FreshFiber launch 3D printed iPhone cases
4 Nov 2009
23 Oct 2009
New SketchBookMobile: 1.1 a-go-go
* nice video, but honestly. Where the hell are they getting this music from?
29 Sep 2009
HyperShot '10: Part 2 - what's new?
HyperShot '10 Standard UI mode - everything is available on screen, at once.
HyperShot '10 full screen UI mode - this gives you the maximum working space, toolbars can be pinned or can be hidden.
The UI has been updated and rewritten to give you the full Mac experience. This means in either full screen or standard mode, you have access to all of your operations, commands and variables from a single place. Dialogs pop up, are movable and have that tidy little transparency thing (which in the case of rendering, works very nicely indeed).
Camera controls - new sliders make settings much easier to fine-tune - and get that image just as you want it.
Dialogs, aside from look and feel, have been revamped. Previous versions of HyperShot had manual value inputs, which in some cases, could be somewhat cryptic. HyperShot '10 sees these extended with sliders. While it may sound like a small change, the benefits when working with some aspects of the systems, will be much more intuitive and dynamic - the control and setting of depth of field springs irresistably to mind.
The materials libraries, HDR image library and options settings are now much more dynamic and acessible. When combined with a decent workstation, you're looking at realtime feedback when you tweak the settings.
Alongside the UI overhaul, there's a couple of things that lept out at me when working with the beta, so let's look at those. There's a new tool for helping you to define the composition of your scene. The first is camera grid. While most will work with Thirds (as shown below), you can also have it set to halves and quarters if that's your bag.
The other is the Ground Grid, this shows you where things lie in relation to others and the horizontal plane you're working with (as below) - note how the grid is shown through the model, which helps a great deal.
There's been a lot of work done on how you work with data within HyperShot '10. the Mac version has always had the problem of a much poorer set of data translation tools (limited, pretty much to SketchUp, Rhino, OBJ). This release sees that extended with IGES and STEP, but as yet, no interoperability tools with SolidWorks or Pro/Engineer. There is hint in the Beta of 3xml file import, but Bunkspeed aren't commiting this for release as yet - time will tell on that one, but interoperability with both Catia and other systems that support the format would be handy (as well as allowing you to use content from 3dvia.com).
Alongside this, the system now works with that source data much more intelligently. Firstly, you have the ability to view and interact with the product structure from your CAD data, allowing you to organise your work and scene - which is particularly useful when you're working with large datasets and large part counts. Also, updates made to HDR files can be quickly fed through into the system, whether you're using Photoshop or a more specialised tool like HDR Studio.
Another massive update for many users will be that you can Update geometry source and the system will reload your geometry file and make the appropriate changes - it'll also maintain your material and texture settings, saving you a great deal of work when dealing with design change.
In terms of scene set-up there's a whole host of new tools. The new performance mode will switch off the more calc-heavy functions and give you a much more dynamic preview that you can pan/zoom/rotate with ease to get things into place. Interactivity is something that's become a key factor in this release across many areas. Objects can now be moved interactively, rather than using the somewhat cryptic input of values in previous versions. Materials and textures can be dragged and dropped directly onto parts, parts can be dragged into a scene. All in all, the system works as you would expect, rather than you having to work out how to do something.
Oh and the render queue looks much more usable, which is something that heavy users are going to find pretty compelling.
There will be all manner of coverage on the release coming up soon, but a good place to start is Phil Renato's blog, who takes a look through this release as well and gives his thoughts - philrenato.blogspot.com
22 Sep 2009
3DVIA launches community app for iPhone
Dassault's 3dvia group has finally released the iPhone app for interaction with the 3d-centric community portal, first demonstrated at DEVCON earlier this year. As hinted at in the demonstraton, the App gives users the ability to interact with the community aspects of the service, giving users a fully manipulable 3D model, search functions as well as all that good social media-related stuff (rating, commenting etc).
The multi-touch interface is exceptional (except a lack of landscape switch-a-roo goodness), with a single finger rotating the model, two fingers panning and the ninja-pinch for zoom in/out as you'd expect. You can search models on line (here's a LOT), view and comment on them. If you're rocking the iPhone 3GS, you can also use the built in camera to capture an image and integrate a model for a variety of purposes.
Here's a quick video on the basics of the App
I caught up with David Laubner, Director of Product Marketing for 3dvia online and the first question was the big one:
Why?At the moment, the app is live on the Apple App Store and is free, but will eventually be chargable at $1.99 (estimated). While initially this seems like a throw away application, looking at the numbers within the community, the potential for closed session discussion and the ability to quickly share your models, you've got something intriguing.
