Maker faire: Computer sculpture

I saw countless cool things at Maker Faire today. The Computersculpture.com booth was one of the coolest. The dude there, Andrew Werby, let me sit there and play with a demo for a while. There was a pre-defined 3-D object on the screen, a sort of smooth, soft, spongy blob. With a pen on an articulated arm, like one of those adjustable desk lamps, I could “feel” the object’s surface and by pressing a button, push into it and sculpt it.

This was uncanny! The kinesthetic sense, the resistance in the pen in my hand, was just perfect. It was as if I was feeling and manipulating a real object. It was a bit like punching a blunt tool, a stylus, through thick foamy stuff; I thought of hot wire and foam carving kits.

At some point, I carved through the blob into the center, and the tool fell through into a sort of cave. I could feel around inside the object and visualize it in my head. There were multiple exit holes in the back, where I couldn’t see, that other people doing the demo before me must have made. The sensation reminded me uncannily of the numb feeling of pressure that I have had during surgical procedures. The tool also looked like and behaved like an instrument i held in my hand — except I could pass it through the object. So the tip had all the sensation and the handle was ghostly and non-existent. I had sensation, without having any hands. I could imagine surgeons really doing “Fantastic Voyage” type of operations this way. But it should also be a tool that game designers use for character and world building. I can’t imagine artists not loving this tool!

I have never felt something on a computer, a thing that I couldn’t see. My head exploded with thoughts of designing cool video games for visually impaired people. Mazes and thought puzzles and art pieces.

There was more to Andrew’s set of tools; you could sculpt, and then 3-d print your objects. I was blown away so completely by the kinesthetic 3-d modeling, I didn’t pay attention to the rest.

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