Friday, 25 April 2008

iPhone SDK reaches fourth beta, OpenGL ES support now offered

Apple has started distribution of the fourth beta of its SDK for the iPhone and iPod Touch, reports TUAW. The latest version includes an upgraded emulator that supports OpenGL ES, allowing graphics developers to test their work straight from the desktop. Prior to this, the only way to test applications that used OpenGL ES would have been to deploy the app to a device - a feature restricted to iPhone Developer Program members, membership of which is currently limited to people in the US.

The SDK, available at the Apple Developer Connection website, weighs in at 1.15Gb and includes the Xcode IDE, iPhone simulator, Interface Builder, Instruments, frameworks, samples and the Shark analysis tool.

Friday, 18 April 2008

The future of the Dubai city in 3D architectural models

A lesson in geography; Duabi or Dubai city is located on the Northern tip of the United Arab Emeritus on the Persian Gulf. It has been ruled by the Al Maktoum dynasty since 1833 and has existed in its modern state since 1971. The current ruler is Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who is also the prime minister and vice president of the United Arab Emirates. The rather small city has a population of 1.6 million people and a 37 billion USD economy based largely on trade, manufacturing and financial services. Contrary to popular belief petrol and natural gas only make up a small percentage of revenues.

The city has gained world-wide attention in the past few years because of its booming economy and ambitious architectural projects. With a focus on business and tourism, the city is ramping up construction on an unprecedented level. In fact, Dubai is said to be home to 15% to 25% of the world's 125,000 construction cranes. Don't think that the architectural expansion is over, because a slew of new project are on the table and in the works as we speak. Here's only a fraction of the buildings being proposed, constructed or developed in Dubai and its surrounding region demonstrating in the best possible way how 3D architectural modelling can assist in envisaging the development of a real-world capital.

The 'Burj Dubai' is a supertall skyscraper currently under construction in Dubai. When completed in 2009 it will be the tallest man made structure in the world. It was designed by Adrian Smith who worked with the building's architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill until 2006. As of March 1, 2008 the building measured 611.3 m tall. On September 12, 2007, it passed Toronto's CN tower to become the world's tallest freestanding structure.

'Dubai Towers' is the centerpiece for the large 'Lagoons' development. The buildings and the development were all conceived by the TVS Architects company. The four towers range in size from 54 to 97 floors and were inspired by the flames and movement of candlelight.

'Opus' is another Dubai building designed by British architect Zaha Hadid. The 235 million GBP development was designed for the business bay for Omniyat properties. It stands at 20 stories located next to the towering Burj Dubai. Hadid's concept was to have the building open onto the city, framing the views. It is currently under development and is planned to be completed by 2010.

'0-14 Tower' was designed by Resier and Umemoto and Rur architecture along with Dubai developer, Shahab Lutfi. The building was designed for Dubai's business bay and features 22 floors covered in a double skin facade that's outermost skin is constructed from 40c, thick perforated concrete. The one-meter space between the skins creates a chimney effect, cooling the building.

For more 3D material on the fascinating urban development of Dubai please check the following link here.

FreenSpin3D by Revolver, free realtime 3D component for Flash

Revolver has announced the release of its patent pending core technology, OneLayer3D (OL3D), enabling the implementation of commercial cross-platform polygon graphics solutions for real-time rendering of 3D content on 2D environments (web browsers and power limited low-end devices, including most mobile phones, and PDAs). The first implementation of OL3D will be for the Adobe Flash environment.

Revolver’s technology, OL3D, enables real-time 3D content on any 2D environment without requiring the installation of extra 3D hardware and/or software. OL3D uses data manipulation algorithms on the polygonal data of 3D models, which enables real-time rendering of 3D content in 2D computer graphic environments such as Adobe Flash, Adobe Air, Microsoft Silverlight, Symbian, Java and other 2D environments. Revolver's solution allows developers the rapid creation of real-time interactive 3D-based content such as games and animations on 2D environments, and solves familiar problems such as, CPU efficiency, large file sizes, long development cycles, restricted content and applications or third party development platforms. This makes OL3D very simple to implement cross platform and relevant for commercial use.

Revolver’s first product is FreeSpin3D - the first commercial solution for real-time 3D for Adobe Flash. The solution was designed and developed based on the company’s OL3D technology. FreeSpin3D enables the importing of 3D files directly into Adobe Flash as a MovieClip instance and extends the MovieClip API to include 3D capabilities, creating 3D content in minutes.

