There is pretty much no way for me to say that the Hyperloop has anything to do with my 3D blog. I don't care. This is one of the coolest technologies going and since it will be happening in 3D space, I'm going to count that as good enough. So, what is the Hyperloop and why should we be interested in it? Read on and see why this idea is crazy enough, it just might work. This post will explore the back of the envelope business case for the hyperloop and argue that we are ready to move on to the next step in testing it's economic and practical feasibility.
There are a whole lot of professional photographers out there, somewhere in the vicinity of 140,000 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly all of them take two dimensional pictures. I believe that is going to change in the next couple of years. I am not talking about the 3D selfies that several companies are now producing. Those will have their market, but I believe there will be significant growth in the area of 3D product photography. This post will be another one of my back of the envelope business cases for this new business opportunity.
We need a simpler approach to CAD design.
First time CAD users have to learn a complicated set of actions to even begin to be able to draw an object. The problem with CAD programs is that they all seem to start from what the CAD program wants to do (draw lines and shapes like cubes and cylinders) rather than starting from the picture in the user's mind.
If you do a lot of 3D printing, you will experience continuous challenges with this approach. First, many people do not draw well. Second, most are not fluent in CAD. Third, most people don’t want to spend months becoming fluent in CAD. They do nonetheless want to be able to create objects, express their ideas visually and 3D print some of them. I believe there is a big universe of people who would like to draw / make / create, but who can't because of these challenges.
I suggest that we approach the problem by turning the system on its head, by starting with what the user has in mind. Translate the picture from their mind and their words into language that the computer and CAD program can understand and manipulate. Importantly, to speed up the process, start with a 3D object that serves as a template or jumping off point. I call that template a "digital analogue." I really like that term, which probably says a lot about me.
This product concept is one of the most challenging and fun ideas I have explored. It will require exponential progress on a number of technical fronts, but it could open up a whole new way to tell stories and to communicate ideas.
The basic idea is to turn the words of a novel (book, play or film script) into a movie using an AI system (e.g., IBM's Watson), natural language processing, automated (or accelerated) avatar generation, text to speech, and automated machinima / animation techniques.
Watson reads the book, Watson generates a movie.
I will necessarily be using some shorthand to describe this business concept, so forgive me where the explanation sounds too simplistic. It either means I don't know what I'm talking about or that I have chosen to write at a high level to accommodate the limits of a blog. You can choose as you deem appropriate.
Key Components of the Process
This post is one in a continuing series of tech-based businesses that are coming, just a question of who will get there first. Large industrial (and to some extent smaller) manufacturers share a problem with their customers – the customer needs quick, affordable access to replacement parts but does not want to have to store those parts, sometimes for decades, to ensure ready access when the need arises for critical equipment.
For example, in a heavy industrial setting, such as a large energy producer, the customer whose facility is offline may lose as much as $1m per day waiting for a new part. To protect against that contingency, many choose to carry a large inventory of spare parts, for which the company incurs significant costs such as storage, maintenance, and even property taxes on the inventory assets.
In addition, expensive equipment retirement decisions are at times forced due to the lack of available replacement parts.
Just as their customers do not want to store 25+ years of spare parts, manufacturers need to either store the parts themselves or the tooling, molds and casting equipment and materials to fabricate the parts over time. In some cases, the casts have long since been lost or destroyed. The inventory on demand concept is designed to address these problems.
Use manufacturers’ CAD/CAM drawings or scan their parts (using scanning/metrology equipment) and fabricate those parts as needed using a machine shop including, where appropriate, 3D printing.
Provide customers with replacement parts either
In other words, store some minimal level of inventory and fabricate to replace periodically as used, minimizing unused, carried inventory. The inventory on demand concept could also be called "just in time manufacturing."
Benefits of Inventory on Demand
Benefits to manufacturers
Benefits to Customers
Who would use this service?
Fundamentally, those companies who want to retire expensive tool and die equipment and
I'm always looking for ways to get things done more easily. I turned that desire onto a project that needs a photorealistic 3D environment. Thinking that with all of the scanners and high res cameras out there, there must be a straightforward way to pull a real environment (think a room, set of buildings or beautiful mountains) into a 3D game engine, such as Unreal or Unity. Turns out I was wrong.
I looked at over 30 separate hardware-based approaches, [See my recent post entitled Putting the Reality in Virtual Reality] and none of them would do exactly what I wanted. In the interest of moving the discussion forward on this topic -- How can you pull reality into a 3D game engine? -- I am offering my list of the elements of an ideal reality capture system. I am all for hearing your comments.
The Ideal Reality Capture System (according to me)
There are at least six major types of reality capture system out there now: 2D panoramic, 2D spherical, photogrammetry, 3D stereoscopic, light field array, and LIDAR mesh with an HDR photo overlay.
Questions and observations I have...
Timing is everything. Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Google came around at the right time with the ability to execute. It has been said that they weren't the first to come up with the idea of Search, but they were there at the right time with the right abilities to get search going on its world-changing path.
Here are some business plans (probably not Googles) that are waiting for the technology or economics (or some other factor) to be ready to really roll. In future posts I plan to describe what they are and what's holding them up. I have learned a lot about each by researching them and preparing what I call a "Back of the Envelope Business Plan." I'll describe that in a future post as well. Vote on the ones below that interest you and I will post a more detailed explanation of each and what I have learned about the idea and the relevant industry.
1. 3D scanning company roll up. Because the 3D scanning industry largely lacks a company with a nationwide footprint, I proposed to do a roll-up of key players to combine their differing strengths and talents and consolidate their modeling efforts to make a stronger, farther-reaching scanning services provider. See why that hasn't worked to date.
2. Novel Films, or Book to Film. This is the project that most of my friends point to to suggest that I am smoking crack. It's a combination of using natural language processing, automated avatar generation, machine learning, text to speech, etc. to take a book (or a play, or a script) and turn it into a movie.
3. Inventory on Demand. Use traditional subtractive manufacturing techniques in combination with 3D printing in order to meet the out year inventory requirements of manufacturers.
4. 3d Photography Service. Just add a single D to the current 2D product photographer's tool chest.
5. The Hyperloop Transport System. Elon Musk's interesting and high speed alternative to long distance travel.
6. 3D Getty Images. Forgot my name for this one. Create the world's largest vault of 3D images, which will increasingly be needed to fill the demand as computers (and VR/AR devices) inevitably move from 2D to 3D. Some are started down this road already.
7. Simpler CAD. Teach IBM's Watson CAD drawing and then have Watson act like a police sketch artist to pull the idea from the user's mind into a 3D CAD drawing. The system will have as its basic approach a "take and tweak" methodology -- it will take templates that exist as a 3D "digital analogue" and tweak them to conform them to the user's concept, using natural language processing and machine learning. Simple!
8. Orthodontic 3DP for IAT and IDB. Alphabet soup time! This will be a look at using 3D printing for what I like to call incremental alignment therapy and indirect bonding. It can be a cheaper approach for orthodontists to do basic orthodontic work.
9. Real Reality Capture. Reality capture for bringing photorealistic environments into a game engine.