Ann Marie Shillito from Anarkik 3D visited the eightbar crowd in Hursley (thanks to epred for inviting a bunch of us hangers-on along!).
Anarkik are involved with haptic input devices and have developed some really nice software which enables users to interact with virtual worlds and 3D modelling tools using a consumer-priced haptic controller which can be connected to a PC via USB.
The demo blew us away. First we had a look at how the controller could be used to drive an avatar in a virtual world (in this case, OpenSim). It’s a considerably more natural way to navigate than the keyboard and mouse setup that is provided with most 3D worlds and should lead to a lot more accessibility into these environments. The part that really impressed us was the capability of driving a CAD-like tool called Cre8 – a free download from Anarkik, for people who have the controller – to easily create three-dimensional objects by physical manipulation… both inside and out. I remember hacking around with an old 3D package called Euclid on my RISC OS machine back in the early 90s and it was a nightmare – this was sheer joy. Watch the video to see various people playing around with the haptic controller 🙂
Just to explain what is going on in the video, as it may not be entirely clear! The demos use a Novint Falcon gaming controller. To quote Anarkik, it is “like a small grounded ‘robot’ and provides the ‘force feedback’ that gives the uncanny sense of touching a virtual object. This device replaces the mouse and also provides more natural and coherent movement in 3 dimensions.” At the start, several of us have a go with the controller to drive an avatar around an OpenSim island running on the local machine, using Anarkik’s software. Around the middle of the video, we switch to using the Cre8 tool to do some simple modelling. In particular, we change the surface hardness of a sphere (where it becomes more or less soft to the touch); and then go inside the sphere and extrude the shape by pulling the controller around. Finally, there’s a brief look at some fabricated items modelled using the same software.
Anarkik also have a community called Anarkik Angels where they are looking for supporters to help crowdsource and develop the project.
[the one minor disappointment for me personally was the current lack of Mac OS X support – Windows-only at the moment – and the websites aren’t terribly Mac-friendly either. Guess it’s time to buy a Windows box just for this stuff, it’s awesome!]
All of this haptic craziness hit a lot of our interest areas – 3d printing, new ways of interacting with technology, the application of these kinds of controls to education, manufacturing, science, craft, modelling… we had some very exciting and interesting discussions and I think several of us are looking forward to playing with this technology a lot more in the future. There are a bunch of additional videos on the Anarkik website.