No plug-ins, no toolsets, no palettes and no add-ons. It is Flash with native 3D support. No pre-Rendered images. FreeSpin3D is commercial grade real time 3D rendering with complete Timeline support and metaverse ready, optimized for CPU efficiency, with support of dynamic textures, lighting, and shading.

FreeSpin3D also offers Timeline support and exposes an easy-to-use ActionScript interface allowing the Flash developer seamless control and management of the 3D object display and behavior. Therefore its characteristics include:

• No plug-ins, no toolsets, no palettes and no add-ons
• The only comp. to enable commercial real-time 3D in Adobe Flash
• Expands the MovieClip API to include 3D capabilities
• Enables the import of 3D models as a MovieClip
• Enables the creation of clientless 3D worlds
• Supports the Adobe Flash Timeline

Currently FreeSpin3D is in its beta phase, and because of that totally free for use. FreeSpin3D was developed with both Flash communities in mind. The Creative flashers can simply use the familiar Timeline to create 3D content and the code savvy developers can delve deeper - much deeper and even augment the 3D API with their own ideas such as, new behaviors, physics, and actions.

All in all, a very useful little plug-in (or component as they like to call it!), particularly for those like myself creating 3D virtual worlds using the antiquated VRML, this looks like a great alternative!

FreeSpin3D examples :
Download FreeSpin3D :

DevStation 08 dates set

A two-day conference dedicated to 'getting the most out of PS3' runs on June 10th and 11th in London. Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has confirmed the dates for this year's DevStation event. DevStation 08 takes place across two days, on June 10th and 11th in London, at the BFI Southbank. An advertisement in this month's Develop magazine, says that Sony will "be providing you with the knowledge and techniques to push your next generation of game titles to new levels and performance."

Presentations focus around the core technologies and features of PS3™ and for the first time, providing content for all disciplines (design, production, art, audio and programming), with focus on physics, SPU optimization and audio tricks right through to the latest developments in the PLAYSTATION®Network. DevStation™08 will also bring together the Technology, Developer Support and Third Party Relations groups with SN Systems and a number of Middleware providers in a unique environment where attendees can gain information and share their experiences with many notable industry peers.

More information can be found at the official site.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

GrowFX for 3ds Max, a new plug-in for plants modeling

For those interested in enriching 3D urban scenes with plants in an automated manner Exlevel company is now representing GrowFX, a new very cool plug-in facilitating plants modeling and animation for 3D Studio Max. An easy interface, with an essential set of parameters, which you can assign yourself, helps you to create different plants, from grass and big trees to full forestland.

With GrowFX you will create broadleaf-trees, conifers, palm trees, flowers and many other vegetational compositions. Unique building mechanisms help to create creeping plants, entwining any scene objects, shearing plants of every possible shape. The plants can bend round different obstacles.

Once created a GrowFX object can create the same plant by its corresponding distribution:
- by starting points;
- or on any object surface

By surface distributing, some parameter's magnitudes can be regulated by map texture, i.e. the density of plants, its growth etc. GrowFX is totally integrated with 3D Studio MAX and all the parameters can be animated, i.e. the wind animation, the plant growth and other animation. There is an opportunity of editing the parameters through MAXScript (something useful for people like myself, especially when dabbling with their own plug-ins).

All in all this is a very cool little solution for automated 3D plant creation. You can find a full version and also a downloable demo one (the possibility of converting to Editable Mesh is off, you can't use more than one object on the scene and finally you can't create more than 5 paths) from

Games development to be taught in Scottish schools

Games development seems to become part of National Curriculum north of the border since Scottish schoolchildren are to be taught the basics of video game design as part of the country’s new national curriculum - dubbed the 'Curriculum of Excellence'. According to the Press Association, the move is to designed to ‘create the next generation of young programmers’. Schools minister Maureen Watt unveiled the scheme this morning and added that the new lessons will teach children how to use computer software to create animations and feature films. According to the Scottish Herald, the country’s games industry employs more than 500 people and generates £20m a year.

Watt, Minister for Schools and Skills, said: "There is huge confidence that Scotland will continue to play an important part in the future of video games and interactive entertainment and we are focusing on establishing firm foundations for lifelong learning and, for some, specialised study and careers.A key aim of Curriculum for Excellence is to produce informed, skilled, adaptable and enterprising citizens of the future."

