New York, NY —Now that CAD packages such as SolidWorks and Solid Edge are offering Web-publishing capabilities for 3D solid models, users are tapping their vast databases to put parts libraries and online catalogs on their web sites. Engineers love the trend because they can view components before buying them, and even download the parts to drop them directly into a new assembly.
But what if the part you need to display is a little more challenging than a simple gear or a nut? Here's how Sony did it.
Sony has just released the second version of its digital pet dog, called ERS-210. Its nickname, AIBO, is an acronym for Artificial Intelligence Robot, and means "companion" in Japanese. This "entertainment robot" has voice recognition so it can learn a vocabulary of up to 50 words, and recognize its owner's voice. Sony says AIBO communicates with its environment through four senses: touch, hearing, sight, and balance. It can take photographs on command, or fetch balls. And your daily interaction with AIBO determines its mood—even if you have trained it to become an energetic and happy robot, it will grow lazy and lethargic if you ignore it.
Impressive, but how do you demonstrate AIBO on the Web? Displaying a virtual dog in a virtual catalog sounds like a double-negative.
Sony chose Viewpoint (formerly known as Metastream) to give potential customers a 3D, interactive preview of "the AIBO experience," at www.us. aibo.com. Viewers can rotate and examine the robot from every angle, but the site will also "remember" visitors, in the same way that each AIBO remembers its owner. So return viewers can watch the "pet" evolve and mature over time.
"What we did is build a complete, functional AIBO digitally," says Chris Johnston, Viewpoint's director of product marketing. "Something that moved, looked, talked, and felt like the original electronic toy dog, from things as simple as moving its head, all the way to chasing a ball."
Viewpoint does this by creating the animation with Discreet's 3D Studio MAX®, and saving the animation in keyframes with embedded transformations. The demo is narrow-band friendly, so viewers can see it with an ISDN line or 28.8 baud modem. This is done with a polygon reduction algorithm that maintains the integrity of the shape (so it doesn't reduce polygons in crucial areas). For Web deployment, Viewpoint transmits the reduced data with the geometry and texture data interlaced, so the object is visible even as it's loading.
"It might take the same amount of time [as loading non-compressed animations], but from the user perspective, it's much faster," Johnston says. "Because while it's still downloading, it looks almost as good as the final product."