Monthly Archives: October 2011

Cool Stuff Collective RepRap 3D printing

Today The 3d printing (part ii) aired on The Cool Stuff Collective. A huge shout out of thanks goes to Malcolm Napier and his daughter Hannah (who has built most of the machinery) for bringing along their collection of RepRap 3d printers and getting it all working so well so quickly. Including the dicussions on which colour plastic we should use for the best impact. (Blue in this case πŸ™‚ )
Also thankyou to @AndyPiper for the intro’s via Reading Geek Night. A particular unsung hero award to producer Ros who manages to make all the arrangements and get things to make these items work.
Reprap in action
The kids at the school we filmed at were enthralled as were the Archie productions crew, with the printer actually working. That is always a good sign when you are going to be showing some future tech.
RepRap head
In the piece we talked about how the printer worked, how the reprap is designed as an open source project that aims to replicate one printer from another. I also threw in the massive change to manufacturing and the planet of replicating what you need locally. No packaging, shipping, wasted manufacture. It’s a huge concept, but the kids watching the show will be living in a world where that is even more important.
We also talked a bit about bio printing, though I did point out thats not with a reprap (yet!). Vicky brought in the kids questions, which were all their own too. One in particular about why is this different from a lathe was great πŸ™‚
Now a set of reprap bits costs about Β£300, so I think that every school should be making one in science lessons and then learning about how to craft 3d objects.
The kids loved the g33k tokens. it was almost the start of a new craze πŸ™‚
Malcolm and Hannah created the g33k text 3d model, whilst we had lots of taller bigger samples we could print it was better to have a relatively thin but constantly repeating model to not cause massive continuity errors or problems for when they get edited up by series producer Jenny. If you can imagine printing a tall tower some takes, and doing 2 takes of the piece and trying to weave the best parts of each together. With my ad hoc non scripted presentation it would mean the tower would keep changing height. We also did not want to keep stopping and starting the reprap. Though it would cope it was better to just film whilst it was running.
RepRap g33k print
If you are in the UK and you want to see the show it is on the ITV player for the rest of the week.
I would love the show to be out there for a wider audience as I am really happy with what we have been doing the past few series and it feels it is getting better all the time.
If it can help and inspire just a few people back into science, or open up some creative maker talent out there then I think we are doing a good job.
It seems an age away from that first show, and my “debut” as a boffin in the luvvie world (to quote google’s boss Schmidt). Yet it was only a year ago, but over 30 shows of future tech already in the can(or memory stick)!
Roll on monday/tuesdays recordings!

It used to take a day to render a cube! CAR

I remember when….. Seriously, it used to take ages for us back last century to do anything remotely interesting with computer graphics. Ray tracing applications and hidden line removals used to take hours and hours of rendering time. Now a home console like the Xbox 360 can produce this in minutes. I know there is some “cheating” going on with lighting etc but this still amazes me. I tried creating one of the special hi rez shots of a car on the top gear text track. The general images are 1024 wide and about 0.9Mp but this is a 8Mp (3840 x 2160) image (if you look at the full sizes available you will see the monster image)
Just rendered on a home console, on my TV, sent to the web wirelessly for all to see.
Forza Hi Rez f430
The trajectory is clearly going the right direction for more tools to allow us to create better and better images and merge photo realistic and also interesting non photo realistic art styles into a cohesive digital view of the the world.
Cohesive Augmented Reality? CAR – that’s a convenient name πŸ™‚

Arduino (not just for adults you know!)

