Entries in 3D (12)

Spacial computing, how the iPad will soon understand its environment

For a while it was looking as if 4K video might represent the upper end of high quality image capture throughout 2014. However, Occipital are looking to push way beyond simply capturing the world around us in flat slices of information, with Structure Sensor the iPad will be able to capture environmental depth data upon which the image data from the iPad's camera can be overlaid. The video above explains how this works in practice, and the official website goes into a lot more detail.

At the end of last year Apple purchased PrimeSense, the company responsible for the original Kinect camera for Xbox. Kinect is similar to Structure Sensor, so it seems likely that Apple is working on incorporating this kind of 3D capture technology into at least some if its products. Exciting times ahead, for sure.

Prometheus themed fun for your iPad

Eric Merced's Prometheus

Ridley Scott is nothing if not ambitious. His latest Movie 'Prometheus', looks to be quite astonishing. For weeks we have soaked up the steady torrent of promotional material. From the clever Peter Weyland TED viral to the audacious international trailer, one thing is clear, Prometheus is visually stunning!

Promethues iPad Covers

You can join in the Prometheus fun on your iPad with these themed iPad wallpapers. If you're feeling a little more excited by the prospect of Ridley's semi-prequel to his 1979 classic 'Alien', you might like to encase your iPad in one of these Prometheus cases. It's also worth noting that the soundtrack is available on iTunes.

Weyland iPad Wallpaper

While searching for Prometheus themed iPad gear we came across this Prometheus inspired piece of artwork (seen above) painted by our friend Eric Merced.

Please be sure to check out more of Eric's stunning illustration work in his book available from the iBooks store.

iBooks Store Link: Cartooned, The Illustrative Works of Eric Merced

DeepSketch, iPad painting goes 3D!

At the end of last year we posted an article that considered the possibility of a future iPad, one that might include a 3D display. After explaining why we felt that Apple might be the first tech company to provide a compelling personal 3D experience, we than considered what a 3D iPad would mean for artists. In short, we described a new art form; something of a cross between painting and sculpting:

"3D Painting: Imagine being able to create a 3D watercolour by gesturing in the space above the iPad display. You might start off with an overall light coloured wash in the top half of the scene to represent the sky. To do this you would paint with your 4 fingers at a distance of about 8" above the iPad display. The further away from the display your fingers are the deeper into the 3D scene your brush paints - effectively, it would be like painting into a 3D mirror image. As you completed your scene with you would paint in the details closer and closer to the viewer, all the time moving closer to the surface of the display. In short, this would be a brand new way of creating art - a cross between sculpting and painting. Good artists would still need a proper understanding of light and shade and certainly a full working knowledge of perspective, but think of some of the glorious artwork they could produce with a full 3D palette."

Interestingly, it seems that we were not alone in considering the impact that a 3D iPad might have on iPad painting. In fact, Mattis Folkestad of Machineboy was already well on his way to establishing an iPad experience that brings 3D painting to the current generation of iPad users.

Deepsketch is a wonderful complement to all the regular painting and illustration apps that are so loved by iPad artists. With Deepsketch and a pair of coloured 3D glasses (it supports practically every type of coloured 3D glasses), you can now paint into the 3rd dimension! With one simple brushstroke you can paint a line that starts just proud of the iPad screen and then descends behind it. Within a few minutes we had a good grasp of the power of Deepsketch and were able to create some impressive 3D scenes. However, our feeble attempts were simply no match for the skills of Nikolai Lockertsen. The images that you see here are all painted by Nikolai using Deepsketch. Please be sure to check out our other posts about Nikolai, you will not want to miss anything that this iPad artists does.

Deepsketch is simple, but extremely effective. Mattis seems eager to add new features on an almost weekly basis, so you'll certainly be getting value for money.

We maintain that 3D will play an important part in the iPad art scene, and until such time as Apple sees fit to step beyond the Retina display, Deepsketch leads the way into an exciting future. We look forward to seeing where Mattis takes Deepsketch.

App Store Link: DeepSketch

iPad with a 3D display and UI: Why it would be a game changer


Reality is not flat. Photographic and artistic representations of the world around us are currently presented in just 2 dimensions because the technology is not yet mature enough to offer a compelling way to create and present these representations in 3 dimensions. This 2 dimensional representation of reality on screen and in print is a poor show, it's a problem that needs solving and we think that Apple will be the company to do exactly that. 

