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The latest from the DEVELOP3D Blog:

Squeezable 3D Control Device

Published 30 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: 3d control devices, 3d display, input devices

I’ll admit it, I have absolutely no idea how this is going to work, what it offers for the world of design and 3D control, but I find it curiously fascinating. I just got a press release from Cambridge Consultants about the launch of Suma, and I quote, “a uniquely intuitive yet very low-cost squeezable user-interface technology that creates a whole new way of interacting with computers. With nearly 60% of US households predicted to own 3D displays within 5 years*, Suma offers a full 3D highly sensitive control experience for gamers and others who expect a high degree of interaction.”

According to the release:

The patent-pending Suma sensor system translates the three dimensional deformation of a squeezed object into a software-readable form. Enabling highly sensitive control by finger movements and whole-hand grip in this way means that Suma-based devices can capture far more of the degrees of freedom of the hand than conventional controller technologies, without the need for cumbersome gloves or sensors.

A Suma-based device is like a traditional gaming controller with the normal casework replaced by a ‘Suma skin’. This incorporates the proprietary Suma sensor network at an incremental parts cost of less than US$1. Suma will enable companies developing a wide variety of products and applications - from gaming and design to music and creative arts - to unleash the full capabilities of both the human hand and the user’s imagination.

There you go. Love to hear what you think. I’m buggered if I can work out how this will work for design tools, but it is, as I said, fascinating. And I’ll be off to find out more when I get back to the UK.

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ATI FirePro ushers in 10-bit colour support for Adobe Photoshop

Published 24 November 2009

Posted by Greg Corke

Article tagged with: hp, firepro, ati, monitor, photoshop

Hidden away in the release notes for ATI’s latest FirePro graphics driver (8.663.3) is 10-bit colour support for Adobe Photoshop. But what exactly does that mean?

Those that can afford HP’s stunning DreamColor LP2480xz monitor will now have access to over one billion colours inside the industry standard imaging software - 64 times more colours than most LCDs. And that means incredibly smooth colour transitions - more colours, in fact, than your eyes can see.

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What’s going on at Adobe?

Published 15 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: layoffs, adobe, ttf, gpdis, acrobat 3d

When Adobe got into the 3d CAD market following the aquisition of TTF a few years ago, many involved in the industry where wondering what the company would produce and how it would effect the CAD market.

To date, the impact has been restricted to the tools surrounding Acrobat 3D and perhaps the potential impact of Adobe bundling TTF’s translation tools making high quality translation tools available for a much lower cost than has typically been the case through specialist vendors.

But last week, while the Global Product Data Interoperability Summit (GPDIS) (hosted by Boeing and Northrop Grumman) was underway, we got a phone call asking if “All was well with Adobe,” as there was a booth at the event with Adobe’s name on but Adobe were a no show. A curious thing, but with massive lay-offs at Adobe, it was perhaps an indication that the company was retrenching to its stronger areas.

Randall Newton, Editor in Chief of CADCAMNET was at the event and recently posted a report on his inquiries to Adobe, and he’s agree to allow us to replicate that post in its entirety and it fleshing out some of the details:

New Adobe Layoffs Include Manufacturing Solutions Group, By Randall S. Newton Editor-in-Chief

November 12, 2009 - This week Adobe Systems announced the layoff of 680 employees. CADCAMNet has learned that employees of the Manufacturing Solutions Group were among those affected.

Adobe responded to our questions about the specific impacts of the layoffs with a vague statement: “Adobe is restructuring its business to align costs with its fiscal 2010 operating plan and budget, the company’s three-year strategic priorities and the realities of the business environment, as well as to ensure its ability to continue investing in long-term growth opportunities.”

Adobe’s Manufacturing Solutions Group was scheduled to have a booth and a session at this week’s Global Product Data Interoperability Summit (GPDIS) hosted by Boeing and Northrop Grumman. Conference organizers filled in with a new vendor on short notice when the Adobe team failed to appear on Monday.

3D Development to Continue

Adobe has given assurances to its technology partners for Acrobat 3D that the current round of layoffs do not affect the status of Acrobat 3D. Adobe is ending a vertical approach to marketing its 3D technology, but will continue development.

An informal poll of vendors and users at GPDIS found that, while many are using Adobe Acrobat in their documentation workflow, almost no one questioned was using its 3D capabilities. (To counter that, we are also aware of many uses of Acrobat 3D technology in manufacturing and construction.) In not-for-attribution comments, more than one developer told us that the technology remains challenging to work with, and that the “hooks” into the program are not nearly as robust as one might expect from a company as large as Adobe. In recent weeks key members of the Acrobat 3D team have left Adobe for other technology firms, including AMD and NVIDIA subsidiary mental images.

