Building 3D models is hard, and using a traditional point-and-click mouse doesn't really do anything to enhance or simplify the process. To solve that dilemma, we're starting to see new R&D efforts that push the boundaries of model development using novel paradigms like movement and gestures.
A research project that's come out of Purdue University is the latest to showcase this kind of technology. A new design tool called "Handy-Potter" takes a page from popular consumer devices like Nintendo Wii or Microsoft's Kinect to let people -- and not necessarily engineers versed in 3D CAD -- create and modify 3D objects with their bare hands. Sounds weird, but if you watch the video below, you can quickly grasp the intuitive side to what its developers say is "rapid 3D shape exploration through natural hand motions."
Handy-Potter employs a depth-sensing camera and advanced software algorithms to interpret hand movements and gestures and turn them into 3D objects. (Source: Purdue University)
The system uses a depth-sensing Microsoft Kinect camera to sense 3D space and advanced software algorithms to interpret the hand movements and gestures. Currently being touted as a tool for interior designers and, potentially, engineers, users simply wave their hands in the proper motion outlining a shape, and the computer fills in the rest instantly and, its makers claim, accurately to boot.
"Though current design tools provide complex modeling functionality, they remain nonintuitive and require significant training since they segregate 3D shapes into hierarchical 2D inputs, thus binding the user to stringent procedural steps and making modifications cumbersome," said the project leads in an abstract paper submitted to the ASME 2012 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences & Computers and Information in Engineering Conference, where the Handy-Potter won an "all conference best paper." The paper was written and the project orchestrated by Karthik Ramani, Purdue University's Donald W. Feddersen Professor of Mechanical Engineering, along with graduate students Vinayak, Sundar Murugappan, and Cecil Piya.
We present the paradigm of natural and exploratory shape modeling by introducing novel 3D interactions for creating, modifying and manipulating 3D shapes using arms and hands... We integrate the capability of humans to express 3D shapes via hand-arm motions with traditional sweep surface representation to demonstrate rapid exploration of a rich variety of fairly complex 3D shapes. We track the skeleton of users using the depth data provided by low cost depth sensing camera (KinectTM). Our modeling tool is configurable to provide a variety of implicit constraints for shape symmetry and resolution based on the position, orientation and speed of the arms.
We recently told you about another pioneering input device looking to replace the mouse. Leap Motion's Leap offering, which company officials also liken to Microsoft Kinect, attaches to a computer via a USB port and turns it into a gesture-recognition device. Leap is being touted as a more intuitive way to perform basic computer operations, as well as for doing precise 2D and 3D modeling.
To read the Purdue research team's full paper, click here.
Thanks for the comments. I agree. The prototype is just experimental but the future applications have great appeal as a commercial product. A group of Capstone students here at ITT Technical Institute created a haptic -based wrist band for the blind where a servo motor lightly tap the users hand upon approaching objects in their walking path. Although the "mouser" (name of their prototype) was experimental, with additional seed money to refined the design, I see a viable product being emerged. They used an Arduino, a servo motor, a LED, pushbutton switch, Parallax Ping sensor, a batteries (9V and 6V) for their design prototype. It was quite an effective demo/discussion presented by the group.
@Mrdon: Good suggestion combining this with haptics. I definitely see this as more of an experimental, here's where we're going, consider the possibilities technology as opposed to a commercial-ready product.
I love this! It follows a general trend I've seen in design over the last few years. Design Directors and Professors have been lamenting the lack of basic skills amoung many new graduates. Many young designers today can barely draw, let alone sculpt.
This is a perfect evolution for point and click designers to gain (or regain) basics rendering skills. I want it!
Beth this avneat idea. My 3D modeling professor in college repeatedly told the students that modeling was a lot like sculpting. The Handy Potter seems to take this concept to an extreme. This has potential to be a great tool for new products and concepts.
Greg, Your right on target in regards to future inputting methods. I can see this tool/technology being intriguing in the field of Physical Computiing which deals with humans engaging with their environment via sensors. Talk about total immersion while designing a product. If haptics were added, the phrase " being totally into your work" would have true meaning!
I agree, TJ. Futuristic is the right word. I've said this in previous posts -- solutions like this one seem to be straight out of the 2002 Spielberg movie, "Minority Report." It's a long way from pencil on mylar.
@TJ: A little far fetched to be really useful for practicing engineers at this point, no doubt. But definitely interesting in its possibilities especially as more and more of the gestures and interactive motion interfaces make their way into business types of applications. I'm all for the extra exercise as well!
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