Sunday, 13 January 2008

Qualcomm's prototype reference mobile devices

From the world of high-powered mobile devices/UMPCs two prototypes from Qualcomm that look particularly appetizing. The company is showing off a pair of reference designs showcasing its new Snapdragon chipset, a heap of silicon said to offer one of the best power to performance ratios in the mobile world. First up, the Fairbanks, Qualcomm's idea of what a next-gen dedicated GPS unit might look like, equipped with a 3 megapixel still / video camera, TV tuner, and microSD expansion on some sort of custom Windows CE base.

Next up, the Anchorage (pictured above) does the typical slide-out QWERTY smartphone concept in pure style with one critical difference - this one is humming along at a staggering 1GHz. It's got pretty much every kind of radio one could want or need and apparently has enough horsepower to hoist a full operating system. While these two will not see the retail market for some time, they do showcase in the best way where next-gen smartphones or even UMPCs are heading in the next year/year and a half...

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Making of: The Old Fox

Another very interesting urban modelling making of, this time however of an individual building, can be found at the excellent 3D Total website, by Sandro Ghezzani. According to Sandro his influences on this particular piece of work was American, English and Norwegian architecture revivals: neo-gothic and neo-classic.

Being impressed by these styles, he began to do some research using the Internet as well as using some reference pictures from books. After that he came up with some sketches which would be the starting ground for the modelling. So the Old Fox cottage was born...

What is particularly interesting with this is that this tutorial/making of focuses on a single-building project thus highlighting a lot of the smaller, finer details sometimes lost in similar project overviews that cover whole scenes... Well worth a look if you decide to model a building of any era or style in a manual way!

The tutorial can be found at:

Wii remote coupled with Virtual Earth?

As of September 2007, Nintendo has sold over 13 million Wii game consoles. This significantly exceeds the number of Tablet PCs in use today according to even the most generous estimates of Tablet PC sales making the Wii remote one of the most common computer input devices in the world. It also happens to be one of the most sophisticated containing a 1024x768 infrared camera with built-in hardware blob tracking of up to 4 points at 100Hz. This significantly outperforms any PC webcam available today. It also contains a +/-3g 8-bit 3-axis accelerometer also operating at 100Hz and an expandsion port for even more capability.

Bearing all this mind, it is of no surprise that the Wii remote is an area ripe for research other than gaming. One of the most interesting mini projects I've seen so far is the following which couples the innovative device with Virtual Earth.

Virtual Earth is the 3D interface to Microsoft's Live Maps service. Normally this control is loaded via the web browser and allows interaction with a keyboard, mouse, and Xbox 360 controller. In the video above, the Virtual Earth control is taken out of the web browser, used in a WinForms application and controlled with a Nintendo Wii Remote (Wiimote). The results are in my opinion fascinating.

For a technical breakdown of the project check the following link

High quality 3D foliage libraries available

Graphics studio and publisher Marlin Studios has released two new libraries of low polygon photorealistic tree models: TreeFarm Deciduous Trees on DVD and TreeFarm Palm Trees on CD-Rom. Available in max, obj and lwo formats, the textured models can be used in most any 3D software application. The tree models are particularly useful to animators involved in visualisation, game development, virtual reality, film and video, and any mainstream animation project.

The roots, trunk and limbs of each tree have been meticulously modeled and textured with multiple maps. The twigs and leaves are planar objects mapped with alpha textures and bump maps, with additional maps for diffusion, specularity and sub-surface scattering (translucency). The result is up to nine texture maps per tree. The multiple mapping results in photorealistic effects previously only available in high polygon count trees that are 30 times the size and 10 times the price per tree. Plenty of landscaping and full, natural trees are available.

