to Lincoln - as well as to LBJ and Doris Kearns Goodwin - is the ability to tell stories. Ms. Goodwin is an excellent story teller, and received a standing ovation at the end of her presentation.

23 October 2007

Cool Part!

Not sure why, but it looks like fun. "Why 3D Printers Should Be Banned."

20 October 2007

Blogger meetup at EDUCAUSE 2007 in Seattle

I'm off to Seattle to spend the week at the EDUCAUSE Annual Meeting.
Jeff at EduTechie has proposed a blogger meetup. One possibility is to use the BOF mechanism and meet either Wednesday or Thursday from 4:55 to 6:10 pm. Personally I vote for Wednesday because I'll be presenting a poster on Thursday. Hope to see some good stuff there and write about it.

"Fabbers Summit" at Maker Faire

Article from CNET about a meeting of people interested in low-cost digital fabrication tools. Wish I could have made it to this discussion!

19 October 2007

New Application for 3D Printing

New to me, at least. A British company called BlueSky uses aerial photography to print 3D models on demand. It doesn't say in the article, but from the picture it appears they are using a Z Corp printer. I might get an order quoted, just to see what it would cost. Any suggestions for what location in Britain I should order?

15 October 2007

Notes on 3D Systems V-Flash Desktop Modeler

There's been a lot of buzz regarding the V-Flash 3D Printer. Here are a few notes passed along to me from the 3D Systems World Conference, held at the end of September in South Carolina.

As anticipated, the introductory price is about $10,000. A 1.8 kg supply of build material will go for $850. Replacement bulbs are pegged at $800. Each build requires a disposable platform, and these run $95 for a pack of 20.

If you put this all together, you get a V-Flash production cost of about $10/cubic inch. This puts it about twice the cost of ZCorp printing, and around the same cost as FDM. By comparison, Desktop Factory is promising build material at about $1/cu in, but details have yet to be released.

It's also reported that the machine will have three operation speeds - proof, regular, and high-res - with the machine building about 1/2" per hour. (Not clear from the report I got, but I assume that's the "regular" speed.) The machine is designed to be low-maintenance, and the machines and cartridges will be built by Canon.

We're told they hope to have 100 machines in the field by the end of 2007, and we're working on trying to get one of them here at Art Center.

3D Printing: Making the Virtual Real

In my role as a member of the Emerging Technologies Committee of EDUCAUSE, I've just posted a whitepaper 3D Printing: Making the Virtual Real.

As the epigraph for this paper, I chose a quote from one of my top-ten articles of all time:

The world has arrived at an age of cheap complex devices of great reliability; and something is bound to come of it.
- Vannevar Bush, As We May Think, 1945

If you've never read this article, stop what you're doing and read it now. Don't waste your time reading what I've wrote if you haven't read As We May Think! Then if you still want to read my paper on 3D Printing, be my guest...

12 October 2007

today's visitor

Alex from Media Temple came by today for lunch, and I promised to blog the event so he would see it in Google Alerts. Hi Alex! Thanks for coming by!

03 October 2007

so I'm a little behind...

This was already featured in blogs including Make Magazine and Bruce Sterling's Beyond the Beyond, but I just saw it today and it's the coolest idea I've seen in a while.

Join the global making network

Ponoko.com connects designers, fabricators, and consumers around the world in a kind of worldwide virtual design studio-factory. Right now the only tooling they offer is laser cutters but when this expands to new kinds of low-cost 3D production it will be even more powerful. Take a look.

Ponoko: I make my designs real... and sell them

30 September 2007

The Master Bathroom

Originally uploaded by amberman
It's actually pretty interesting to watch construction take place. There's a lot more to building a floor than you can imagine without seeing it be built.

11 August 2007

How Technology Shapes Art

From Scott McCloud's talk at SIGGRAPH '07, San Diego:

The technology has ideas about the form the art should take.

My new kitchen

My new kitchen
Originally uploaded by amberman
Not quite done yet.

03 August 2007

02 August 2007

30 July 2007

The Designer and Technology

I recently picked up an interesting historical snapshop - Computer Animation edited by John Halas and published in 1974. In the foreward I found the following:
“Before considering the technical possibilities, there is a fundamental psychological handicap to be dealt with which most individuals have to overcome in the animation industry. It is a fact that the artistically inclined dislike the use of machines; art and design students are usually conditioned during their formative years at the majority of colleges, to an attitude which leaves a sense of distrust towards anything mechanical. Artists and designers must come to terms with the computer as they must with other gadgets operated by electricity, and if they seriously want to utilize the values and facilities, they obviously must learn to use the computer in much the same way as they are using pencils, pens and brushes.”
Being at an art and design college, I can tell that this attitude has largely changed... but a vestige of the old assumption often lies just below the surface.

