More VR Stuff, this Time with the Rift

I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful brother just as interested (if not more so) in emerging tech, specifically with virtual reality. He already owns a Vive, but decided to order an Oculus Rift a few months back. Due to some fluke, Oculus sent him two Rift Touches by accident, one of which he lent to me. I’ve been having tons of fun with it, but more importantly, I’m learning how it can be useful in existing fields. This is particularly due to the fact that I work at an architecture firm that is currently conducting research in how VR can be used with architectural visualization. This isn’t exactly a brand new topic, but I’m really excited to be personally involved in the research, both at home and at my workplace.

In terms of architectural visualization, I think the biggest, most exciting software for me right now is TwinMotion for VR. I learned about TwinMotion from one of Fabrice Bourrelly’s Unreal Archiectural Visualization webinars (check them out here when you get the chance). I am currently learning Unreal Engine as I am really interested in building my own VR environments from the ground up (textures, animations, lighting, the whole deal). Of course, this takes time and energy, which most of us don’t have much to spare. TwinMotion is a more “plug and play” software for VR, with built in material, lighting, and animation presets. Essentially, all you have to do is bring in a model (whether it be a Revit, Rhino, Cinema 3D model, among others) and add in whatever you like. Another pro: the software is compatible with most VR headsets. The software is still in its early stages, but I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll have in store for us. Check them out here.

On to a more lighthearted, fun topic- Games and Apps with the VR! So I love messing around with my headset, and there are some really fun games and things to do while in virtual reality. Of course, my favorite moment was when both my boyfriend and brother played AFFECTED – The Manor, a horror game. I was a wimp, while both of them were very brave facing ghosts and goblins and scary things (though the bf did scream like a girl a couple times). Truly a terrifying experience. Another cool App I discovered was Medium, a sculpting app. Imagine 3DSMax or Mudbox, but rather than staring at a monitor and sculpting with a keyboard and mouse, you create models within VR. Your canvas is the virtual world within the headset, and your sculpting tools are your hands (well, the touch handset you hold… but you get the point).

I will try to post a time lapse video at some point of me using Medium, but for now I can share a few screen grabs of my latest creation- a silly octopus. The app was a little finicky with layers and resolution (Medium actually began to crash after I added too many suckers, but I should have expected that… I was modeling a large model in VR…) and my head hurt after a couple hours of being in the headset, but overall really fun. I can see artists using Medium to create large virtual environments with crazy creations.



3DDC 2016

On April 14th, I attended 3DDC, a 3D printing policy event hosted by Public Knowledge. I know this is a rather delayed post, but I think some of the topics brought up at the 3DDC event are worth discussing in this blog. There were panels of expert makers and 3D printing specialists, including some of our own from Techshop. The panels focused on 3D printing in regards to STEAM education, the environment, bridging the workforce skills gap, and the arts.

I attended the workforce gap and arts panels and was intrigued by some of the issues brought up by both the audience and panelists. For example, the workforce gap panel discussed the difficulties in teaching older makers how to use new technologies. As someone who grew up using a computer and learned to 3D model at a young age, I had never really thought about this. I always thought desktop 3D printers were relatively simple to use. Export the model as an STL, send it to the printer, make sure there is enough filament, hit the start button and *voila* a few hours later you have a print (ignoring the potential extruder clog- looking at you, Makerbot). But this process might not be as intuitive to someone who hasn’t used a computer from a young age or seen a 3D printer in action. While working at Techshop, I remember a lady calling in and asking if she could purchase ink and paper for our shop’s 3D printer. Of course it seemed funny at the time, but unless you’ve used a 3D printer, you probably wouldn’t know what the filament was made out of or how to load it into the printer. I can understand how learning to use this technology would be frustrating to an older audience. The panel discussed methods of teaching these new technologies to an older age group, from providing free classes at the library to holding workshops for retired veterans at Techshop. I believe you can “teach an old dog new tricks”, but it will take time and effort. Repetition and consistency is key in learning how to use machines and software; conduct tasks over and over until it is ingrained.