Before we go any further we feel compelled to address the common complaints of 3D, there are those that feel that its recent resurgance in our cinemas is something truly unholy. The simple fact of the matter is this: The human brain is used to getting different images through each eye, getting the same image through both eyes is unnatural. Yes, 3D is more natural than 2D.

Whilst we have all grown comfortable with 2D images, in print and on our displays, this is not natural, not at least for images that are supposed to be representations of real places and objects. It's no more natural than black and white television was back in the 1950's. Yes, artists may choose to create photos, paintings, illustrations and movies in 2D, but this should be a stylistic choice just as the use of black and white instead of full colour is.

We wish critics of 3D would offer more clarity of argument when denouncing 3D cinema and television. Yes, they may well have issues with the current technology or the way that it is marketed, but to declare 3D in general as a gimmick is just ridiculous.

Clues as to how Apple might solve this problem

Because of a large number of patent applications that Apple has submitted on the subject, we already know that Apple is working on several technologies that it could apply to the field of 3D displays and user interfaces. What combination of these technologies Apple might use is open to debate, but we can have a good guess at some that might make an appearance at some point within the next 3 to 5 years.

Autostereoscopy: With any autostereoscopic display, the greater the number of pixels packed into the display, the better. A common example of a lenticular autosterescopic display is the display found in the top half of the Nintendo 3DS. Though the native resolution of the 3DS display is 800 x 240 pixels, the effective resolution is just 400 x 240 pixels per eye. Hence, endowing the iPad with a Retina class display (2048 x 1536 pixels) is a massive step in the right direction. If Apple go down the route of a lenticular autostereoscopic display, like the Nintendo 3DS, then the effective resolution would be 1024 x 1536 per eye, that's still considerably higher than the current 1024 x 768 resolution of the current iPad display.

Eye Tracking: A number of Apple's 3D related patents mention face tracking technology. Face tracking, or essentially eye tracking, is an important part of presenting the illusion of looking into a real physical world using just a flat display. See the Parallax entry on Wikipedia for much more information on the subject.

3D Motion and Gesture Sensing: Interacting with the 3D environment is where things will start to get really interesting. Apple's multi-touch technology, no matter how sophisticated it is, is all about manipulating a virtual 2D environment. Apple will need to jump to an entirely new level of user interface if the iPad is to be a truly effective 3D content creation device. Something like Microsoft's Kinect technology is one solution, and fortunately Apple have been working on something very similar to Kinect for a number of years. While it might seem far-fetched to believe that Apple could bring full 3D motion and gesture sensing to the iPad anytime soon, one only has to look at how effectively the Kinect performs to see that it's not beyond that realms of possibility.

Processing Power: It's likely that the iPad 2 will still be the reigning king of graphical horsepower right up until the day before the iPad 3 is launched. Despite Android tablet manufacturers packing their tablets with ever more powerful GPU/CPU chipsets, the mighty A5 is still in a league of its own in this regard. Having the ability to push pixels around the screen at an alarming rate is a prerequisite for any device that has to generate 2 separate world views, one for each eye. Fortunately, as we have already noted Apple is on a good GPU/CPU development path.

What will a 3D iPad mean to artists

Having an iPad with a proper 3D display, however Apple decide to implement it, will be a massive boon to those looking to watch 3D movies and play 3D games, but how will it benefit artists?

We can think of many ways in which an iPad with a proper 3D display and 3D motion and gesture sensing UI could literally transform the act of content creation, but we'll highlight just one area as an example for now.

3D Painting: Imagine being able to create a 3D watercolour by gesturing in the space above the iPad display. You might start off with an overall light coloured wash in the top half of the scene to represent the sky. To do this you would paint with your 4 fingers at a distance of about 8" above the iPad display. The further away from the display your fingers are the deeper into the 3D scene your brush paints - effectively, it would be like painting into a 3D mirror image. As you completed your scene with you would paint in the details closer and closer to the viewer, all the time moving closer to the surface of the display. In short, this would be a brand new way of creating art - a cross between sculpting and painting. Good artists would still need a proper understanding of light and shade and certainly a full working knowledge of perspective, but think of some of the glorious artwork they could produce with a full 3D palette.

