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