Dreaming With The Big Boys

Design News has posted an article discussing the future of simulation systems as integrated product design and test tools (among other things); a subject that’s near and dear to me. It’s a nice article and well worth the read. From the entry:

Bevilaqua gained insight into some of Lockheed’s stickiest design issues. He learned about the advantages of shortening the turn radius of the F-35 and found ways to use software to cut the qualification times for air-to-air refueling of the F-18. He also applied his game expertise to the study of so-called “viffing” (vectoring in forward flight) on the AV-8B Harrier, thus improving the aircraft’s maneuverability.

“Sometimes, you can know the equations, but not really know the physics,” Bevilaqua notes. “That’s what the games did for us: They taught us the real physics behind the equations.”

All that from playing videogames. That’s a pretty powerful statement.

You’ll also see three letters pop-up in the article: PLM. They’ve been getting some play here over the past month or so, but I now consider “product lifecycle management” a limited way of defining the potential for this kind of software integration (I’ve already written a first draft for an entry to be posted on the SLSalon blog that deals with this – should be up within the week). I suspect a new definition for what this stuff is morphing into will eventually emerge – I don’t think of people as products.

Trimersion For 3001 AD

wrl/x3d of Trimersion googles

Via Blue’s News and Game infowire comes news of a low cost VR headset from Kopin Corporation that will be incorporated into gaming developer 3001 AD‘s Trimersion virtual reality system. The post notes that this will be the first time VR-style gaming will be available for XBox, PlayStation and PC gamers. That claim sounds a little overstated (perhaps they mean they support all three platforms), but still interesting news. From the Game infowire entry:

Trimersion brings full immersion and 360-degree head tracking to home gaming, and is the only system to deliver high-quality, cross-platform virtual reality for this market. The Kopin BDM-230K, a complete binocular video subsystem, delivers crisp, full-color, QVGA-quality (320 x 240 resolution) video with a virtual image equivalent to a 35-inch display viewed from a seven-foot distance.

World Wide Labor

Excellent article over on BusinessWeek online discussing product life-cycle management (PLM) software leader UGS. From the article:

Click an icon on any PC loaded with UGS software, and you’re ushered into a digital forum, with a three-dimensional workspace and folders of information along one side. Marketers can post ideas for new products. Engineers can design 3D prototypes. And manufacturers can lay out a new assembly line, complete with every piece of equipment necessary. Tens of thousands of people can participate on a single project from anywhere there’s a Web connection.

I noticed mention of Dassault (read more about their acquisition of ABAQUS here), but didn’t see mention of PTC which I’m aware has been into VR for a number of years and has apparently done well with their Windchill application. Have to wonder where something like Croquet fits into this secretive and proprietary world. Might it eventually be the Linux of PLM?

There’s Money In Them Thar Virtual Hills

When the real world Gross National Product per capita of a virtual world ranks right behind Russia, there’s not much surprise in this story, “They play games for 10 hours – and earn £2.80 in a ‘virtual sweatshop'”, over on the Observer Guardian.

As they say, time is money. And this perhaps is one of the best examples I’ve seen. I imagine prospectors have staked their claims in poor, low-wage countries everywhere.

Simple, User-defined, and Maddening

GameSpy has a less than stellar rep within the gaming community, but they do occasionally have articles I really enjoy. Such is the case with this article covering Peter Molyneux’s talk during the GDC’s new “Vision Track” lecture series. His discussion on Simplicity resonated with the designer in me, and there are a few interface designers out there who could learn a few things from him. But for shear fun, it’s the last portion of the article that gets the juices going. It’s Molyneaux’s “The Room” experiment that really begins to capture some of what I think will crack open cyberspace to the average person (or drive them crazy).
For years I’ve been puzzled by the hiring of architects to design virtual worlds, when I’ve always thought it should be just the opposite: virtual designers should be people who know nothing about real world constraints – children for example. “The Room” may seem unresolved to us adults; a virtual place with little or no purpose beyond defying the real world’s laws of…well… reality. But then we don’t turn cardboard boxes into juggernaut tanks to do battle on uncut lawns. Or sit for hours watching ants disappear into their little holes in the ground, imagining what it must be like to step into their labyrinthian world. Well, not anymore. I’d be more than happy to have someone create something that helps bring some of that wonder back. We could all use a bit of that in this world.