24 July 2007

Beta Desktop Factory printer installed at Art Center

Originally uploaded by amberman
It's here and it's building. The first one seen outside of Desktop Factory's lab. More reports as we get more experience with it, but so far it's working well.

03 July 2007

iPhone: Direct from China to You

I ordered an iPhone last Friday at Apple's online store, and today I received an email saying that it has shipped, and including a tracking number, which of course I clicked on. Yes, FedEx picked up the package in... Shenzhen China. Should be here by Friday. I know practically everything we consume comes from China, but to see it ship direct is a new experience for me.

Happy 4th of July!

02 July 2007

NMC to host "Symposium on Creativity in Second Life"

What a great idea - it's about creativity in Second Life, and it takes place within second life. It's going to be held in mid-August. Lots of interactive workshops on topics like machinima, sculpting, designing buildings, fashion and jewelry, scripting, avatar design, etc. The Call for Proposals for breakout sessions just came out. I'm looking forward to it! http://www.nmc.org/symposium-on-creativity.

Make your own CNC Machine

In detail, how to make your own 3-axis CNC machine for about $600. Caught this on Bruce Sterling's blog, Beyond the Beyond. More evidence of the increasing interest in low-cost, accessible fabbing machines.

The iPhone Threat to Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Real, BREW, Symbian

A really interesting take on how the iPhone may impact web software development, and who loses because of it - in particular, Adobe.

The iPhone Threat to Adobe, Microsoft, Sun, Real, BREW, Symbian

28 June 2007

Scripting in Second Life

I used to teach computer science and computer programming. I've always been intrigued by the possibility of teaching programming in the context of a virtual world. I finally got motivated to start playing with the Linden Scripting Language - LSL - and I rather like it. It's an event-driven language that has states built-in as a primitive. This makes it pretty easy and natural to write interesting programs quickly.

Last night, I co-led a seminar on "Scripting for Educators" and it was a blast. The educators ranged from some who had obviously done some programming to others who had none. We walked through an example of an object that changed its color each time it was touched. I enjoyed being able to demonstrate a simple but interesting script with no loops or if-else. I'm definitely interested in doing more.

Right now there is a lack of decent tutorial materials on scripting in second life. Most of the code examples I've seen are mediocre or poor. So it's a real opportunity for those who understand programming and how to teach it to get in on the ground floor.

27 June 2007

An Educational "Killer App" for Second Life?

I've been trying hard to figure out Second Life and see beyond the hype, particularly what it can do as an educational tool. There are lots of interesting experiments, but this is the first one that really made be sit up (or fly up :) and take notice. That's my avatar, Emby Semaphore, visiting the Sistine Chapel.

A team at Vassar College has created a realistic and presumably accurate model of the interior chapel. There have been lots of great projects over the years to create 3D reproductions of various environments past, present and future, but this is the first one that I've seen that's immediately accessible to millions of people. You can get information by visiting this site in Second Life that you can't get from a live visit (kind of hard to fly up and inspect the ceiling close up) let alone from a book. A book could give you beautiful reproductions of the panels, but in 3D you can understand the scale and the relationships that's just not possible any other way. I can't wait for the docent guided tour.

Kudos to Vassar on this achievement. Here's the SLURL, I suggest you visit now before they get slashdotted.

25 June 2007

Did You Know 2.0

Second version of the excellent "gee whiz" presentation about globalism and technology, and their impact on education.

22 June 2007

First Encounter

Interesting report on reaction from 3D designers' first encounter with 3D printing.

3D Printer Users

18 June 2007

Building a 3D Printer


When I last visited the Desktop Factory site, they were building parts using an original prototype machine. That was about a year ago. Now, they are in the process of assembling their fifth beta machine (Jimi), shown in the picture above. I was able to observe two machines in operation, including beta one (Axl) and beta three, which is operating successfully inside the (slightly chopped) case.



They are currently experimenting with different tolerances and settings and debugging hardware and software issues. While it's clear that the machines aren't ready for customer use yet, my impression is that they are getting close.

