Archive for the ‘Software Engineering’ Category

Google’s Project Tango at Cogswell College

Thursday, April 9th, 2015

Recently, a small group from Google visited Cogswell College to teach a class about and demonstrate Project Tango. What is Project Tango exactly? Project Tango is a brand new mobile device that has the ability to navigate the world, similar to us humans. It’s an Android device/platform that has spatial perception, and accomplishes this by using advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors.

One may think, “That’s all fine and cool, but what does this thing do exactly? And what practical applications can be derived from such a technology?”. To put it simply, what Tango does is continuously scan the surrounding environment as the user walks around with the hand-held device, and then it uses the data it collects to construct a 3D model of the environment. It uses motion tracking to give real time info about it’s motion through 3D space.  It also uses depth sensors for depth perception (allowing for interactions between the real world and the virtual world Tango has built/is building) and it can learn new areas intelligently. If there are any errors with the 3D model it has created, Tango can use visual cues around the space to re-render and fix trouble areas. The potential applications for such a technology includes, but isn’t limited to, new Virtual Reality or AR games and applications, video games, rapid environment generation, and more. The potential is limited only by imagination.

The Cogswell class, which is currently learning to use Unity, was tasked with testing the devices, running an application, and providing feedback as they went along. Google called it a Code Lab event, the purpose of which was to iron out and fix any bugs in the system before this year’s Google I/O conference in roughly two months. Students debugged Google’s sample instructions, tested and ran the code, and followed development environment instructions – all while under the direction of watchful and curious Google engineers. Google had previously tested these devices at nVidia, but were impressed to see that Cogswell students produced better results and provided higher quality feedback.

For the demo, students were each provided with a Tango tablet device, USB cables, a pin code to unlock the devices, and a URL in which they found further instructions. The students booted up their devices and launched a 3D mapping app which tracked their movements. As they moved around the classroom, the students got feedback through interactive mapping, cloud arrays and more. The students then returned to their workstations to continue the demo. The students went through a series of environments to get an app running in Unity, importing that app into their devices, then running that app on their devices as they moved around. Some students continued with the instructions provided to them, whilst others conversed with the Google engineers.

The success rate of the tests and demos was 100%, much better than other tests that Google had done before. Whenever any of the students would get stuck, they would first work together for a solution, using the Google engineers as a last resort. Working together led all students to success. As the class progressed, the Code Lab event slowly turned into a seminar where students brainstormed potential applications for the technology.  Ideas included a music application for better microphone location/tracking within a room and an app capable of creating 3D sound environments.

All in all, it was a successful demo and everyone walked away with new knowledge – and an amazing experience!

Based on notes from John Duhring’s experience
with additional content and editing by Juan Rubio

Pixar’s Renderman now available for free!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015

Image from cganimationblog.com

For those not already aware of it, Pixar’s Renderman is now available for free for non-commercial use! What is Renderman, you ask? Renderman is a rendering plug-in that Pixar developed for use with 3D animation and modeling programs. It’s an alternative rendering method to the default options already available in programs such as Maya. As previously mentioned, use of the software is 100% free, with no limitations, feature cuts, or even watermarks to worry about. As long as whatever you produce with it is not for profit, anything is free game.

The latest version of the software, version 19, brings multiple improvements to the fray. One of which is a brand new rendering paradigm Pixar calls RIS. RIS is a highly optimized mode for rendering global illumination. It’s made specifically for ray tracing scenes with heavy geometry, hair, volumes, and radiance – with incredible efficiency in one pass. What does this all mean? Renderman can render your objects and scenes much quicker and more efficiently than many other options currently available today. In fact, it’s currently the most flexible and powerful option for VFX and cinematic imagery available to the public. More information and technical details can be found at the following link: http://rendermansite.pixar.com/view/latest-tech

I highly recommend that anyone interested in 3D animation, VFX, or 3D modeling check this out. It’s not often that the public gains free access to internally developed software from professional studios, much less a fully featured and limitless version of that same software. Pixar offers multiple tutorial videos to those new to Renderman, so users can get to know the workflow and learn to use it to its full potential. The plug-in is currently compatible with Autodesk Maya versions 2013.5, 2014, and 2015 as well as The Foundry’s Katana versions 1.5, 1.6, and 2.0. Support for Houdini and Cinema 4D is currently underway. Potentially compatible programs in the future include Modo, 3DS Max, Blender and more.

