Being based in Silicon Valley, I’m fortunate to have Maker Faire Bay Area practically right in my back yard. Maker Faire describes itself as an “all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors.” Being new to the Bay Area, this was my first expedition to the Faire, and their description seemed spot-on. There was an eclectic assortment of art, robots, music, electricity, corn dogs, drones, people blocking aisles, 3D printers, performances, beer, technology, and excitement.
Silicon Valley VR
My first stop was at the Silicon Valley VR booth in the “dark room”.
SVVR has seen tremendous growth since its founding one year ago, and in an effort to promote virtual reality and the SVVR expo, the group set up a booth and offered free plays of some of the latest Rift demos. Road to VR’s own Cymatic Bruce was even on site to assist.
Technical Illusions and CastAR
Technical Illusions, who you may recall debuted their CastAR augmented reality system at Maker Faire last year, used this years event to show off their latest wares. As Paul covered here just yesterday, Technical Illusions unveiled a new CastAR prototype here at Maker Faire this year, though it was not being used for demos. Lines to try CastAR were long the duration of the time I was at the show.
Founders Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson were on-site talking with fans and backers. I also had the opportunity to spend a little time with Ryan Smith, Technical Illusions’ Lead 3D Artist, who demoed a visualization method devised in the office earlier in the week. The team have constructed a box covered with CastAR’s retro-reflective material but have drilled many tiny holes in the material which allows the user to see through to the presentation pedestal behind.
Ryan demonstrated the system in action – wearing CastAR glasses and utilising proprietary software the user is able to see their 3D model as a holographic projection hovering within the box, tracked in 3D space. This then allows the modeller to move around the view of the model and also reach into the box and visualise the model against their hand. It’s a cool idea and one of many non-gaming applications the Technical Illusions team are investigating.
“Who?” I can hear you saying. Their marketing person Danny emailed Road to VR a few days before the show, saying Fuel3D was offering free 3D face scans to Maker Faire attendees, so clearly I wasn’t going to miss it. And while I passed on having my own face scanned (mainly due to my scruffy appearance from not shaving for a few days), I stuck around for a bit and watched a few other people.
The device itself resembles a wireless steering wheel and is fairly light. Three cameras off-set from each other photograph the subject’s face, and then stitching software combines the photos into a single image. While Fuel3D was mainly demonstrating facial modeling, the technology can also be used to model objects. I’m being purposely brief here; the company and technology are worth a deeper dive in the near future.
As a reminder, it’s about to get busy here on Road to VR as the SVVR Conference and Expo starts tomorrow morning at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. We will have — count ’em — four people there covering all the events: Ben Lang, Cymatic Bruce, Reverend Kyle, and myself. Prepare your bodies and mind for VR overload.