15 June 2007

The ever flatter world

Just about the time I was posting my entry about Desktop Factory, a blogger in Peru was also writing about Desktop Factory.

A Visit to Desktop Factory

Last Monday I had the pleasure of visiting Desktop Factory, a startup in Pasadena California that is building a new 3D Printer. Desktop Factory was an initiative of Idealab, which starts and incubates innovative companies.

We've been talking with Desktop Factory for more than a year about becoming an early adopter of their technology, and we've been waiting anxiously as they've pushed on through a number of technical challenges. One thing that I find very exciting about their approach is that they are trying to create the first 3D Printer that's practical not just for design and engineering companies and colleges, but also for secondary schools and even serious hobbyists. They have announced that their printer will sell for $4995, and their business plan calls for sub-$1000 printers in just a few years. Just as importantly, they are committed to holding down the cost of the materials - they anticipate that this will run about $1 per cubic inch, which is less than 25% of previous 3D printers.

CEO Cathy Lewis, shown here speaking with 2 Art Center students, is an articulate and persuasive representative for Desktop Factory's vision. We had a fascinating discussion about the challenges of creating a startup that's trying to develop a new product category that few people understand - this has created really tough challenges for obtaining the funding that they need to create the product, but she is working tirelessly to find the right partners to help Desktop Factory achieve their vision.

In subsequent posts I'll take you through the plant, show you what their current generation of machines looks like, and give a peek at some of the parts they've built. If you want a preview, take a look at my Flickr page.

12 June 2007

How to build a ducky

This lovely little video shows the construction of a 3D model of a ducky in a Desktop Factory printer. You can see the layers built up within the build chamber, and then the surrounding support material is stripped away (by an invisible hand) to reveal the final part.

07 June 2007

Useless fun with high tech 3D tools

So what would you do if you had a 3D scanner, a 3D printer, you knew how to use them and you had a little extra time on your hands? Scan your face and print it out, of course!

Bruce Dominguez used our 3D laser scanner (Creaform Handyscan3D) to capture a 3D scan of his face, and then used the captured data to print a mask at 1/2 scale using a ZCorp printer.

Yeah, it's been done before, but it's still fun.

More pictures at my flickr site.

04 June 2007

True Tales From LA Part One: The Feng Shui Car Wash Experience

I wrote this a few years ago, and one of my friends encouraged me to put it on line and write more. If you like it, please let me know, it will motivate me to write some more!

True Life Tales of LA, Part One: The Feng Shui Car Wash Experience

I grew up in LA, and like most of my friends I got my driver’s license after school on my 16th birthday, so I’m hardly a stranger to Car Culture. But after spending 20 years on the East Coast, I have had a bit re-entry anxiety. One of my dilemmas has been dealing with getting the car washed.

When I was a kid, I used to wash my dad’s car for a buck, 5 dollars for a hand-polish with Kit wax. I guess it was sometime after my kid brother’s price got too high that my parents started taking the car to the Car Wash. Occasionally when I’d come back and visit, I’d end up at the Car Wash with my Dad. It always seemed kind of crazy to be spending 10 bucks to wash the car. But by then they were living in Pacific Palisades, and it was kind of cool to go to a Car Wash where you might rub shoulders with Chevy Chase or Goldie Hawn while waiting for your car, so I could tolerate it. But I never figured I’d spend 10 dollars to wash my wheels.


01 June 2007

High Definition Video at James Madison University

On May 23, 2007 I had the pleasure of having John Woody host my visit to James Madison University's School of Media Arts and Design. They have a top-notch HD post-production facility for their students, and I enjoyed hearing about the technical and budget challenges in getting this put together. Now they are building an HD TV production studio. I hope their students realize how lucky they are to have access to equipment like this and even more so to have a dedicated faculty member like John.

More photos at Flickr.

3D Printer Users: V-Flash 3D Printer - Early Info & Specifications

Tom Meeks has published some interesting details about the upcoming 3D Systems V-Flash printer - take a look.

3D Printer Users: V-Flash 3D Printer - Early Info & Specifications

30 May 2007

When it all works, the world does get flatter

I gave a talk to a consortium of universities in Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. We connected from an IP-based video conferencing unit in my office to a gateway in Australia, and from there they redistributed the talk in real-time to 25 directly connected sites and others via a webstream. We had a clean 1-megabit+ video and audio stream, with smooth video. It actually all worked, and the technology mostly stayed out of the way so the audience could concentrate on the content.

