Sleeping on the job

The current episode of The Cool Stuff Collective ran on Monday (repeats on Friday Sat and Sunday on CITV). The show is really getting into its stride. I was a bit unsure of my Lego Universe piece as we did several takes, yet with awesome editing it came across pretty well I think. All the other slots in the show rocked. I love the bananas dropping on Sy’s head when monkey pulls the rope gag.
Lego Universe G33k style
This was also the one where Elvis, Monkey and I had to be sleeping on the job after Sy’s intro about the team never resting. To say it was hot under that duvet is an understatement and for Monkey it was like the surface of the sun. Still we suffer for our art 🙂
Elvis, me and Monkey
It was very cool to be able to introduce Lego Universe as it really is a great MMO from what I have seen in the beta. The predlets loved it too so you can’t say more than that really can you! I am looking forward to programming my blocks in my own space very soon.
If I ever need to really write a CV ever again i am wondering how I place this whole experience. However in the book of the journey from the backroom to this odd entrepreneurial place with all the twist and turns that occured via virtual worlds I think it fits nicely in context?

Scanning a monkey

Episode 4 of The Cool Stuff Collective aired tonight. It is the best so far. It is one where I get to act too 🙂 Monkey has invented a time machine and I am helping him at the start. Its a speaking role too 🙂 I know that sounds odd but all the other things I do are me being me, so it was great fun to have done some of the other bits in the show that everyone else gets roped into to do too.
In the Future tech section this show we use the NextEngine 3d scanner as the main prop. We were actually scanning the fairy but as the intention was to explain the principle rather that spend time making a perfect model (which the scanner is more than capable of doing) we did not do too much spinning around of the fairy on screen. I had been practicing with how the scanner worked at home, as I really like to feel how things work through doing. It makes it much easier and more genuine to talk about it then.
3d scanning
As part of the end gag of the show I had taken the first scan I did (of predlet 2.0’s own monkey) and constructed a toilet like set of prims next to it in blender in windows on bootcamp on my Mac. i.e. a combination that I was not really used to.
This has meant that my coder art actually fits in it shows that you can just build anything and scan anything.
3d Scanning
I never claim to be a graphic designer. I love the tools of that trade and the results of good design. Still it works on the show 🙂
Loved this show, and I must get back to helping monkey with his time machine/cardboard box covered in foil and wire

Multitasking and g33king with AR Drone

Tonight The Cool Stuff Collective episode 3 aired. Recording shows 3 and 4 was the second time in the studio and everyone seemed much more relaxed. This was just as well as I had a Parrot AR Drone copter to fly around the studio and hassle Sy with it.
Parrot AR drone
I had not really considered the extra pressure of flying in a confined space, keeping the Drone somewhere near where it needed to be and chatting with Sy remembering the key bits of script. The trouble is the thing is so much fun to fly and the show is so mad it does make that all very possible.
Video feeds from the iphone are not possible, though there are some Linux hacks to do it. However and the great @andypiper had both let me practice with his AR drone and telling me how to do a screen cap of an iphone which all gave the team at Archie Productions more cool stuff to edit in.
Now there would have been a time when I would have just gone and bought and AR drone but if I go around buying everything that turns up on the show my fledgling entrepreneurship would end up in bankruptcy.
I totted up the other day just in the 4 we have recorded to far the gadgets I have borrowed add up to about £16,000. Though having said that it is amazing that the tech we have is getting to be so accessible to those with good disposable income.
I really enjoyed, as I tweeted when i saw it in the edit, that I got to say Linux on a kids TV programme. Thats mainstream g33k 🙂
The predlets liked the show too. Monkey of course gets lots of laughs in out house. The banana delivery gag got quite a roar in the house too 🙂
It was great watching Janice and Victoria, the pop crash grannies wing it with Sy. Watching their characters develop and hearing the ladies banter before the shoot and work out some things to say, then just winging it and confusing Sy at the same time was brilliant. As a pro stand up he is well used to that sort of thing though 🙂
Friday is another recording day, and I hope it runs smoothly, with a hint of panic too.
I really hope the website gets sorted soon and that the footage makes it to an online form 🙂