We must deliver our products and services where our users expect and want to have them. With the massive popularity of the iPhone, we need to make sure that we have an offering to suit this growing communities needs.
What purpose do you think the application will serve?
This first application for Dassault Systemes is primarily targeted at the existing 3DVIA.com user base of 120K+ users. It brings most of the functionality of the site right on to the iPhone including 3D model search and interactive 3D view. Users will have access to their own content and network allowing them to interact right on their phones.
It also include the 3DVIA Collage feature which allows users to combine most of the 15K+ models on the site with pictures from the iPhone. This application is both viral and practical at the same time. For designers and 3D artists, you can create environments on the fly for your work right on your phone. As shown in the "I Wonder" video, consumers can use it to visualize changes in the real world. A consumer looking to add furniture to their home could take a picture with their iPhone and position various 3D models of couches from our partner Mydeco.com until they find the right one.
The viral aspect of this feature is easy to see. Users are already using it just create funny pictures with some of the more artistic 3D models from the site.
Can you open 3dxml files that have been mailed to you?
Indirectly - the model would have to be uploaded to the 3DVIA.com site and then you can access it from your "my3DVIA" tab on the phone. Users can access their private models if they need to keep it out of the public view.
What are the differences between the iPhone and iPod Touch implementations
Primarily it is the lack of the camera on the touch blocking the use of the Collage feature. Additionally, it will only work on the 2G and not the earlier version.
3dvia Mobile is about providing access to content on 3dvia.com - a community web-site - so why charge users? it's not inline with the community ethic?
This was a strong debate for the group but it fits with some of our plans as we move forward and look to develop both the product offering and the business model. Our intent is to continue to develop the offerings on 3DVIA.com and always have a strong product at either free or very inexpensive price points.
Although the free period that we are offering right now will have a bit of a marketing boost, it is being offered to help support our key users that have been deeply engaged with the site for so long.
You can upload data to 3Dvia.com via all manner of means and using a variety of formats including .3ds, .obj, .dae (collada), .kmz, .vrml, .3dxml, 3dm (rhino) - strangely no SolidWorks native export (but SWx does export 3dxml and collada). There's even a handy tutorial for uploading and ensuring the best data translation from Catia available here. There's a couple of blogs running that will be covering the app, so take a look here and the 3d perspectives blog here.
With the Autodesk SketchBook Mobile annoucement last week and now this, it looks like vendors are taking mobile devices seriously - performance on these devices is getting better, the interaction methods are increasingly intuitive - leaving the keyboard and mouse combo for dead when it comes to visualisation and manipulation of 3D data. Yes. The screen is small, but the potential if huge. Bring it on.
16 Sep 2009
F**k the Napkin: SketchBook Mobile for iPhone
Image Courtesy of Andrew Meehan, industrial designer
Tomorrow (if all goes according to plan), Autodesk will launch it's first commercial application for Apple's iPhone platform. Taking its technology based from the SketchBook products that have been Windows and Mac-based for sometime, the system strips things down to the basics and provides a mobile platform for sketching - using iPhone (or iPod Touch) multi-touch interactivity.
I had the pleasure of having this application (which has been in Beta for sometime) on my iPod during my recent travels and it's compelling indeed. Sketching is perhaps the one thing that connects designers, engineers and civilians - everyone doodles, sketches and draws - it's just that some are better than others. So let's take a look at what we're got to play with.
A quick download from the App Store and an install (the app will cost 2.99 in the US, 1.79 in the UK, 2.39 euro) later you're ready. Hit the Icon and up it loads. The system gives you a quick walk through of the key functions and shortcuts and interactivity (as well as their being a complete help system embedded in the tool). The interface is pretty transparent. You're presented with a full screen drawing surface. While the iPhone's display runs at 480x320 pixel, what you're actually look at is a 600x400 pixel drawing area. two fingered pinch gives you zoom, dragging those dual digits gives you pan, allowing you to work at the level and in the area you choose. Images can be brought in from the iPhone gallery and used as the basis for a sketch (or as I used it for, for mark up - making it a slick workflow tool) or you can dive in and start drawing.
The tools and options are all accessed through the small icon to the bottom of the screen, tap this once and a marking/radial menu pops up. This gives you the most commonly used commands. From the top and clockwise, you have pencil, airbrush, paint-brush, eraser. You then have the brush control (more on that shortly), layers (the system supports transparent layers - six for the iPhone 3GS but three for other variants - due to lower processor speed), the colour wheel (controlled using swatches or a colour wheel) and perhaps most interestingly for the technical/ID user, Symmetry.