It was a little difficult to try to get feedback from the group as I spoke versus face to face. But of course, this was a lecture that never would have happened face to face. It was really gratifying both to experience an audience in multiple distant countries that was interested in what I had to say, and also to see the technology work so flawlessly.

Here's a link to the web stream. Oh yeah, the topic was Identity and Access Management, if you care!

29 May 2007

Teaching Basketball with Textbooks

A trenchant article from Milton Chen for Edutopia about how not to educate people. When our educational methods fail, we seem to assume one of two things - we're not doing enough of it (more more more) or we're not "holding people accountable" - if we can strike enough fear into the hearts of our teachers and children, they CAN learn to play basketball by reading a textbook. Folks, it ain't gonna work...

The Shift

It's easy to see when large institutions decline, but sometimes harder to see what's really happening to kill them. In all the hype about music swapping supposedly killing the music business, or Google News scavenging the newspaper business, this essay by Jesse Kornbluth illustrates one piece of the huge economic shift underway, enabled by the Internet. For every Tower Records that goes out of business, there are dozens of new channels of information and distribution that spring up, providing more flexible and personalized access to media.

25 May 2007

The Good Stuff Lasts

Who would have thought that you'd see something like this - on a computer - in 2007 - and my 15 year-old son would send me the link? It gives you hope for the future of humanity.

The Tuxedo Travels - Official Home Page

The Tuxedo Travels - Official Home Page

These guys are pretty remarkable, and their blog, photos and video are educational, entertaining, and sometimes even profound. I just wish I had their guts!

3D Printer Users: It Ain't Smoke and Mirrors!

3D Printer Users: It Ain't Smoke and Mirrors!

Here's a posting from a new blog, written by an educator in Maryland. I think it's a great example of the kind of latent enthusiasm for this technology that's waiting to burst out as the new generation of printers becomes available.

18 May 2007

two radio pieces on 3D printing

The program Future Tense, hosted by Jon Gordon, recently featured brief interviews with Evan Malone from Cornell, discussing Fab@Home, and Cathy Lewis, CEO of Desktop Factory. Well worth listening to both interviews.

Evan Malone - Fab@Home

Cathy Lewis - Desktop Factory

13 May 2007

Happy Peak Day

Many many years ago I was a consultant for Bell Labs, and I learned a bit about the "old" AT&T. In those days when virtually every telephone call in the USA was carried by AT&T (and when a landline telephone call was virtually 100% of the real-time 2 way communications available) Mothers' Day was known as "peak day". That's because it was typically the day with the highest call volume, and thus was the day that the engineers used to determine the capacity of all the components in the system. The goal was assuring that even on peak day, you had a near certainty of being able to pick up your telephone, get a dial tone, and complete your call.

So today we're looking at placing a call to North Carolina to my Mother-In-Law, and I realized that we have 5 different, readily-accessible ways to attempt it from my house - two cell phone carriers, Vonage, Skype, and our AT&T landline we keep for emergencies (and fax). And if all else fails, she does read email, which she learned to use in her seventies.

It's not always easy to remember how fast we went from a communications monopoly to remarkable communications diversity - it pretty much happened in just 20 years. And the kind of statistical calculations and careful engineering that built the Bell System are, while still relevant - we still have a communications backbone that all these calls depend upon - they are both far more difficult and far less important in a world with many more options.

10 May 2007

If you can't wait for your desktop 3D printer...

Fabjectory is a service bureau that will take your Second Life Avatar or your Mii (from your Nintendo Wii) and make it for you with a 3D printer. Since the first generation of desktop 3D printers is just now coming out, and the first ones probably will have relatively poor resolution and no color, there's certainly a window of opportunity for Fabjectory. (And even today, you have the choice of printing you own photos or having a service print them for you - and most people get better results from a service.)

07 May 2007

Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty - New York Times

Beam It Down From the Web, Scotty - New York Times

A nifty article about 3D printing, focusing on Desktop Factory, a start-up in Pasadena that's developing a low-cost, desktop 3D printer. They expect to get the price down to about $1000 in 5 years. Either they will do it, or someone else will - probably a half-dozen companies.

I'm quoted in the article saying that the market for 3D printers is huge, but smaller than laser printers. In thinking about it further, I guess that's true in the short run, but in the long run 3D printing will be much much bigger than laser printing. I know I'm a hopeless optimist, but I really believe at some point we'll learn to live with less paper (I know I certainly have). But we'll always want things. After all, 2D printing is really just a special case of 3D printing.

