The Accomplice

Hijacked data in CAD

Some of my entries are going to seem like they just don’t belong here. I realize that. I post entries on applied art, virtual reality, and rapid prototyping technology, and a fair number of you probably don’t see how I connect those things; especially if you’re only looking at a particular type of entry (e.g. “meatspace”).

I like to think of it as a kind of spiderweb-in-progress. I see these strands between disciplines, the increasingly dense interactions we all have on almost every level both real and abstract, and read things that seem to confirm I’m not entirely off-base. One such thing I’ve read is Seth Godin’s (Idea Virus) blog entry for today. From his entry:

That’s what marketers do. We have the “placebo affect.” (* The knack for creating placebos.) Of course, we need to persuade ourselves that it’s morally and ethically and financially okay to participate in something as unmeasurable as the placebo effect. The effect is controversial and it goes largely unspoken. Very rarely do we come to meetings and say, “well, here’s our cool new PBX for Fortune 1000 companies. It’s exactly the same as the last model, except the phones are designed by frog design so they’re cooler and more approachable and people are more likely to invest a few minutes in learning how to use them, so customer satisfaction will go up and we’ll sell more, even though it’s precisely the same technology we were selling yesterday.”

His comment brings to mind an interview with architect Peter Eisenman (you know, the guy who did that Berlin museum thing the press was talking about not long ago). I’m referring to this part (punctuation corrected):

Archinect: I just mean making it pretty as opposed to ugly.
Eisenman: I don’t know if I would say it’s “pretty”.
Archinect: I liked it, and I don’t mean “pretty” as an insult.
Eisenman: OK. Let’s say, making it something that people take notice of, that causes them to say, I like it or I don’t like it.
Archinect: That improves the built environment.
Eisenman: Yes. OK.

Any trip over to the Core77 design forums will likely yield some ongoing flame war over terms like “pretty” and “styling” and “design” that’s not too dissimilar to the above exchange. Designers are very conscious of this “placebo affect“. We are – to use his term – accomplices.

But now allow me to connect this back to a recent entry I made called “Selling the Experience“:

Friend: Can you imagine that? Someone paid like a $100 for this sword-thing and it’s not even real! It’s nothing. Make believe. It only exists in the game.
Me: You need to think about it differently.
Friend: But it doesn’t make any sense. They’re buying nothing!
Me: What do you buy when you get tickets to a baseball game? Or a concert?

The metaverse is – to borrow Mr. Godin’s term – a “storyteller’s” world (and that’s not just for Marketing, but for anyone… especially Content Creators). I’ve certainly pushed that side of it because of disconnects like my friendly exchange above. Average consumers (the one Mr. Godin is saying Marketing lies to) have been so effectively “placebo-ized”, they can’t tell what they’re buying anymore! To me, consumer behavior is more like an addiction, and too many of them are working and spending in something akin to a kind of lab-rat-on-speed experiment gone awry. Heaven forbid we should tell them what I’m going to say next.

The metaverse is not just an ethereal “storyteller’s” world. It’s a world comprised of data. Just look at the reasons Marketing people are salivating over it. The tracking data is orders of magnitude better than trying to count eyeballs watching a television screen. And in a 3D interface (which is what those videogames really are), that data goes well beyond just “hits” or “click-throughs”- it’s comprised of “vectors” and “3D positional data”. And here’s the important part: that data can be converted into more than just marketing statistics. It can be converted into real product; something you can hold… in the flesh. The Story made Real.

The image above is a screen capture from Pro/ENGINEER CAD, perhaps the most widely used product development 3D application for design and manufacturing. That object is a piece of a virtual game object “captured” from id’s Quake 3 videogame (the barrel of a Rocket Launcher). It was not created in my CAD application. It was not ripped from the game files. I “hijacked” the data streaming to my monitor using a freely available tool. And now, if I desired, I could manipulate the data and create a real product.

Imagine now that I’m in the Long Tail, with a home fabrication unit and an eBay store. Things start to get really interesting, don’t they?

Seth Godin talks about having an accomplice. I wonder if he realizes just how far that extends. I also hope that in this brave new world, the word “partner” becomes more appropriate than “accomplice”.