I was really pleased to get to take my own personal Arduino board (that I bought form Sparkfun) along for this weeks futuretech slot on The Cool Stuff Collective. Being able to get kids, or anyone for that matter, interested in the fact that electronics and programming has never been more accessible with so many open source projects was really dear to my heart.
We actually filmed a lot more for the piece but I think the version we have in the show gets the point across. My willing volunteer had not done any electronics of programming before.
I showed the simple LED on off circuit as that was the least fiddly to build in front of the cameras, and would happily work in a few takes. I then patched in a version on another breadboard that had 2 LEDs so we can show that you can make your own toys, in this case a fire engine.
Hotel room arduino building
The other pieces with servos, sounds etc would actually fill a much longer programme. You could see that the Arduino, along with raspberry PI could fill a gap in make and do software and engineering that could help lift our general tech education in the country and help people realise that open source is a force for good that anyone can contribute too.
I built the circuits in the hotel room the day before the shoot. It looks suspicious to have all these wires and pliers nowadays!
If you are in the UK (Not sure it will work outside) the ITV player has this show for the next week until we have some even more cooler stuff on next weeks show.
It was also good on this show I got to be Stunf Fish as The Blowfish said he couldn’t ride a bike for gadget heaven and hell and we had an electric A2B bike to review. That was a fun, and surprisingly fast electric bike. I think I need to get some sort of electric vehicle!
Oh, and there was a double custard piefest as 2 of the 3 toys were voted Pants not Chilly hot on the cool stuff wall of fame. (Rubs hands with glee as the vengeful Supergeek!)
You have got to love kids TV!

Gaming CAVE – Omnidirectional Treadmills.

The guys over at the Gadget Show look like they have put some great tech together here with a Battlefield3 CAVE with position sensing gun and an omnidirectional treadmill.

There have been a few of these doing the rounds, quite often in the virtual world space. Of course hooking up to an high end, very popular commercial game is one of those things that elevates the tech to commercial interest.
Ways to move in space without moving are really the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle of interaction. If we move out bodies, as we do with kinect, we are still restricted by the fixed screen. Or we have to wear headset screens in which case we can move around and be sensed moving by are restricted by the physical space around us.
So unless everyone learns the mime walking against the wind gesture we need something a bit more fancy to allow us to walk naturally.
It looks like this setup has some other haptic feedback, probably with the compressed air bullet hit jacket.*Correction as pointed out by Uncommon below, its actually rigged to fire paintballs as the player for haptic feedback. It looks very cool and exciting!.

Forza 4 – Cool Stuff Ride

Forza 4 has hit the shelves, and quickly after that hit the DVD tray of my Xbox 360. I have always been a fan of the series and once again they have no disappointed. I really need to get a good force feedback wheel to enjoy this now. However they are a little pricey, or in short supply.
Each year when Forza comes out I have been painting logos on them. What is interesting from a branding point of view this year is that I have a few other things to put on that I have an affinity to. So I created this paint job for a Sierra Cosworth. Feeding Edge it on there right at the back, the epredator wii mii inspire face on the rear arches. However now I also have a good few TV slots on The Cool Stuff Collective that I feel the car needs to show, hence the g33k (from my tshirt) and an attempt at the shows logo.
cool stuff g33k mobile
It’s a few hours messing around as the way forza works is with stencil primitives, in many ways like Second Life pre mesh. The primitives and the mathematical twisting of them allows for easy distribution so that that when I race online or sell this car online people will get the design downloaded to them.
We can’t just upload pictures, you have to craft the result. (I am a tech g33k not a graphic designer though!)
***update now with video too

The Cube, the Fast and the Clever

I have been looking at a lot of robot advances and various clever kits. Some inspired by nature, some just plain brute force servo controlled kits.
This however is something that is uncannily amazing. It is a Rubik’s Cube solver robot. Solving a cube is relatively straight forward as a maths puzzle. This however has to visually examine the cube and then solve it and manipulate the answer

The Cubestormer II is, as you can see, using LEGO (four MINDSTORMS NXT kits) a Samsung Galaxy S II smartphone is running the app to analyse and trigger off the solving. i.e. easily accessible technology combined in a very clever way.

Back to the screens with real/virtual crossover and pie

The first show of Series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective just aired (it will run all week πŸ™‚ ) and there are a lot of changes.
We are now filming live in schools with an audience. This is great as the show if for kids we get to hear and see if they really do like what we do. (Good news on that front so far!). We have changed from a comedy character and sketch basis to a live interaction vibe. This has some interesting challenges as the production team have to create a TV recording setup in situ. Which is no mean feat. Lighting and sound are no longer a known quantity as in a TV studio.