Download Renderman at the following link: http://renderman.pixar.com/view/non-commercial-renderman

Juan Rubio

Monolith, the future of 3D

Friday, February 13th, 2015

Image sourced from: http://www.3ders.org/images2014/new-voxel-modelling-software-monolith-6.jpg


In an industry where the standard is influenced by the goliath Autodesk, Two Developers hope to impress with their creation. Panagiotis Michalatos and Andrew Payne have coded a modeling engine that offers “A new paradigm where objects are defined as a dense representation of material properties throughout a 3D volume.” They call their creation, Monolith. Most 3D applications are ineffective when handling different spatial variations in material properties. This is because they are mostly built to deal with a surface modeling template which represents a solid object that is enclosed by a set of edges.

However, this software was created with the new type of 3D printers in mind, which are capable of multiple print heads that can deposit different types of resin within a single build. What makes Monolith truly remarkable is the way it handles voxel channels (3D Pixels). Through this program, voxel channels act as controls for lines, points, curves or even filters like gaussian blur. Overall, this will allow for an easier and more intuitive time creating 3D models as well as 3D Printing. This is definitely a program to keep an eye on in the upcoming months!

Check out videos of the software in action at: http://vimeo.com/113743660

Peter Gazallo

3D modeling on IOS

Friday, January 16th, 2015

Image from: www.morphiapp.com

A company by the name of Inventery, Inc has put out a free 3D modeling and printing app called Morphi for IOS. The app gives us the ability to manipulate 3D models with a finger on an ipad and ipad mini in hopes of mainstreaming modeling in three dimensions. The latest version supports features that include: 3D model uploading to Thingiverse, grid customization for 3D printers, the ability to turn your 2d drawings into 3d models easily, an integrated copy and paste filter so you can easily manage your clipboard, an enhanced ruler and many under the hood improvements.

See the app in action after the break:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1X1UJAHQl-Y

Peter Gazallo

Virtual Reality Sculpting

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

Screenshot taken from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnqFdSa5p7w

Have you ever thought about sculpting using Virtual Reality technology? A new app called VRClay shows us how to do just that by allowing us to create 3D sculptures in VR. Using the Oculus Rift headset and a motion controller such as the Razer Hydra, we will be able to sculpt 3D figures using motions such as push, pull, drag and buildup. While the traditional method of using computer screens would still be ideal, a VR workspace would give us the ability to walk around and inspect the physical manifestation of our work. There is still no release date for the Oculus Rift, so it looks like we will have to wait a while before we can try this app.

Peter Gazallo

3D Displays through QR Codes

Friday, November 28th, 2014

Image credit goes to Gizmag.com and The Optical Society A "lenslet" sheet is placed over a smartphone screen to show a 3D image

A team of engineers led by Bahram Javidi (Professor of Electrical Engineering) from the University of Connecticut have found a way to display 3D images by simply scanning a series of QR codes, without needing use of the internet. This is possible due to the storing of compressed and encrypted images, which can be easily scanned, decrypted, and decompressed by commercial smartphones for secure 3D visual communication. This process is done by selecting the primary image to be visualized. This could be either a single 3D object, or an entire 3D scene. The 3D image is then broken down by taking multiple 2D images of it from multiple perspectives called elemental images. Each elemental image is taken from one portion of a precisely oriented array of tiny lenses called lenslets. The lenslet then captures the scene from many slightly offset perspectives. The elemental images are then split into two essential parts: the unique perspective of the 3D scene and the corresponding intensity information. This system is still in the concept stage and not yet available for commercial use however, the researchers believe that their system can be improved to produce higher quality 3D visual images and a more secure integration with smartphone technology.