26 April 2007

Gartner on Mashups in the Enterprise Portal

Guiding Principle: Because anything on the Web can be mashed up, assume people will do so and help them. If you have a resource your people want to mashup, then help them, too.

"If you put something out there on the web, you can assume someone will mash it."

24 April 2007

Phil Rosedale @ gartner symposium

Phil Rosedale - founder and CEO of Linden Labs i.e. Second Life - was interviewed today.

link to webcast - don't know if it's public

Some tidbits from his talk:

He has always wanted to build a virtual world since he was a kid - the enabling technologies (broadband and desktop 3D animation) were adequate in 1999 to get started. His initial goal was to recreate the real world in the virtual - if you can digitize everything, digitize the world. Realized early on that a real economy would be a key and that it had to allow considerable user autonomy and creativity with minimal control. He argued that the press coverage generally focuses on what people are doing rather than the platform and this is evidence of the success of this vision.

He spent a lot of time discussing the economic aspects, and how things like mortgages, insurance, and IP offer interesting challenges. He noted that they very much wanted the land to have real value, in part so it could be used to finance entrepreneurial efforts as it does in RL.

SL has 100,000,000 user-created objects.

The rate at which new land is being added in SL is so great that if you were on line 24 hours a day you wouldn't have time to see it all.

He described a very interesting experiment by Starwood Hotels - they built a 3D model of a new hotel design they had recently developed and invited people in SL to walk through and critique the design - a design review in SL!

He described the coming use of voice in SL - they are attempting to model the sound in 3D so you will have a full sense of presence, and he argued that this will be transformational. (I'm inclined to agree although it's going to be a bandwidth and processing challenge for the near future.)

When asked what he needs from the business world, he didn't hesitate - "Open your firewalls!" I did hear a significant number of "no"s from the audience!

Afterwards I spoke briefly with a CIO from a large hospital - he was pretty excited about the possibilities presented by virtual worlds.

23 April 2007

Second Life is the new AOL

Back in the early nineties I had at least two stretches where I subscribed to AOL. I was fascinated by the "commercial internet" - the Internet in those days was fiercely anti-commercial. But I hated how it worked. Eventually the Web emerged and AOL began its slow march to irrelevance.

Today I heard a Gartner analyst describe Second Life as having a similar niche to that AOL held in 1993. Second Life has all the mindshare and is viewed by many as synonymous with 3D interactive virtual worlds. In other words, they are on to something really important, and they know how to promote the hell out of it, but I find it pretty awkward to try to do anything interesting in it, or to find anything interesting to do (not being a big fan of cyber gambling or cyber sex).

I do think Second Life will play an important historical role by being the first mass-market, non-gaming, 3D virtual platform, but in order for this kind of environment to be really useful it has a long long way to go. But then, I wouldn't want to use Mosaic v. 1.0 anymore either, or Gopher.


Why do technology conferences have excellent pervasive wireless, and then have nowhere to plug in to recharge your laptop?

How Corporate IT is becoming more like Higher Ed IT

IT in Higher Education has often been ad-hoc, immature, unstructured, inefficient and uneffective. Recent years have seen a significant growth in the maturity of IT structures and services. Some have argued that if we could make higher ed IT more like corporate IT, we'd solve most or all of our problems. Of course, this attempt to develop a highly regulated and monitored IT infrastructure has conflicted - sometimes almost violently - with the culture of higher education which values freedom, flexibility, and personal choice (if not always personal accountability).

Ironically, current trends have brought similar cultural challenges to the corporate environment - digital natives, consumerization of IT, and social networks have dramatically changed the way that both employees and customers expectations. The cultural clash that higher education has wrestled with in recent years has now hit the corporate environment. At the same time, external pressures created by Sarbanes-Oxley push towards more control. It's hard to imagine how the corporate world will respond, but I do think that higher education has an opportunity to lead the way to new ways of thinking about IT. The key is to embrace the culture of learning and education, blend it with what we've learned from the Internet, and build a new ecology of information technology.

Management of IT

Successful companies constantly ask "What if?" Obsession with opportunities not competition. Redefine the industry in which they play. Chamelions - continuous reinvention. Risk aversion is the standard. Agile - decentralized, good enough, leading indicators, tap into ad-hoc informal communities, citizens of world, anticipate, trade risk for speed, think greenfield, willing to go low-tech.