Tough Year

Last year around this time Adobe laid off about 600. This week’s layoff of 680 is about 9% of Adobe’s global staff. Most of the layoffs will be at the company’s San Jose headquarters and other locations in the San Francisco Bay area. Adobe revenue has been down, year-over-year, in each the last three quarters. In 3Q09 revenue was down 21% and profit was off 29% from the year earlier

Randall’s also giving free access to all the articles posted at CADCAMNET for this month, so dive in and have a look to see what they’ve got for your interest.

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In Search of Elegance #5: HDR Editing & the drive for Realism

Published 13 November 2009

Posted by Al Dean

Article tagged with: rendering, in search of elegance, hdrlightstudio, hdr images

If you’re into visualisation, then you know about HDR images. They’re becoming increasingly common in the world of rendering, with all the leading systems and their rendering counterparts including support for them. For those not up to speed, it’s best we turn to that oracle of all things slightly inaccurate, Wikipedia, which defines a HDR image as:

High dynamic range imaging (HDRI or just HDR) is a set of techniques that allow a greater dynamic range of luminances between the lightest and darkest areas of an image than standard digital imaging techniques or photographic methods. This wider dynamic range allows HDR images to represent more accurately the wide range of intensity levels found in real scenes ranging from direct sunlight to faint starlight.

In terms of their use in product development processes, HDR images give you the ability to both light your rendering scene quickly and to create basic background imagery. It’s built into the likes of Bunkspeed’s HyperShot, Pro/E Wildfire 5, Modo (and hence, SolidWorks PV360), Autodesk Showcase, 3ds max (particularly with ART-VPS’s ShaderLight on the way), Maya and pretty much everything else. When used correctly, HDR images give you results quickly, with realistic results. But there are two issues:

a) Unless you shell out for or hire a Spheron camera, you are stuck with either stock scene options in your rendering tool of choice, or have to purchase stock images from the likes of DoschDesign, 3six0.net and many others. While these are good, they’re typically exterior shots, whereas the majority of users are looking for interior, studio like shots where reflections, highlights and details are paramount. Just as you would with a lighting rig, backdrops and a light tent.

b) When you’re obsessing over render details, trying to get those reflections right, get the highlights where you want them, having a single image controlling the light and reflections isn’t ideal. HDR images can be edited, but typically require editing the HDR image. Problem is, that’s quite tough to do. yes, Photoshop now supports HDR editing, but its not ideal in terms of workflow.

How about something a little more elegant?

Enter HDRLightStudio from the guys at Lightmap, a company founded by the team at Protograph, a well known visualisation outfit that’s been spearheading the use of advanced rendering tools for many years. Realising that they didn’t have control over the HDR input into their work, set about developing a software tool that brings that control back to the user. The result is HDRLightStudio, which allows you to create custom HDR images.

Within a single, easy to use standard interface, you have complete control over the colour of your scene and the lighting within it. There’s a number of standard shaped synthetic lights (circle, hexagon and rectangle) and you can position these anywhere within a HDR map (which is a spherical image that covers a 360 degree view).The system adapts each light you create to ensure that when used, the light retains the required shape and you have full control over luminance values according to real world values.

Alongside the Synthetic lights, there’s also a range of Light Packs. These are standard libraries of real-world lights, such as windows, bounce sheets, spotlights (with barn-doors on or off), Soft-boxes and many other lamps. These can be selected from the library and positioned and adjusted within your scene alongside the generic light types already there. This allows you to better replicate true lighting rigs for photo-shoots and get exactly what you want.

Here’s the basic workflow:

Figure 1: You can create synthetic lights from the standard forms or add realistic lights from the LightPack library.

Figure 2: Each light is fully controllable and adaptable to your requirements.

Figure 3: The preview gives physically accurate lighting and you have a number of guides to ensure that you’re positioning lights correctly. Once you’ve happy with it, it can be rendered out to .HDR or .EXR format - you’ll need to check your rendering software’s support for each of these.

Figure 4: Load the HDR into your tool of choice (in this instance, HyperShot) and render away. 3D model courtesy of PK3d.com

Figure 5: The final thing - what says lovely more than a Volkswagen with green metallic paint.

To me, HDRLightStudio is a highly elegant solution to a particularly complex problem. People are getting more and more adept at recognising digitally rendered images and even the slightest thing can cause something of a negative reaction. All too often, you see product renders that over use marble, standard wood (seriously - what the ****is Bubinga?) materials and dodgy lighting schemes.

HDR image use lets you solve the lighting problem, but to get things really nailed, it doesn’t give you as much control over the process and the results as hand knife and forking individual lights - so you’re typically stuck with a choice between quick lights and no control versus excellent lighting and a lengthy set-up process. While for the CGI professional, time can be spent finessing the results, for those where rendering is a part of their job, usually under massive time constraints, you simply don’t have the time. HDRLightStudio gives you that control back, in a quick and easy fashion. Oh and it’s a bargain price (it starts at 149 quid) and if you’re interested, we’ve got a discount code for you to get a 10% discount if you order it - just enter ‘Develop3DNov09’ into the online order page.

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