“Since 3D trees were first created, there has always been a tradeoff between high and low poly trees,“ said company president and art director Tom Marlin. “You either got low quality with a high quantity of trees, or high quality only with a just a few trees. Now the paradigm shifts with TreeFarm models, offering photorealism with low poly trees”. TreeFarm Deciduous Trees offers 1450 pretextured tree models, consisting of 58 tree objects, with five distinct leaf types and five colors per leaf. With seven optional bark textures and a bonus leaf texture, the total number of combinations could exceed 10,000 different looking trees. A comprehensive browser-based index, including animations and thumbnails, is available with each library.

TreeFarm Palm Trees offers 90 pretextured tree models, consisting of 18 different palm tree objects and five colors per palm frond. The average palm tree model contains 1600 polygons and palm frond maps are also 1024×1024 pixels. Mixing and matching palm fronds and barks result in hundreds of different looks for the palm trees. TreeFarm Deciduous Trees sells for a special introductory price of $299 USD plus s/h, while TreeFarm Palm Trees sells at the introductory price of $239.

Papervision, the new VRML?

Being fed up with the limitations Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML), an essential part of my current research work, is posing, especially when it comes to delivering quality real-time graphics, it is interesting to see where 3D web plug-ins can go in the future. While VRML to this day seems to be the main proposition (and has been for a number of years now), the new kid on the block, offering a lot more potential than its older counterpart, is Papervision.

The engine entered public beta in July 2007 with a number of tutorials and demos emerging online at an ever increasing pace with the key to Papervision according to many being its open source nature and its integration with Flash, a plugin that to be honest is no longer a plugin but an essential component of many websites. What I personally find even more interesting in Papervision is the added graphical features it has compared to the aged VRML, the support of bump mapping being one prime example.

While it is anyone's guess whether Papervision will replace VRML as the standard 3D web plug-in of choice, it remains a very exciting proposition indeed. For more information check the official site here.

Making Of: Dead City

It is sometimes very easy to forget how effective manual urban modelling can be, especially when championing/researching (delete the appropriate one!) automated or semi-automated methods. However, mini-projects like the one described in this post serve as a great reminder as to how precise manual modelling can be, especially when tackling smaller urban areas.

In form of an excellent, making-of-structured, tutorial, Andrej Majewski takes us through the development of an urban scene titled Dead City, an area resembling a ghost town, taken entirely from photographic material and then translated in 3D using Photoshop, Softimage XSI and the VRay renderer.

Andrej covers all the important aspects of the workflow followed including texturing, lighting, modelling and creating assorted details such as vegetation and street structures. It should be noted here that the attention to detail throughout is impeccable, something that can be easily seen in the results, which brings me to the question whether an automated urban modelling system could ever be developed that can replicate a process like this (including the dedication shown to it) fully...

In any case, the tutorial can be found here and is well worth checking out, especially if you've ever attempted to model a real-world urban area in a photorealistic counterpart.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Article in IEEE Virtual Reality 2008 Workshop on Virtual Cityscapes

I've just received confirmation that I will be presenting a position statement paper I authored at the IEEE Virtual Reality 2008 Workshop on Virtual Cityscapes, a workshop taking place during the very prestigious annual IEEE Virtual Reality conference. This will be taking place on March the 8th and 9th at the Silver Legacy Resort Casino at Reno Nevada, USA.

The title of the publication I am presenting is "Towards Rapid Generation And Visualisation Of Large 3D Urban Landscapes for Mobile Device Navigation" and is quite fitting with the overall theme of the workshop which focuses mostly on key research issues in modeling large-scale immersive urban environments. For more information check the link below, I will of course post a full report on the workshop when I return from it, so check this space for an upcoming post on this!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

Computer graphics & Virtual Reality related journals

Picking up from the previous posts on conferences that focus on the computer graphics and virtual reality field, here's a list of scientific journals that address the same area. While the list is by no means comprehensive, (and any suggestions for additions are more than welcome!) it is a collection of a number of publications that will interest people, like myself, intending to submit their research results to something other than conferences...