In past, added stuff because you could, not because it was needed. New value storyline - permanent shift in IT spending patterns - going to the business units. Most IT organizations can't deliver new value because they are fundamentally about control.

Potential for a new model - no separate IT organization, instead a pervasive commodity embedded in the business units. Hybrid management - IT managed in business outcomes. Business and IT strategy developed in conjunction. Prediction: traditional IT function will die.

3 ideas: 1 be surpurb applies of tech; 2 staff with people who believe IT is not just enabler but can redefine business 3 office of innovation. Let 1000 ideas bloom.

Tech market is supporting too many players but not sustainable. Commoditization - really don't care who the provider is. Business models for providers haven't changed but customers have.

Talking about consumer choice and service design - putting user at the center of all decision making. All about improving customer experience. Integrated consumer experience is new design center.

IT on the verge of failure

Mediocraty has become the norm. Lack of vision. Technology not seen as a force to drive growth, because of a lack of vision. Too many people waiting to be spoon fed a solution. CEO's are waiting for new ideas, and vendors waiting for each other. No belief in first-mover advantage. Everyone wants someone else to take the risk.

Sandy Shen - Chinese Gartner analyst - talking about China's history of innovation. Every company must have a China strategy.

India - IT services around 1/2 of service exports. China the manufacturing powerhouse, India the service powerhouse.

IT in North America is stagnant. Consumerization - iPods, phones etc. are not technology, they are fashion and assumed and embedded. Cingular "fewest dropped calls" - what kind of message is that? Acceptance of mediocraty.

Impact of mobile technology. More than convenience - about improving productivity. And it's mostly about software not hardware - value and challenge moving toward software. Software lagging and becoming the limiting factor.

Companies respond by overprovisioning hardware and bandwidth. Can't design networks and applications separately. Use smart network architecture to ptimizae business applications.

Daryl Plummer

Nothing is simple. Complexity on top of complexity on top of complexity. Systems make us more rigid, not more flexible. New systems e.g. SOA have promise but make things more complex. We have to insolate users but not isolate them. Users should be able to say "I don't care" about the details. Hiding complexity. Enable new human-human dynamic.

Revolution: virtualization. Hiding complexity and decoupling. layers of service on top of legacy. get to same back end from multiple channels. Now talking about Second Life. Creativity through virtualization. Dividing line between real and virtual breaking down. Distance doesn't matter, relationships form and disippate, can't trust what you see, counterfeit reality - virtual image of us. Do you have a right to your own image? IP, business model.

Software as a service - makes analogy to licensing electrical service per person. Move toward buying services rather than components. Price, convenience, satisfaction are primary differentiators. Winners will deliver the best services. Users on tech - I don't care. I want the service.

Implications of virtual servers - from Google to World of Warcraft to SL.

Demand more embedded support for virtualization. Stop being systems oriented and become service oriented.

Peter Sondergaard @ Gartner

VP of Research. "IT is coming of age. WMF - tech progress and open gloabl and financial systems have laid foundation for superlative growth." But IT growth decelerating. Growth is in emerging economies but not here (US)." Discussing staggering growth in India- IT budgets growing 16% annually. Scaling to 100 million customers in 2 years. No models elsewhere in the world so they are breaking new ground. Growth creates 30-50% annual staff turnover. 11%/year salary inflation.

Scandinavia - high broadband, seamless wireless, high IT literacy -> consumerization of IT. Consumers embedded in the IT architecture.

US -> organizations trying to stretch beyond what providers offer. Scale, complexity - lack of innovation among vendors. Is consolidation good for users? No! Is consolidation stifling growth? perhaps. Large IT organizations building their own. If IT can't do it, business managers will bypass IT.


Consumerization of IT: affordable access increases power of the individual and how they interact. Affordable communications, low cost devices, content, destabilizes the balance between social forces. Challenges basic assumption of technology scarcity and uniqueness.

Alternative Delivery Models of IT: new options for acquiring technology. Pay not for use but for access and business outcome - buying a service rather than products. Cannibalize some markets and vendors.

Green IT: Impact beyond hardware vendors - also software. Get out of reactive posture. IT activities affect the environment. Need to be cognizant of environmental impacts of IT technology. Can have positive or negative impact. "Topic is big, and unpredictable"

Shape of IT: Response to the first 3. IT as IT becoming irrelevant to business.