Cool Stuff Haptics

Last night show number 2 of The Cool Stuff Collective aired.
Haptic falcon
This was actually the first bit that I ended up recording dues to the magic of television we shot Haptics first then 3d printers.
The predlets watched this with me this time and loved the whole show. Predlet 1.0 in particular like the popcrash grannies. Predlet 2.0 just found it hilarious I was explaining the Falcon device that he has had a go on and could see our one in the room with us whilst it was also on TV.
Predlet 2.0 also found it funny with Sy as the Vicar and they send a toy to toy heaven that it was the Robo Sapien that I also have one.
One of Predlet 1.0’s school friends saw me on the school run and shouted “I saw you on TV” which I think meant he liked the show 🙂
Tomorrow I am presenting at a venue on the future of the workplace in 2020. It struck me that an obvious lead in to the people I am talking to is that on the show we have shown things that are just coming to affordability and fruition. The 7-12 year old audience will be 17-22 in 2020. So I think I will be using that fact more from now on.

Practicing 3d Scanning

I have borrowed a NextEngine 3d scanner for the Cool Stuff Collective shoot on friday. It belongs to a professional movie animator and puppeteer Craig Crane who lives very near to here. It was amazing to see all his home setup kit and hear about the work he does with larger scanners scanning in entire film set locations and them meshing them up for CGI special effects. He has a personal project too here.
The scanner software is windows only and it seemed safer to bootcamp my Mac Book Pro just to make sure I got the performance. I have VMware and Parallels, bit good but when hardware and intensive gfx are needed direct windows seems better.
The scanner comes with a motor driven turn table. You place the item on that a fixed distance away from the scanner and tell it how many frames to do min is 4. It then scans away, passing the lasers over the item
Scanning a 3d print
As you can see I tried a few things
It is also very clever in the fact it generally stitches all these meshes together, allows you to trim and polish the mesh. If there are some things it could not see like the top of a head you simply turn the object 90 degrees and ask it to scan again then align that mesh to fill in the gap. I did not do too much of that as I need to do a basic scan to show the principle. The tidying and improving that a talented designer with a keen eye does not drop into my coder art remit 🙂
The models are very detailed even on the low res scan. I had some success with the texturing too. It takes 2d photos and then maps them on the object.
A very impressive piece of kit, I am not sure I can justify buying it for myself, though with the new mesh support arriving in Second Life and the ability to drop these meshes into Unity3d (with a bit of decimation first) it would be a very useful tool.

On TV – Embarrassing and exciting in equal measure

The first programme in the Cool Stuff Collective series aired last night at 5pm. It was really interesting to see how it all looked edited together and themed as I had only seen bits and pieces of the studio elements getting created. I have to say I felt more nervous than usual as unlike live performances at conferences there is no adjusting or steering of the piece. Its done, recorded and locked away. Odd though it might seem live seems easier as you are in the right frame of mind.
When we got to future tech and my piece with Sy it felt a little like the drop on a roller coaster.
There were so many other things we could have said or put in the piece but it was the right length and pace for the show so I am really happy with it.
You may not have noticed but an old friend was in the shot with me. My Fabjectory statue from Second Life in 2006 wearing the striped leather jacket was right by me for luck.
Cool stuff collective
We had some great pieces to show. Many of the ones from the VFlash printer were incredibly detailed, the other prints were on screen too from MCOR, Shapeways and London College of Fashion.
3d print examples
The line in the show about printing a house or building was not totally far fetched. The studio would not have been big enough to get one of these printers in from D-Shape
It was also cool that was available with the live stream for everyone. Just in case you missed the show or want to see it again it is repeated fri 5:30pm Sat 4:30pm Sun 11:30 am on CITV. The next show airs next monday 5:00pm.
Everyone at Archie productions were so friendly and welcoming that doing this was a real pleasure. It was amazing to see how much Sy Thomas had to do all day too. I don’t think I saw him take a rest all day. He was constantly in the studio trying different takes of reaction shots and the script was being adjusted all the time too. I did not envy him having to present, act, listen to his earpiece an deal with the autocue as well as having a tv n00b like me turn up with weird stuff to talk about.
Just to answer a few questions though.
1. No I was not the monkey, both Matt’s from Archie had that pleasure.
2. No I don’t have an agent.
3. Yes I am available for other tv shows, hollywood films, documentaries 🙂
4. Yes I will stop going on about this one day.
5. Yes I guess I get to keep my Minor Celebrity status after all.