IEEE Computer Graphics And Applications (Publisher: IEEE)

The Visual Computer journal (Publisher: Springer)

Virtual Reality journal (Publisher: Springer)

Computer Graphics Forum journal (Publisher: Blackwell Publishing)

Journal Of Virtual Reality And Broadcasting (Publisher: Digital Peer Publishing)

Computer Animation And Virtual Worlds journal (Publisher: Wiley)

The International Journal Of Virtual Reality (Publisher: IPI Press)

Graphical Models journal (Publisher: Elsevier)

Computers And Graphics (Publisher: Elsevier)

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Sony's Home: the answer to Second Life?

An interesting piece of news and a long-awaited product launch on this is expected from Sony, who hoping to replicate the success of social networks and Second Life in particular is working on a PS3 feature called Home. Playstation 3 gamers will be able to meet, chat and share content with friends inside a 3D universe. "It's about community, collaboration and customisation," said Sony's Phil Harrison at the recent Game Developers Conference, in San Francisco. Gamers can buy furniture and clothes, while publishers and retailers are also expected to offer 3D spaces. A teaser clip can be seen below.

Mr Harrison also debuted titles for PlayStation 3 at the San Francisco conference that would leverage the success of social networks such as MySpace and FaceBook. For example, an online version of karaoke title Singstar will let gamers share video clips of their vocal efforts and leave comments for other players. "The industry is on the threshold of a new era of creativity, collaboration, communication and commerce embedded into an experience to empower games," Mr Harrison said.

My personal opinion on this is that apart from the obvious benefits of having another virtual reality world portal out there, Sony is also trying to push the graphics capabilities of such an excursion to its very limits (unlike Second Life that seemed dated in that area almost from the day it was launched!), witness features such as real-time shadows etc. as shown on the YouTube link above...

Upcoming computer graphics-related conferences in 2008 Part 2

Following from November's post here's another few links of some interesting computer graphics conferences taking place in the first half of the next year. Note that most of them have their upcoming deadlines in the next few weeks/months!

SBIM 2008
Fifth Eurographics Workshop on Sketch-Based Interfaces and Modeling (Annecy, France)

6th Eurographics Italian Conference (Salerno, Italy)

International Symposium on Computational Aesthetics in Graphics, Visualization, and Imaging (Lisbon, Portugal)

19th Eurographics Symposium On Rendering (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

8th International Conference on Construction Application of Virtual Reality (Kuala Lampur, Malaysia)

24th Spring Conference on Computer Graphics (Bratislava, Slovakia)

18th International Conference on Computer Graphics, Computer Vision, Image and Video processing (Moscow, Russia)

26th Eurographics UK chapter conference (Manchester, UK)

14th Eurographics Symposium On Virtual Environments (Eindhoven, Netherlands)

International Conference On The True Vision, Capture, Transmission And Display Of 3D Video (Istanbul, Turkey)

Virtual Manchester

I have tried to feature other UK virtual city models in the past, here's another attempt, this time at rainy Manchester...

The model is created by ARUP, a global firm of designers, engineers, planners and business consultants providing a diverse range of professional services to clients around the world. They have a long reputation in city modelling through their in-house research teams and the Manchester model is testament to this.

While I would like to gripe a bit about the lack of textured meshes, there are several things great about the work shown in the movie above, most notably the transport planning section shown half way through the movie. The model covers 4562 buildings and 15 spatial zones so understandably on a large scale such as this one roof structures and textured facades are somewhat lacking. Even so this remains a fine effort on modelling a major UK city in 3D and well worth checking out.

How to build a 3D virtual city in 5 minutes tutorial

For what is the first post of 2008 (happy new year everyone by the way!) something I spotted on the excellent Digital Urban blog a few days ago. Have you ever wondered on how you could create a detailed, textured 3D virtual city model for an impressive demo visualisation in under 5 minutes? Well courtesy of YouTube and FreeTutorials, you can now have a go at that!

While the modelling package used in the video above is Bryce (which personally I have little experience of), I found it easy enough to adapt the technique to something like Discreet's 3D Studio Max. Indeed I would imagine the technique of using simple height maps to generate the basic mesh could be adapted to just about any other package.