From A Wooden Apple To…

a useless old computer that started a billion dollar company

Since this is a new blog, I’ve been watching the traffic – mostly in the laughably vain concern that I might begin to approach my throughput limitation (hey, it’s my fantasy, alright) – and this morning discovered a rather interesting visitor had stopped in.

Now before I continue, I should preface this by saying I first read a slew of emails, all RepRap related. Included in one such group email was the confirmation that ABS cylindrical stocks are available and have melt points (~110 C) that make it possible to use this material in that experimental, 4-day-in-the-making, Vik Olliver Meccano effort about which I posted earlier. Having been in the manufacturing side of plastics for years, I can assure you ABS is highly regarded (too often I’ve had to make due with lesser plastics like SAN).

Hence my amusement at a mention by none other than Bruce Sterling on his Wired blog. And while I have nothing to do with the item in question, I do now perhaps have a better understanding of Mr. Sterling – even though I understand the post is intended to poke some fun. Well. Kinda. See, it took four years studying ID before I began to shed my aerospace engineering “blinders” (hey, I got through orbital mechanics mathematics and their painful derivations, but it didn’t make me inventive), and he’s only been at ACCD a few months, I believe. Furthermore, if I recall correctly, he won’t be there much longer. A shame. Hanging around a bunch of students who aren’t polarized into a way of thinking can be liberating… in ways that hanging around experts isn’t. I recall one student in 1992 (now a design firm principal, I believe) having the audacity to suggest handheld cellphone-like devices in ten years! That idiot! If only he’d listened to the impossibility of that development from all the senior instructors and engineers.

Why respond? Maybe because it was all the comments made by people in the late 70’s. “Whut da hell ya need a ‘puter fer? Ah got me a 350 Chevy.” I recall those kinds of comments. I just didn’t expect Bruce Sterling to be the one to pull them from my memory. What a great reminder of how things are. And how I expect them to continue to be, especially in regards to virtual worlds. I was just having this conversation last night with Jerry… in world….

(note: the above image from 8-Bit Nirvana)

RepRap v.2

{Note: 17 Feb, 2010 – for Boing Boing visitors who apparently read an entry today on 3D printing of ceramic material, it’s actually not a new development. In fact, Ceramics Monthly did a whole issue on the topic of 3D printing ceramics a year ago (Link).

Bowling Green researchers Sebastien Dion and John Balistreri were, to my knowledge, the first people to 3D print ceramic materials back in 2006 (Link); using a modified ZCorp printer, if I’m not mistaken. I think I posted something here about it – or maybe I just saved the link to my account – but yesterday’s headline on Boing Boing, “3D printing comes to ceramics”, is very misleading. Bruce Sterling more accurately reports “A RepRap printing in clay” (Link), which is probably a first for that particular effort. Some one should tell Doctorow to post better headlines.}

{Note: 1 Sep, 2008 – for the Sterling readers surfing through from Instructables, you’re almost certainly going to find these of interest: latest news on house “printing” and a ZBrush forum thread showing/explaining someone’s custom jewelry operation (both by way of my Twitter account, where I now post quick news bits; this blog is now for deeper discussion on such topics.)}

{Note: Oct 24, 2006 – for all the Make: visitors, you might want to do a search here on “reprap“. There’s more going on that just this thing. Cheers.}

In memory of the original “RepRap” entry lost in the Spam War earlier, I present a small update. Vik Olliver has submitted images of his device pictured here.


From his Listserv entries:

I’ve constructed a prototype turntable from Meccano that automatically lowers itself up to 60mm, currently at 0.75mm per revolution though this can be changed. This is intended for use in experiments in continuously
extruding recycled HDPE…

Recent fabrications include a 18mm high 19mm diameter cylinder with 0.85mm walls, and a 13mm high 43mm diameter cylinder with 1.75mm walls. Each layer is 0.25mm thick. It’s fascinating to watch in the same way as a potter is, at work on their wheel.

Maybe we can get him to post a short video clip. Industrial designers as well as all glue gun user’s the world over would probably love it. Nice.