Pushing the envelope – Literally

After recording the Cool Stuff Collective second episode using the Haptic 3d device it made sense to get one and see what the predlets, and maybe their school, could do with one. Whilst the haptic show does not air until 20th September I thought it was worth sharing some initial impressions of ownership. Basically it awesome !
The entire package is called Chameleon 3d from A1 Technologies. A1 Technologies are the UK distributor of both the Novint Falcon (The haptic device) and the Anarkik3d Cloud 9 modelling package
The Falcon has a self contained set of mini games and tutorial demos. Although windows drivers tend to be a bit of a pain if you follow the right instructions it dos just work first time. The initial demo lets you feel a number of textures and forces rough, smooth, magnetic, rubber, honey etc. It makes for a very impressive feel for the potential.
Whilst I did spark up the haptic patch for Half Life 2 I was more interested in the creative modelling of Cloud 9 for the moment (more on virtual world and game navigation in another post)
Falcon Haptic and older tech
Here is the Falcon nestled with some much older tech gadgets.
The Falcon is quite a large device but sits on a nice sturdy base. It needs some weight to be able to offer resistance and not zoom across the desk. The footprint is about the same as the old microsoft sidewinder force feedback sticks I used to have for Combat Flight Sim.
On Cloud9 I dived straight in and in time honoured tradition “it all started with a cube”.
I pushed, prodded and deformed the cube both from the outside and from the inside too.
The video shows the resulting modified cube, then it published to Unity3d as an OBJ file. Finally it shows predlet 1.0 having a go. It really is very intuitive and very compelling to model with. I have a few ideas of things I want to try but like any modelling tool that also needs some inspiration and talent. As the creation can be exported as OBJ (or STL if you want to 3d print them) then can of course be put into other 3d packages to have extra effects applied.

Now when are Second Life going to sort out meshes 😉 I can generate some very organic structures then even as a techie.
If you want to see the actual unity3d spin around it is here I published it from the free windows version as my Mac paid for version is on the version 3 beta and so cant publish to the web yet.
BTW it was using this that predlet 1.0 uttered the immortal words “Dad, I love you job its way cool” 🙂

Parrot AR Drone pays a visit – in the name of research

@andypiper has just come back from a long work trip, on his way back at one of the lay overs he invested in a Parrot AR quadricopter (@ardrone). I was most honoured that he offered to bring it around Feeding Edge HQ so I could have a look and a play with it. This would be cool at any time but was very timely as I needed to get the feel of it as it is likely to be an item on the Cool Stuff Collective.
Andy shot, edited up and posted this video last night of the AR Drone zooming around the garden. What is amazing is that it really was very windy. (He has left out the minor crashes we both managed to make in to the swing, the apple tree and the bush at the back 🙂
It does a load of things that are really very clever. The front and down facing cameras are very neat, in particular as it is self stabilises giving you time to look at the video stream on your iphone (which is also the controller for the copter). The ultrasound sensors on the under tray help keep the copter stations over the ground at the height you set. As out garden has an odd slope in it it was cool to fly the drone at the tier and see it lift itself up as it flys the contour!

Andy was very brave in getting pretty close to the Drone at the end of this film. Whilst it copes with the odd gust of wind it can still slew a little outside, but I think the against the sky shot he got is awesome.
I think we should have no problems zooming this around a nice still TV studio.
Other cool things that I did not realise about the drone is that it generates its own ad hoc wireless network, has an embedded linux on board and you can telnet to it ! It can also seek an AR tag to land on and detect other Parrot AR drones.
You can screenshot the iphone app interface, and soon be able to stream the video.
Parrot AR Drone
It is very very cool indeed. Thanks Andy !