How long will we have to wait?

Apple's patent applications would suggest that it is aggressively pursuing 3D display technology. As we have already mentioned in our October 2010 article, "4 innovations that are guaranteed to be in your next iPad, and 2 possibles", we don't see it arriving before 2015. Apple may well be one of the last manufacturers to include such a display, but one thing is certain, when they do it will be revolutionary.

123D Sculpt: Intuitive 3D modelling from Autodesk

With 123D Sculpt by Autodesk recreating that freakishly massive clay sculpted head from the video for Lionel Richie's cheesy 1983 hit 'Hello' is now within the grasp of every iPad owner!

As the marvellous Let's create! Pottery HD and iDough have already proved, the iPad is almost uniquely suited to this kind of 3D modelling.

We have only just started dabbling with 123D Sculpt (check out our first creation below) but we are already very impressed. Sculpting is fun and intuitive and with the ability to 'paint' photographs onto the 3D surface of your sculpture it's possible to create relatively lifelike models.

We think you will love Sculpt, it has all the makings of a truly classic iPad app. It's currently free so you have no excuses. Why not give it a whirl? Here's a little inspiration from uncle Lionel.

App Store Link: 123D Sculpt

Further Reading: Let's create! Pottery HD and iDough

Gears. A stonkingly good game and a sumptuous audio visual feast!

Gears by Crescent Moon Games is a 3D physics based ball rolling game that is ideally suited to the iPad. Featuring 3 unique worlds with 27 courses to navigate through Gears is a serious, yet accessible, challenge. In many ways it reminds us of Super Monkey Ball, it certainly has the same basic play mechanics. However, Gears is streets ahead of Super Monkey Ball in every way.

The graphics are rich and diverse and the music beautiful, it's clear that some serious talent and time has been applied the world that Gears inhabits. As you would expect it's particularly pleasing on the iPad 2.

Thankfully, this attention to detail has made its way through to the physics simulation and most importantly the control system. Tilt control is included as an option, but it's the touch control that truly shines! There are times when you have to navigate ridiculously small pathways, often while battling against several forces of nature all of which are conspiring to cast you off a precipice, but at no time did we feel like the control system was to blame for our failure - it's intuitive and rewarding.

As an aside, the first time we played Gears we found ourselves wondering just how spectacular it would be in true 3D. There are times when it's hard to make out the correct pathway because of the vivid clarity of the environmental graphics. When Apple eventually release an true 3D iPad, as we believe they will, Gears would be a near perfect experience.

At just $0.99 (£0.59) Gears is complete bargain.

App Store Link: Gears

Friday Fun: iPad 2 Hologram Setting Video

We were both shocked and excited to see this hidden mode on the iPad 2, it's just like a real Minority Report or Iron Man interface, we especially liked the Angry Birds demo, check it out!

This is the future tech we want really, so which version of the iPad do you think will have this technology then?

It is a very creative video demonstration of some mad 3D trackings skills. We love this stuff and the video below shows just how this was done.

iPad Art Gets Weird With PhotoSpeak


When some videos created with PhotoSpeak popped up in our iPad Creative Art and Design group on Flickr they seriously freaked us out! You really have to check out that first link to see what we mean. But we were also fascinated by these videos and we had to find out more about Photo Speak.

What we discovered was a ton of fun and a great way to entertain ourselves and the kids in the dark winter hours. It also provides portrait artists with another creative outlet, if for nothing other than a bit of silly fun.

What PhotoSpeak does

As you can see from the video above, this app takes a still image portrait and renders it as a 3D animation. Using some amazing technology called Motion Portrait, the app attempts to identify the eyes and mouth as reference and animation points.

It doesn't always manage it though and we had to try a few different images to get it to work. You can scale and shrink the image to help the detection engine and we found that, depending on the image, zooming in our out gave us a better result.

Once PhotoSpeak has located the eyes and mouth it will use the internal mic to pick up your voice and animate the image as it repeats what you have said, it literally makes your Photo Speak in near realtime in response to the audio it hears, amazing stuff! There isn't curently the option of importing audio already on your iPad, though, like songs or audio in your iTunes library.