Challenge - how to sustain global growth. Need to take advantage of current prosperity. Easy to be complacent.

live at the Gartner Symposium ITExpo

Just for the heck of it, I figured I'd try blogging live from an event. I'm at the Gartner Symposium ITxpo 2007 in San Francisco. I hope someone says something interesting.

It's certainly not as much fun as the Reality Distortion Field of MacWorld, but they do have a cool AV setup. There are 2 screens, and the middle one is a "doublewide". Before the talk, they have very loud new-agey music and factoids running on the screens, like the real color of the golden gate bridge (international orange) and who first discovered the Y2K problem (they claim Boeing in 1993). It's a good soundsystem but I prefer the rock/pop at an Apple event.

Speaking of Apple, so far I haven't seen another Macintosh here. This is the belly of the IT beast. Now they are flashing words like "distruptive" and "emerging" and "innovation" - I guess that means "Windows Vista".

Now we have fake smoke and loud noise to herald "Emerging Trends". Rather overdone but it does help wake you up. This would be an awesome setup for video gaming.

Gartner CEO Gene Hall now on stage welcoming us. Suit with no tie. "Specific focus this year: emerging trends. IT investments account for about half of economic growth. All CEO's need technology and they need you (IT wonks) to be on top of your game. IT excellence drives business results. 85% of CIO's identify innovation as important but only 26% have capability. More creativity needed. Innovation is not software upgrades - have to shift focus. New competencies, better services, new ways to win customers, attack costs. Stakes are high. " Actions, creativity.

more in next post

FineDigital's FineDrive M760 : a thin 7-inch PMP with GPS navigation - Engadget

I want one! Somehow I don't think garmin is going to build anything like this soon...

17 April 2007

Rapid Prototyping Resource

I found this a very useful guide to understanding RP technology and terminology.

06 April 2007

Connections Generate Value

I was in a meeting this morning to discuss an international initiative that we're preparing to launch at Art Center, and later, one of the participants complimented me on something I'd said. I didn't say it this way at first, but we boiled it down to "Connections Generate Value". I think this is the business lesson from Web 2.0. At its best, the academic world has understood this for a long time (and often forgot it, to its detriment). This is a new way of working where you get more by giving something away, not because you want to be altruistic, but because you want to be better off in the end. LinkedIn, MySpace, blogs and podcasts are all elements of this. Viacom suing Google YouTube demonstrates a company that doesn't understand this concept.

04 April 2007

The Checker Playing Dog

My use of the phrase "checker-playing dog" comes from the following rather lame joke:

I was visiting a friend and I saw he was playing checkers with his dog. I said, "That's amazing! You have a really brilliant dog!" and my friend said, "Nah, he's not that smart, I beat him two out of three."

I refer a technology that seem to represent some kind of a breakthrough, but isn't necessarily that useful, as a checker-playing dog. One of the classic examples is the Newton. I bought one and hauled it around for a couple of years, and found it fun to play with, but it was more about the potential of a hand-held organizer than the reality. It was heavy, didn't fit in a pocket, the interface was poor, the screen was dimly lit, and it didn't really make my life any better, except that I enjoyed it. But we all know that the Newton was one of the precursors of the Palm, the Blackberry, and the iPhone.

Some technologies seem to hang around a long time and keep reappearing in new guises, but never get past the checker-playing dog phase, like voice recognition (as a general interface vs. a useful niche) and ebook readers.

My favorite checker-playing dog right now is the home-built Fab@home machine. My intuition is that low-cost 3D printers are a disruptive technology, but they might be checker-playing dogs for a while. All I know is, I want one.

02 April 2007

Everybody's a Star

You don't really expect to see your computer science professors on TV, except perhaps on something like Nova. I was watching Star Trek: Enterprise at my son's suggestion (and I guess I'm old school, but it's no Star Trek) when I see a strange ad for a search engine called ask.com and realize that it's Apostolos Gerasoulis from the Rutgers University Computer Science Department. I knew that he had founded a search engine company back in the late dot com days, and there he was as a kind of Dave Thomas of search engines, talking in his inimitable accent about searching for car rims.