A day at the TV Studio – Cool Stuff Collective

Yesterday I headed up to Camden to the MTV studios bright and early for the filming of the studio parts of episodes 1 and 2 of the Cool Stuff Collective. It was a very interesting and cool experience though being the first 2 shows there was a certain amount of chaos. Archie Productions and the team obviously do lots of work in the industry but piling into the studio is really like starting from fresh again.
It was great to meet Sy Thomas the main presenter, though I got to see him work first from the production desk which is one of the most button laden gadgets you will ever see. It’s like the bridge of the enterprise.
Producer Matt was dashing around doing all sorts of things the level of energy for the whole day that the team had was amazing.
Whilst waiting for my big moment I was in the MTV canteen with the guys from Print-It 3d, Ian and Mike and Anne Marie from Anarkik Angels.
Printit-3d are based in Wales and Anarkik Angels in Edinburgh so everyone had made quite a trek.
Printit-3d had brought along the VFlash Desktop Modeler from 3d Systems they are the authorized suppliers of that and of the new Pro Jet 3d pinter.
The VFlash is amazing in that it is only £10,000 but produces amazingly detailed and complex models. The guys had so many samples that they opened up on the table we drew quite a crowd form lots of other people milling around at MTV.
The system uses liquid plastic but also wax which allows it to print complex moving pars, gears and cogs. The Pro Jet printers much more expensive but the precision and edges it produces on devices feels like machined metal. I have talked about and seen lots of things in 3d printing but I was blown away with how good this stuff has got.
Print-It 3d/3d Systems samples
The Pro Jet sample that got my attention was two plates that were bolted together in four corners, when undo the bottom plates were two blocks that slid together on rails. All of that got printed in one go.
In the picture above you can also see a complete plate of prints in the tope left the build platform on the VFlash is about the size of a small laptop. The guys had a sample of an entire chess set printed in one go. Each chess piece wwas very intricate with hollow areas in the rooks with small spiral twisting staircases inside them.
Whilst I was waiting and checking the script to fill the time and calm any nerves I decided to rehearse the flow in Opensim.
Cool stuff collective script
The flow of the piece went from showing a regular printer on the left, then an intricate chess piece, then the printer, followed by the description of the transition from computer model to printer. The layered planes toward the right of hte picture are for the description of the process. Then a table full of samples. The brick wall was to mention printing houses and finally the big sphere is saying how this changes the world.
A little abstract modelling but as this worked for my other presentation flows it was good to give it a go 🙂
Anne Marie had brought the Falcon Haptic device and AnarkikAngels brilliant Cloud 9 modelling package. Everyone who creates a sphere or block in this and then pushes on it with the force feedback device gets an astounded look on their face. Andy Piper captured some of this back in 2009 when Anne Marie visited Hursley.

At some point in the afternoon I was called into the studio, the Haptic device was up first, which was interesting as I was more mentally prepared for the 3d printer but it made sense to go that way around.
Part of the programme is that Sy Thomas is the disbelieving, confused one across it all. He is the main draw for the show and it was great that he was so cool about me just turning up. I felt pretty much at home, though some uncharacteristic nerves meant I managed to fluff my first line. Sy had a few goes at some of his first as whilst scripted the proof of it is when its done for real so it is adjusted.
This was also a live demo, in I that the plan was not for me to drive the device by for him to do it. That worked brilliantly as he just got on with it and then described the wow experience that we all get using it for the first time. Whilst he can and does act in this case this was the same genuine wow which I thought was very cool indeed.
It was then a quick tshirt change and the 3d printer and all the samples and prints were wheeled in.
Tv t shirt
The Tshirt was one I threw together on cafe press as an example, the production team then went ant got a stack of them made up in different colours. So g33k will be replacing my stripey leather jacket in personal branding stakes if this all works out 🙂 Several people in the foyer at MTV asked what G33K was 🙂 which I guess was the point.
Whilst doing the tshirt change and heading back into the studio I practically bumped into Brandon Flowers who that had said was recording next door. How rock and roll it that ! Years of Wimbledon star spotting though I was nonchalant 🙂
The 3d printer item went pretty well. The VFlash was going to be opened to reveal the chess set but the second take we did of the item seemed to be flowing so well that opening the cupboard door felt like it did not fit.
I hung around after that was a wrap and ended up in the tail item for one of the shows too. I wont spoil the suprise.
Hopefully my little 3 min set called Ian’s world in cool stuff collective will work in the edits on Monday as they programme is put together. In two weeks time we do it all again, but it will be much easier.
Hopefully some of the devices that we are chasing will be a bit more forthcoming once the Cool Stuff Collective airs on 5:00pm Monday 13th September on CITV Sky 621 Freeview 72 Virgin 734 Tiscali 307
You can see the trailer here with Sy doing his thing.