Portable Studio
Rehearsing Cool News
We also have two new front of house presenters. Vicky Letch and The Blowfish, who add to the live dynamic with their interactions with one another and the audience.
TheBlowfish and Vicky Day 1 filming
I still turn up to do future tech and this week I showed Vicky the Skylanders game and hardware. I have blogged about this before. What I wanted to show, and hopefully there will be some more like this, is the interaction between real and virtual environments.
Skylanders has physical toys with NFC chips in. When you select an actual toy it in turn selects that character in game. An important thing is that the toy also acts as the memory card for that characters levelling up. Data flows form the game to the toy. If you take that character collectible and take it to another persons house to play the game you are carrying your progress with you.
I love the mixed mode real/virtual concept and I had wanted a similar real to virtual product in the mix of the piece, but sometimes trying to show future developments seems to bump into regional marketing PR madness. Something may be out in one country, even all over the web, but the physical thing can’t be shown in another country for reasons best known only to themselves πŸ™‚

One of the extra bit I end up having to do is strop off at the end of my enthusing about future tech when Vicky asks a complicated question about a field that I am not part of. This is nearly acting πŸ™‚ I try and keep a sulky face on

My other (favourite) part is when, during the voting of chillies hot or pants not, when the crowd vote on a toy brought in by one of the kids, and a verdict of pants is reached there is a call out to super geek. I get to enter (stage right darlings) with a white lab coat and some safety goggles to custard pie the unlucky volunteer. This is the sort of saturday morning I grew up with watching Tiswas! Another ambition ticked off the list then πŸ™‚

The team at Archie Productions (check out the end titles of the show for all the names) do a brilliant job making this show and it’s great working with them. We have filmed 4 so far and have another 8 to go πŸ™‚

The Cool Stuff Collective returns this Saturday 15th October ITV1

It is that time again. Series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective is hitting the screens here in the UK on Saturday 15th October. Its in ITV1 at 7:35 (or ITV+1) at 8:35 and then repeated Sunday 7:25 and on CITV too.

It looks like its early because of the Rugby world cup and the listings seem to show the second programme the week after is at 8am.
There are quite a few changes, which I wont destroy the surprise and nothing is certain until it actually airs.
We are off recording 3&4 this week too, complete with Wednesday rehearsals.
It all seemed to go really well, and I certainly have some cool things to talk about too.
I suspect the website will still be region locked, but that’s out of my hands.
I will be in my trailer if you need me πŸ™‚

Physical to Digital with LEGO – Life of George

There is a definite theme of physical toy and game interaction emerging. An interesting one that appeared recently is LEGO Life of George. This comes with a build platform for LEGO bricks and a app that is used to identify your creations through the camera, which in turn unlocks new things in the app.
The video is pretty self explanatory πŸ™‚

There is of course a website and a facebook page to like
I like the 8 bit nature of the LEGO. It reminds me of those days in the 80’s with graph paper working out sprites for the C64. The 8 bit style is certainly en vogue with Minecraft taking a similar block approach to graphics and many apps such as Tiny Tower and Game Dev Story using pixel art in the same way. It is also very Little Computer People (if you remember that πŸ™‚ )
I like that George is a software engineer. A fellow g33k but with lots of interests outside his cubicle.
The tone of the site is also self deferential as the lead paragraph indicates “I am George …and this is the game of my life. It uses an awesome LEGO Brick capture technology that turns your iPhone/iPod into a revolutionizing new experience, giving you hours of building fun with endless possibilities (marketing told me to put that in).”
This will of course be the start of a greater interaction between the physical and the virtual world. Whilst this is pattern matching and creating relations to visual tags it will not be long before we can scan in something we have built with LEGO in 3D and drop it into a virtual environment.
The lines are blurring, and that is good πŸ™‚

On the road with The Cool Stuff Collective

This week saw the start of filming series 3 of The Cool Stuff Collective. I can’t say much about it until it airs but it was very different to be on location and staying away for 2 nights at a Premier Inn with the entire crew.
The first morning of filming was a difficult choice of wardrobe. Blue or Green? πŸ˜‰
G33k prep
As resident “Super Geek” my mini sub brand marches on πŸ™‚
It was good to see John Marley (the shows creator and boss of archie productions had his game face on too)
Bring it on
I also hope I did not worry housekeeping at the hotel too much with my day before prep of an item
Hotel room arduino building
The show will air in mid October (AFAIK) and I think its a cracker of a show.
Watch this space πŸ™‚