I don't know how you go about selling a search engine - I think only Google knows that. But if you want to see the ads, they're here:


16 March 2007

digital -> analog

Here's a couple of images of a part built by our ZCorp Spectrum 510 printer, courtesy of David Cawley. The printer uses a type of powder infused with a binder by color ink jet heads, which also contains the dye that gave it color. When the parts come out of the machine they are very brittle, but this one has been infused with paraffin wax, which makes it stronger and also enhances the color. You can't see all the detail inside - there's also a spiral staircase from top to bottom.

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - music: Do we still need record shops?

Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - music: Do we still need record shops?

I've managed to divest myself of about 80-90% of the records I once owned - I've digitized some, and for most of them the music is easily obtainable in digital form. Everytime I go through the stack, I get rid of more, but so many evoke intense waves of nostalgia and I can't part with them.

I wonder what physical icons future generations will have - perhaps looking at an old broken iPod and remembering the playlist they loaded when they first bought it.

Analog media does have a particular richness that's hard to duplicate in the digital world. But I think it was Nicolas Negroponte who posited that "Everything that can become digital, will", and this seems to be an inescapable law.

10 March 2007


Check this out quick before the copyright police get it taken down: http://dylanhearsawho.com/home.htm. Brilliant! I wish I had the patience to do something like that.

While I was trying to get more info about this project, I ran across the "No Direction, Period" video - there are a lot of creative people out there.

02 March 2007

Yahoo! races to the bottom

I got in the habit of using myYahoo as a personal portal some years ago - can't even remember when. For a while I've been aware that there are lots of better options out there but it's one of those things where you get used to the quirks and it seems like too much trouble to change. But it's finally gotten so annoying that I'm ready to look for a better alternative.

I'm really tolerant of adds in general, but I first got annoyed with the frenetic graphics dancing across the screen encouraging me to refinance my mortgage. At least that was on the weather page and not on the home page. But now, Yahoo has started selling video ads that drop down over the text of the page. When you go to myYahoo, the bar at the top (in the picture it's a Coldwell Banker ad) rolls down blocking the page while the video runs. This is just super annoying, worse than a popup.

I'm totally sympathetic to a company like Yahoo that tries to innovate and needs to sell advertising to survive, but they are driving away a long-time customer by going too far. It makes me wonder if they can survive without really rethinking their business model. Their biggest problem may not be Google but themselves. I can't believe anyone who works there would voluntarily put up with something so annoying.

I'll let you know what I end up using and what I learn along the way. Next stop Google.

27 February 2007

Coffee Cup Philosophy

I can't remember for sure, but I think I saw this on a cup of coffee, and I was impressed enough to write it down... then today I ran across it in my notebook and thought I'd share it.

"In my career, I've found that 'thinking outside the box' works better if I know what's 'inside the box.' In music (as in life) we need to understand our pertinent history... and moving on is so much easier once we know where we've been." -- Dave Grusin

I could add that there's a risk in spending so much time understanding history that you can't move on, but there is a proper balance out there.

26 February 2007

Print is Dead: Books in Our Digital Age � NY Magazine: The Kids Are Online

A recent entry in Bruce Sterling's "Beyond the Beyond" blog pointed me at the Print is Dead blog with its provocative title and thoughtful entries. Pretty much everything this guy writes is a gem, but I particularly liked this one because of my focus on education.

From the blog: "In terms of publishing and the 'print is dead' debate, today’s kids are not going to want to pick up a big book and spend hours in a corner silently, passively reading. Why in the world would they do that? It’s not interactive. They can’t share the experience with their friends. There’s no way to change the book to suit their own tastes. Instead, they’re going to ditch the hardback and head over to Facebook. The publishing industry needs to realize this..." I would add, so does the education industry.

23 February 2007

The Secret Society for Real School

On its best days, Art Center College of Design is quite a bit like what Gardner calls a "Real School". My job is to try to figure out how technology can help make more of those days.

21 February 2007

Henry Jenkins' "YouNiversity"

I like everything about the article except the title. My favorite quote is "The modern university should work not by defining fields of study but by removing obstacles so that knowledge can circulate and be reconfigured in new ways."

Unfortunately, I have real doubts about the powerful institutional antibodies of nearly all higher education institutions allowing something like this to happen. So often, even tentative moves in this direction get rolled back. The most likely scenario is that "higher education" ends up having very little to do with "institutes of higher education" and vice-versa. Seems a bit depressing to me, but it's probably a good thing. And a few progressive institutions will make it through, and new ones will spring up. The old universities will never die - at least not in my lifetime - but they may become increasingly irrelevant.