Symmetry lets you build up both sides of a sketch quickly and easily, then you turn it off to add detail. Image courtesy of me (which is why it's crap)
Depending on your orientation (portrait or landscape), SketchBook Mobile will take readings from the iPhone sensors and assign symmetry centrally and vertically (if you have it in landscape, it'll run the axis of symmetry up the centre of the page). In the centre, you have the brush resize control - tapping, holding and dragging left/right will change the size of your brush, with a value readout.
Brush presets and control is first class and something often missing from other iphone drawing apps
In terms of brush options, there's a veritable feast of options, using the same brush engine as the desktop version of SketchBook Pro - you've got full control over size, width, transparency for pencil, brush, airbrush, different stroke type and texturing tools - there's also, of course, the flood fill command too.
The layers are a tool that's going to make life much easier, as we've already said, there's 3 available on the Ipod Touch while the 3GS gets 6. Even with 3, that's pretty usable and the ability to merge layers down gives you added flexibility and control. Multi-touch and multi-tap is used where sensible, the corners of the UI are 'hot' - for clearing a layer, fit to view, undo and redo (10 levels of both), while tap hold brings up a colour picker tool.
Alongside preset swatches, the colour wheel gives you full colour control.
All in all, the whole experience is pretty wonderful. There are other drawing applications out there for the iPhone, but this is a professional grade tool, layer control and symmetry bring the tools a design-led user might need and you're working on an image big enough for real communication, rather than a quick thumbnail.
There's a video tutorial coming shortly, but in the meantime, take a look at the Flickr page for the beta testers, download the application (come on, it's only 3 bucks - probably the cheapest Autodesk product out there) and have a bash.
Sketching is still the predominate method of communication all the way through the design process and while the moleskine and pen combo isn't going to go away and this isn't going to change the status quo, it is a nice indicator of where things might be headed. As Carl over at Core77.com said in his post on the app, "the tactile feedback that makes paper such an enduring medium is unchallenged here, though they've given it a good shot: there's some very good brush rendering technology that makes pencil strokes look like pencil strokes, and "synthetic touch sensitivity" to simulate the effects of increased pressure, despite the lack of true pressure-sensitivity in the iPhone screen."
Simple tools are often the best and while SketchBook Mobile has a few things missing (text would be handy, as would a sync app - you currently need to email or post images out), it's as near a complete set of sketching tools as anyone would need. The best thing is, it's cheap as chips, so if you're iPhoned up, then have a bash. And post your results on the Flickr group if you dare.
Just remember, if you do happen to be sketching Stonehenge, remember to put the correct dimensions on it.
Get it from the Apple Store
7 Sep 2009
HyperShot '10 for Mac: Part I
Model courtesy of Mark van der Quaak, dppb (www.dbbp.com).
I'll make no bones about it. I love rendering. From when I started in the world of 3D-based design, I used to dig into 3d Studio when it was a DOS product and horrendous to use. All the way through my professional career as a designer, it stayed with me and even when I moved into the world of publishing I found myself still engaged (and still do, to this day) in freelance gigs.
There's something engaging and addictive about taking staid, boring looking CAD geometry that's at the heart of the design process through to create photorealistic assets (be it imagery or animations) that shows the viewer exactly how that product is going to appear when manufactured.
The problem has, until very recently, been that rendering, both to set-up the scenes, materials, textures, lighting then processing that information, has a headache. to create truly photorealistic images takes time and skill to do, then, when you've got it about right, even with today's ultra powerful machines, took time to process - and when you consider that creating that imagery (whether it be static images or animations) was typically a highly iterative process of set-up, test render, tweak, render again, the whole thing took more time than it should have.
This, I'm glad to say, has changed in the last year or so. There are a number of applications launched onto the market that make this process much more efficient. Progressive rendering technology, whereby you don't have to wait for a render to complete before you get a good idea of what your project look, makes things easier. This, combined with technologies like HDR (High Dynamic Range) images that make lighting set-up much easier as well as multi-core processing workstations (progressive renderers are typically CPU driven). One of the leading lights of this movement has been Bunkspeed (www.bunkspeed.com), established a few years ago, to bring a core technology to market that enables the 3D user to create stunningly photorealistic imagery, without the headaches traditionally associated with the process and the flagship product in the company's portfolio is HyperShot.