The first topic of conversation during the arts panel was using 3D scanning/printing to create replicas of famous pieces of art. The paradigm case: a 3D scan of Nefertiti’s bust. The bust is currently located in the Neues Museum in Berlin and is the subject of ownership conflict between Germany and Egypt. Two artists, Nikolai Nelles and Nora Al-Badri, snuck a 3D scanner into the museum and were able to gather enough data to create a detailed 3D replica of the bust, which they uploaded online and had this to say: “With the data leak as a part of this counter narrative we want to activate the artefact, to inspire a critical re-assessment of today’s conditions and to overcome the colonial notion of possession in Germany.” Though new information may have ousted the whole heist as a hoax, it brings up important issues with how we view the intersection of art and technology. What’s the difference between taking a picture at a museum versus a 3D scan? When does it become theft of cultural and artistic property? Does 3D printing an art piece make it a counterfeit? Does it matter who is overseeing the scanning and printing? Many museums are using the technology to preserve and document their collections. For example, look at the work the Smithsonian is conducting: So what do you think? Is 3D scanning and printing detrimental or beneficial to how we see art?

The arts panel also brought in one of my favorite artists, Francis Bitonti. You might know him for his famous Dita Von Teese 3D printed dress (it’s killer). He is one of the most prominent and innovative artists using 3D printing and I’m excited to see what he has in store for us in the future. Here’s a picture of him during the panel, as well as his 3D printed dress. Overall, I had a great time at 3DDC and was left with many questions about the future of 3D printing.


Lasercutter Rotary Attachment: an Experiment

I recently started working at Tech Shop, a maker space in Arlington filled with 3d printers, woodshop, CNC routers, waterjets, and laser cutters. It’s a great place to work on your own projects or take classes to learn how to use the machinery. I work as a front desk assistant and therefore am able to take free classes- a pretty sweet gig if you ask me. About a month ago, I took the safety and basic use class for the rotary attachment for the laser cutters. In school, I used laser cutters to cut components of my models , yet I never knew a rotary attachment existed. Essentially, the attachment allows you to laser cut/etch on a curved surface. A very useful piece of equipment! Here is an image of my first project on it (Lord of the Rings nerdom):


After completing my first glass, I realized I could create some great gifts on the rotary. My friend Tori’s graduation is coming up and I thought it would be cool to make something for the occasion. Tori is a fantastic artist and appreciates handmade gifts; I decided it would be even cooler if I made something that incorporated her own art. I creeped through her facebook album of artwork until I found something I could easily etch on glass:


Beautiful design and only two-toned- perfect. First step, I needed to image trace and rasterize this bad boy in Illustrator. Super simple, took about a minute:
Afterwards, I had to resize the image to ensure it would fit on the glass I purchased. I measured the height of the glass and used that as the width of the image, then measured the circumference of the glass (used a caliper to measure the diameter then did the math) to use as the height of the image. I kept the opacity of the etch at 100% because I really wanted her design to stand out against the clear glass. I fit the glass on the rotary and let the laser do its thing. Took about 15 minutes to etch entirely, which I didn’t think was too bad. Overall, my handmade gift only took about 20 minutes. Safe to say, I will definitely be making more gifts on the rotary!

My first Vive Experience

I’ve been super excited for the release of the Vive ever since I saw this video of artist Alex Briskham creating 3D art with the Vive: As an artist and architect, I am interested in how VR technology will play a role in the representation of 3D spaces. Currently, most architecture firms utilize renders, plans, and sections to convey both interior and exteriors of buildings. In undergrad, I would try to create animations and “walkthroughs” of 3D models I created. This is all well and good, but imagine literally walking in 3D digital representation of the space! VR allows users to really experience a space as they would in real life. That’s incredible.

My brother decided to purchase a Vive and was kind enough to lend it to my boyfriend Sasha and I for a few hours. We hooked it up to my rig (the Vive headset screen runs at a cool 90Hz refresh rate and a resolution of 3024×1680 and therefore needs some serious computing power) and set up the motion tracking cameras which detect the sensors in both the headset and controllers. When I first put it on, I was completely baffled at how realistic it felt. The visuals, along with the completely accurate controllers, really helped sell it as virtual reality. My favorite part was sitting atop Vesper mountain and playing with a robot dog whereas Sasha really enjoyed playing as an archer in the game Bowslinger (when you release the arrow, the controllers quiver as a bow would- crazy stuff).

Anyways, I thought I would share some images of mine and Sasha’s first experience with the Vive. Check ’em out!