Peter Gazallo
Digital Art & Animation Student

OM3D – 3D Manipulation of 2D Photos

Friday, November 14th, 2014

When it comes to editing photographs, Photoshop reigns supreme. But what if there was a better approach to editing a photograph? What if you could take an element within a picture and have full manipulation control over everything about it? Better yet, what if you could do it for free? Researchers over at Carnegie Mellon and the University of California found a way to do just that – through the announcement of a new, free, suite of 3D manipulation software. Their software, titled OM3D, allows a user to take an object within a 2D photograph and turn it into a 3D model. That model can then be manipulated and moved around the photo however the user desires. It also allows the users to adjust the lighting and texture of an object in order to blend in with its surroundings. The software achieves this by utilizing vast libraries of stock photographs and 3D models, and compares them to the two dimensional object the user wishes to shape. It then merges the attributes from the library of stock photos with that of the 2D object to create a 3D model that is viewable from every angle. Once the model is created, the photograph can be freely edited.


Demonstration: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipTyCJi0t1Y
Download: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~om3d/code/OM3D_1_0_0_source.zip

Marketing Your Mobile App – Advice from the Federal Trade Commission

Thursday, March 6th, 2014

As mobile app developers soon discover, coming up with a great idea and then building the mobile app is only just the beginning. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – the nation’s consumer protection agency – it’s never too soon to start thinking about making sure your app is compliant with current commerce regulations.

While every app is different, there are some general guidelines that every developer should be thinking about:

  • Truthful advertising: Don’t make claims your app can’t deliver. One rule of thumb: Look at your product and your advertising from the perspective of average users, not just software engineers or app experts. If you make objective claims about your app, you need solid proof to back them up before you start selling.
  • Disclose key information clearly and conspicuously: The goal is to make sure they are big enough and clear enough that users actually notice them and understand what they say.
  • Build privacy considerations in from the start: You accomplish this by limiting the information you collect, securely storing what you hold on to and safely disposing of what you no longer need.
  • Be transparent about your data practices: Explain what information your app collects from users or their devices and what you do with their data.
  • Offer choices that are easy to find and easy to use: Give your users ways to control how their personal information is collected and shared.
  • Honor your privacy promises: Reread your privacy policy or what you say about your privacy settings. Chances are you make assurances to users about the security standards you apply or what you do with their personal information.
  • Protect kids’ privacy: You have additional requirements under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the FTC’s COPPA Rule so make sure you know what they are.
  • Collect sensitive information only with consent: Get your OK before you collect any sensitive data from them.
  • Keep user data secure: Under the law, you have to take reasonable steps to keep sensitive data secure.

The article contains some helpful links giving you access to additional information.

Get Your Fat Mobile Apps in Shape

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Some app developers may create their app for love but most also want to bring a little money into their lives as well. Dale Carr, founder and CEO of LeadBolt says with all of the changes that developers in the mobile app industry face, it may be time to get some of the lead out of your apps and make them leaner and meaner.

In this article in DevsBuildIt, he offers realistic and achievable fitness tips to help your app monetization strategy shape up to all it should be in 2014:

  • Trim the fat: Don’t overstuff your app with ads by placing banners in every conceivable place. Think of your user experience first and be more strategic about ad placement.
  • Exercise different muscles: Connecting with your user in different ways is like exercising different muscles. To achieve results and continue to convert energy consistently, switch up your routine and target more than one area. Evaluate the entire usage cycle of your app.
  • Pay attention to your vitals: Resolve to measure your app performance by paying attention to analytics. In the article he offers ideas for app analytics to help you achieve optimal results.

What app monetization ideas have worked for you?

How to Create an Effective App Demo Video

Friday, February 7th, 2014

You’ve built a great app that you are sure will have a large audience. The next question is how do you get the word out – you know, market it. Many app developer are turning to demo videos to entice potential users to check it out and from there hopefully download it.

So what are some elements that lead to a successful demo video? According to this article in DevsBuildIt by Sean Casto, CEO of Alliance member PreApps, here are a few tips:

  • Choose your tools carefully
  • Don’t shy away from creativity
  • Harness the power with a strong voice
  • Keep it to the point
  • Hook the viewers

Please share links to any great demo videos you have seen.