HyperShot was launched two years ago and has been growing in popularity amongst many industry sectors and professions since. The core concept is that you connect to your CAD data, read it in, add materials, choose an environment (based on HDR images, which contain both scene information and a greater amount of information about lighting conditions within that scene than standard images) and watch the display update to show you what you're going to get. While it's heavily skewed towards the number of CPUs or core you have your workstation, even on the most modest of laptops, Hypershot gives you update speeds that are close enough to real-time.
Now, while HyperShot isn't a unique application in using this type of technology, the things I've always loved about it are two fold. Firstly, it's both Windows and Mac-based and has been since the very early releases and secondly, the interface is so sparse, typically driven by keyboard shortcuts and mouse interaction, rather than complex dialogs. This makes for a very intuitive working process and if I'm honest, it get very very addictive. HyperShot's been through a pretty rapid release cycle in the last two years and while the latest version, 1.9, has just been released, the last few months have also seen the Beta program for the next major release, HyperShot 2.0, get underway.
Image courtesy of Peter Allen, Marketing Director at UC Santa Barbara.
I first got a peak at HyperShot for Mac's next major release at the PTC World user event last year and saw something that took my breath away. While many organisations are looking to 'go mac' of late, it's not often you find a 3D professional application that is atuned to the Mac way of things working and following the Cocoa UI guidelines closely. But this is what the Bunkspeed team has been working on and I can finally begin to lift the lid of what HyperShot 2.0, or as it's to be called, HyperShot '10 is going to bring to the Mac community. Before we do that, I wanted to get an insight into what Bunkspeed have planned, I got on the phone to Thomas Teger.
Thomas is the Director of Marketing and Strategic Planning at Bunkspeed (you'll guess that from the picture, right?) and one of those people I love running into at the various events - mostly because he's 19 feet tall and because he's German, can enjoy a drink without disappearing off to bed at 10pm. Thomas is a CAD industry veteran, having worked at both PTC and UGS (now Siemens PLM) and was influential in bringing both NX to the Mac and driving the development of a now defunct PTC product called Pro/Concept (also Mac-based). These days, he's one of the four provisional patent holders for HyperShot (together with Founder & CEO Philip Lunn, COO Anthony Duca, and Chief Scientist Dr. Henrik Wann Jensen), and the driving force behind any new development for HyperShot. His passion for the Mac and Apple products started in 1992 while writing his Master's Thesis on a PowerBook 170 at BMW AG in Munich, Germany.
Al Dean: Hey Thomas. Let's talk about HyperShot and the Mac. You've had a Mac native version of HyperShot pretty much since inception. Could you explain why you made that choice?
Thomas Teger: When I first saw the concepts of realtime raytracing that turned into HyperShot in early 2006 I knew that this had great potential in a number of markets. Since HyperShot breaks down the barriers of traditional raytracing, it opens up the door for many more people who would never been able to create a photographic image from 3D data. The Mac community is traditionally all about the creativity. Photographers, retouchers, marketing people - all Mac. This made it easy to decide to port HyperShot to the Mac. On top of it, HyperShot has been built on an incredible advanced, flexible, and state of the art architecture. "Porting" - if you want to call it that - to the Mac was basically "free". When we showed the concept of HyperShot in 2006 at the IDSA international conference in Austin, TX, we had both versions running side by side. It was awesome.
AD: How does the Mac user base stack up against the windows variant?
TT: Our Mac user base is at about 10% of our entire install base and growing strongly. More and more people are converting to the Mac, now that you can have dual boot capability. Students in particular are gravitating very strongly to the Mac, but also more and more design houses. Of course you know what the major obstacle is: the support of common CAD formats on the Mac. When we came out with the Mac version of HyperShot, we only offered support for OBJ. Quite limiting, isn't it? Today we are offering support for native Rhino and SketchUp, as well as OBJ, Collada, FBX, and 3ds.
AD: I've been playing with the HyperShot 2.0 Beta and the interface has been shifted to a Cocoa-based UI. It's looking slick. How much more work have you got to do before you take 2.0 to market?
Image courtesy of Carter Hickman Design (www.carterhickmandesigns.com)
TT: Thanks, Al. We worked long and hard on developing the interface that turns HyperShot into a true Mac application that will be appreciated and embraced by all Mac users out there. As you know we have started our beta program about 4 weeks ago. We started with a small team of 10 people representing various industries. With the improvements that we made over the past few weeks we are close to being feature complete, and the app is also very stable. Some folks like Carter Hickman for example are using v2 4 hours a day to do production work. He can't go back - you saw his comments. Same with Peter Allen from UC Santa Barbara. The biggest hurdle right now is to make sure that everything works with Snow Leopard. And then there is some more cleanup required, bug fixes and UI polish for the most part. We are close! The official name will be HyperShot '10 to match the rest of our product line. Following the Apple lead here ... iPhoto '09, iLife '09, iWork '09 - you get the picture ;-).