"The pace of change in the world means that we should be equipping young people with the skills to embrace and use all the tools of modern life."She added: "The draft outcomes for our new curriculum are intended to help teachers make teaching more relevant, exciting and engaging. Technologies are important areas of the whole learning process and we are keen to receive feedback on the outcomes from professionals."

Saturday, 12 April 2008

3rd annual Develop magazine conference at Brighton, UK

The third annual Develop conference, organised by UK's premier game development publication, is set to be its biggest and most comprehensive so far, with key names from the global games industry set to descend on Brighton in July.

60 sessions across eight tracks running for three days will see over 90 games development leaders provide lectures and talks on all areas of the business. Microsoft Games Studios’ Phil Spencer, Ubisoft’s IP director Tommy Francois and Bungie lead programmer Damian Isla are already confirmed as speakers. So too are Relentless’ development director Andrew Eades, Frontier’s David Braben, Naughty Dog lead designer Richard Lemarch and and Traveller’s Tales’ development director Jonathan Smith.

The event runs from July 29th to 31st at the Hilton Metropole hotel in Brighton. Develop Mobile and education event Games:Edu take place on the first day, with the full conference and expo taking place on July 30th and 31st. The Develop Industry Excellence Awards take place on July 30th also. “Last year, more than 1,200 delegates from 29 territories attended Develop – an increase of 12 per cent on 2006,” said Andy Lane, managing director of organiser Tandem Events. “To become established so rapidly as the destination for the development community in Europe is indicative that Develop is providing the industry with the content, networking opportunities and location the industry wants from its annual gathering.”

For 2008, the Develop conference has been programmed around new themes reflecting the current state of the games industry: capitalise (asking how studios can take advantage of market trends); specialise (examining how developers can stay at the cutting edge); inspire (covering how the industry can motivate and retain staff); and enjoy (with the event providing thought-provoking features and social events reaffirming the joy of games development).

“This is the most exciting yet least appreciated point in the development cycle – game projects started now will be the ones to truly exploit Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s current hardware, and so define this generation. We’re therefore going back-to-basics for 2008, with a packed programme focused on perfecting the state-of-the-art,” added Owain Bennallack, Develop conference advisory board chairman.

A variety of different pass types are available for this year’s event: Super, Standard, Mobile, Audio and Expo. Discounts are available on all passes purchased before July 1st, and the expo pass is free of charge.

IEEE 12th International Conference on Information Visualisation (IV08), article accepted

I've just received confirmation that I will be presenting a full paper I authored at the annual international IEEE conference on Information Visualisation, IV08. This will be taking place in July between the 9th and the 11th at South Bank University, London, UK.

The title of the publication I am presenting is "Recent Advances In The User Evaluation Methods And Studies Of Non-Photorealistic Visualisation And Rendering Techniques" and is quite fitting with the overall theme of the sumposium the publication has been assigned to, Design and Aesthetics in Visualisation (DAViz) , which focuses mostly on key research issues in modelling design practice and aesthetics. Design practice refers to the use of visualisation as a component of design processes and methods while aesthetics refers to the role of aesthetics in acceptance, cognition and use of visualisation tools.

For more information check the link below, I will of course post a full report on the conference when I return from it, so check this space for an upcoming post on this!

Thursday, 10 April 2008

3D XNA Game Engine Torque X 2.0 Now Available for Academic Licensing

Game developer and Torque Game Engine creator GarageGames has announced the addition of Torque X 2.0 to its Academic Outreach Program. Torque X 2.0 (detailed in a post a few days ago, found here) provides a complete and flexible 3D game engine on top of Microsoft's XNA 2.0 Framework. GarageGames' Academic Outreach Program was started in 2005 to support up and coming game developers by offering students and researchers hands-on experience with Torque game development technology.

GarageGames originally launched Torque X in the summer of 2007 and since then has continued to add 3D features. It now provides chunked LOD terrain with clipmap texturing, DTS Mesh Support, XNA Model Support, a custom material system, post processing, a 3D particle system, rigid body physics and collision, and built-in components. Torque X 2.0 has been completely updated to XNA 2.0 and is current with MS Visual Studio 2005 products.