Making Movies

The app can also record audio from the built-in mic or other audio input so that you can export that audio and animation as a movie. The processed movie can be saved to your Photo Library, shared to Facebook, YouTube (although we had trouble getting this to work) or via email.

It is a bit annoying that the app only works in Portrait mode, which means videos with big black borders on the side, but we understand that the primary use of the app is with 'portraits' so it sort of makes sense.

Even with the fairly gimmicky feel of the app, in the hands of more creative minds than ours some amazing and frankly, creepy, pieces of animated art can be produced with PhotoSpeak.

(We would love to show you some of these movies here but unfortunately, Flickr video embeds still do not work on iOS. If you haven't already followed the link in the first paragraph, check out these examples in our Flickr group from some of the most creative iPad owners out there. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed to the Flickr group.)

If you would like to try this out for yourself PhotoSpeak is on sale until the end of January for just $0.99 (59p), after which it returns to its $2.99 price.

If you do create something on your iPad with Photo Speak feel free to add it to the iPad Creative group, new members are always welcome.

As for our effort, it is very poor we realise, but our excuse is it was done very quickly over a lunchtime, enjoy all 6 seconds of it below:


Awesome 3D Glow Drawing app

Forge of Neon 3D (love the name by the way) is a fairly simple looking glow drawing app with a few nice touches thrown in.

The app starts with just a black screen and dragging your finger down the screen will draw out a simple line, which seems quite unremarkable. But the next thing you should do is tap the screen once to bring up the menu, and here you will find a few options which give you a lot of control over how your next drawing strokes will affect the image.

The menu allows you to change the:

  • Shape or line that is drawn, e.g. a straight line, stars, circles, even heart shapes(!)
  • Colour of the line that is drawn
  • Symmetry setting (how many lines are mirrored left and right on the screen)
  • Animation frequency (giving you a pulsating animation effect a bit like a neon jellyfish)

The 3D Bit

The app allows you to rotate the shape in 3D space by using three-finger multi-touch, and using two fingers on the screen allows left/right rotation and zooming in and out. We found this function of the app to be especially responsive and it gives you a good feeling of control using these multi-touch gestures.

The animation setting is interesting and ranges from a gentle pulsating effect to a full on flashing monstrosity. It is a bit hard to explain what the animations look like but they can be quite restful to watch, especially if you combine several colours together.

When it does all get a bit messy you can clear the screen from the menu, or if you get something you like then you can save the image to your iPad's Photo library.

The only problem we had with the app is the ads. They are shown immediately in a strip across the top of the screen, and change so often it is really distracting. We very quickly took the option of the in-app purchase ($0.99/59p), so perhaps it is a good strategy after all.

The best way to see what the app can do is to try it out! It is a free download so there is nothing to lose, and we think it is great fun for Adults and Children alike.

If you try Forge of Neon 3D let us know what you think in the comments.

Here are a few quick screengrabs from a couple of minutes experimenting with the app (we have cropped them a bit, mostly to remove the ads).

Experimenting with shapesNeon Jellyfish

Zoomed in on the detail

3D Modelling Gets iPad Social


3D modelling evangelists and software developers 3DVIA have recently released an iPad version of their 3D model viewer, 3DVIA Mobile HD. An iPhone/iPod Touch version has been available for a year now, but the new version takes advantage of the iPad's larger screen real estate to allow panning, zooming and up close inspection using the multi-touch interface.

There are over 20,000 community provided 3D models on the site for you to play with and use in your projects and, once you have created a free account, you can search through and access all of these on your iPad. Using the Collage functionality, models can be placed on to existing images in your iPad's library, useful for things like room layouts, garden design, shop fitting previews, etc.

Anything you create in 3DVIA Mobile HD can be shared on Facebook too.

There are very few 3D Modelling apps available for the iPad so we thought this was a good solution, backed up by a massive online community and sharing resource to make a great tool for anyone, professionals or students, working in the 3D modelling arena.

´╗┐Normally $4.99, 3DVIA Mobile HD is being offered at the introductory price of $1.99 (£1.19) for a 'limited time' on the app store.

As always let us know if you use 3DVIA Mobile HD and what you think of it in the comments below.