AD: One thing that's kind of irritating is that the Mac platform has much fewer translation options that the Windows version (predominatelty, the SolidWorks and Pro/E connectors are missing). Could you give me an explanation of why they don't work on the mac platform?
TT: Agreed - as mentioned above this is a big reason for the adoption rate still being small is the lack of support for traditional CAD formats. We are getting many requests for support of additional file formats. IGES, STEP, and SolidWorks are the top requests, followed by the support for AliasStudio Tools. I am happy to announce that we will support IGES and STEP in version 2. I am personally rather disappointed that SolidWorks is not releasing the API for eDrawings on the Mac. It is so close. This would solve my, or better the users problem. I've asked repeatedly for it, but the answer was always "sorry, not available". On the other hand we allow people to run HyperShot on the Windows side with the same license, as long as it is installed on the machine. So if you have SolidWorks or Pro/E installed on the Windows side, install HyperShot and the plugin (free on our website) and then import your CAD files into HyperShot and save out the .bip file. And then continue to work on the Mac side. Works great.
AD: Any plans to bring HyperMove or HyperDrive to the MacLater this week, I'm going to give you a sneak peak into what's coming up in the next release, so stay tuned.
TT: Plans - yes, time frame - no. We are carefully evaluating the needs and market requirements here.
AD: Have you got a feeling for any performance difference between Windows and Mac? Anything to be gained?
TT: Since HyperShot is 100% CPU based you are getting identical performance on either platform in realtime. I found though that the final rendering is about 10% faster on Mac OS X compared to Windows Vista 64bit. Even though the realtime performance is identical on Windows and Mac OS X, it still "looks and feels" better on the Mac. There is just something about the Mac - it is hard to describe.
AD: Is the Snow Leopard release giving you any headaches?
TT: I've been running Snow Leopard since the day after it came out and have not experienced any problems with the current version of HyperShot. I have a few customers that are reporting some issues, so I will need to figure out what is going on. We are experiencing some unexplainable things with HyperShot '10 that work great under Leopard but fail under Snow Leopard. That is now our major focus until the release - make sure that everything is working flawlessly under both Leopard and Snow Leopard. Tiger, by the way, will no longer be supported.
AD: I've heard (mostly from your competitors, I'll admit) all manner of rumours about Bunkspeed. Do you want to clear those up and talk about the company's performance in the last few years and how you're doing in the market place?
TT: Absolutely, Al. Bunkspeed is stronger than ever. The fact is that Bunkspeed is 100% self funded and profitable since year two of its inception (Bunkspeed was founded in 2002 by Philip Lunn, CEO of Bunkspeed). HyperShot has been incredibly successful since its introduction in June of 2007. To date we have close to 2,000 customers that are using HyperShot on a daily basis. We started out really strong in Industrial Design, and are now tapping more into Engineering, and of course marketing. We are very successful in "building the bridge" from design and engineering all the way into marketing. Despite economic downturn, our year to date revenues are up compared to last year. As companies are cutting cost, they still order more software from us to help with that process. We certainly made some internal adjustments earlier in the year to make sure we focus on areas that promise growth. We are still a small company, so we must be careful on how we spend our money and where to ensure maximum return on investment. Rumors where of course fueled by the fact that we didn't have a presence at Siggraph this year, since we had a fairly large previous two years. We carefully evaluated the situation. Fact is that many companies cut down on "unnecessary" expenses and would not send any representatives, and trade show attendance was the first one to be cut. Also, Siggraph for us has been a branding event more so than a revenue generator. We felt that our brand has been well established in the industries we are going after - ID, Engineering, and Marketing. This was another reason for us to sit this one out. We are continuing to focus on being present at other events that cater to our markets we are going after such as user conferences and IDSA conferences (Industrial Designers Society of America). Being part of the PTC User conference this year for example opened up many doors to new accounts. As I said before, Bunkspeed is stronger than ever and poised for some serious growth.
6 Aug 2009
Autodesk Extends Mac Support to Bootcamp
With many rumours now linking Autodesk product development with Apple OSX ports, the company has created a web page to guide Mac users best-run Autodesk applications on their Intel-based Macintosh computers.