According to GarageGames, Torque X also supports the 2D drag-and-drop game creation features of Torque Game Builder. Torque X allows developers a chance to deploy and test their game on retail Xbox 360 units through Microsoft Creators Club.

"Torque provides a compelling opportunity to schools by giving students full source code access to a proven commercial game engine," said Davey Jackson, Director of Academic and Commercial Licensing at GarageGames. "Also, because we offer low cost Indie licenses to Torque, students can create works which they personally own and can publish instead of learning on a technology they would never be able to afford after graduation. Torque X is a fantastic addition to our academic offerings, particularly for schools already working with XNA or for schools with short programs. For students with little programming experience, Torque X is the most accessible 3D game creation tool available today."

The Torque X 2.0 engine binary is a FREE download available from the GarageGames website. Schools interested in licensing the Torque X packages that include full source code or the drag-and-drop Torque X Builder toolset can contact for more details or an evaluation.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Royal Academy Of Engineering, international research travel grants available

Just a piece of information which might interest people in academia, particularly in engineering or computing fields that are undertaking research trips abroad for conferences. The Royal Academy Of Engineering operates an international travel grant scheme, a scheme which is intended to financially help engineering researchers in the UK make study visits overseas.

The scheme's objective is to benefit individuals with their current work and ultimately engineering in the country as a whole by facilitating technology transfer opportunities. It is also a means of maintaining the prestige of the nation’s engineering overseas.

The scheme is open to postgraduate students, doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, academic staff involved in research, in UK higher education institutions and chartered engineers in UK industry. To be eligible for funding applicants must be UK citizens or permanent residents. There are no age restrictions. The scheme is not open to Fellows of The Royal Academy of Engineering. Awards may be sought for the following activities:

1) Attendance at Conferences, particularly where the applicant is presenting a paper or poster.
2) Attendance at Summer Schools where the subject matter is related to the applicant’s area of research interest.
3) Research Visits to institutions or universities for the purpose of collaborative work or to use specialist equipment.
4) Field Visits to industrial sites or areas of specialist interest.

I was just recently awarded several hundred pounds for a trip to this year's IEEE VR 2008 where I was presenting a publication I authored (more on that on a previous post found here) and have found this scheme extremely helpful for financial assistance on a major overseas trip like that.

If you have a paper accepted at a conference and are looking at getting some funds in in order to complete the trip then this is definitely worth considering. More info at the link below.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Microsoft working on Wiimote clone

An anonymous development source claims to confirm with MTV a long-running point of industry rumour and speculation: that Microsoft plans to introduce its own Wiimote-styled controller. "Microsoft's response to Nintendo's Wii will appear before the end of the year," says the report, which adds that the Xbox 360 motion-sensing device has been in the works since last summer.

According to MTV's source, Microsoft's effort is similar to Nintendo's but boasts an analogue stick and microphone built in, and doesn't require a Nunchuck plug-in extra. Meanwhile the report adds that UK-based Rare, a developer studio owned by Microsoft, "has been tasked with creating a unified interface and look for the controller" but "has had trouble hitting its deadlines".

Microsoft is said to be looking to unite both the Wii's more accessible styles of play with its own more hardcore gamer-oriented, and is specifically saying that developers will best appreciate the fact that games for the Nintendo console can be ported to the 360.

Considering the potential Wiimote offers to research it is interesting to see new possibilities opening up with Microsoft deciding to adopt similar user interface methods for their console...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Upcoming computer graphics-related conferences in 2008/09 Part 3

Following from the previous posts on this, here's another few links of some interesting computer graphics conferences taking place in the second half of the next year/early 2009. Note that most of them have their upcoming deadlines in the next few weeks/months!

15th ACM Symposium on Virtual Reality Software and Technology (Bordeaux, France)

1st ACM SIGGRAPH Conference And Exhibition in Asia (Singapore, China)

International Conference on Computer Graphics and Applications (Lisbon, Portugal)

ACM SIGGRAPH/Eurographics Symposium on Computer Animation (Dublin, Ireland)

6th Symposium on Non-Photorealistic Animation And Rendering (Annecy, France)

CyberWorlds International Conference (Hangzhou, China)

26th International Confernence on Design of Communication (Lisbon, Portugal)

21st International Conference on Computer Animation and Social Agents (Seoul, Korea)

3rd International Workshop on Tabletop And Interactive Surfaces (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

13th International Conference on Computer Games (Wolverhampton, UK)