What do all these images have in common? Well, immediately, it’s quite obvious: they are all 3D models of landscapes. But the thinking, the execution, and the technology behind them is fascinatingly different. And yet all are enticing in some way or another – the still images are not sufficient, and the viewer yearns to touch, to interact, to play with them.
I will readily confess to a couple of fascinations: three-dimensional models of how our planet works, and connections, those odd intersections between the seemingly different. I wrote a little about the first fascination in celebrating the early personal influence of the models such as the one in the centre, above, for an Accretionary Wedge event a couple of years ago with the theme Inspiration - the beginnings of a geologist.
...the book which I now appreciate fired my fascination with geology was The Earth’s Crust—A New Approach to Physical Geography and Geology. Published in 1951, it was called “a new approach” because Dudley Stamp commissioned huge, detailed models of different landscapes—and what lies beneath them—to be made in exquisite detail by Tom Bayley, a lecturer in sculpture, and photographed in colour for the book.
Fascination number one in many respects lay behind my previous post on the brilliant linkage between sand box modelling and digital technology, Simtable (bottom left, above). I was delighted that Simtable’s inventor, Stephen Guerin, immediately commented, and included a link to Solid Terrain Modeling, who print high quality graphical data on to 3D landscape models (top left, above). All of this started to stimulate fascination number two, and I found myself visualising some the wonderfully dynamic stream table modelling capabilities that Steve Gough’s Little River Research and Design produces (top right, above). I enjoy following Steve’s activities, developments and applications (entertainingly chronicled on his blog), and I began to wonder if there wasn’t some interesting intersection potential between the Simtable technology and his. I dropped Steve an email and, in spite of being caught up in the challenges of exhibiting – in the end, successfully (see his blog) - at the AGU conference in San Francisco, he replied immediately and commented on the blog post. He provided a link to a description of the SandyStation, an invention by two students at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen in the Czech Republic, that cleverly combines a physical sand box and the digital technology of the Xbox Kinect (lower right, above).
And then, in browsing around for images, I happened upon this description of what seems like essentially the same conspiracy of sand and the Xbox, but invented by game developers in the Netherlands:
In a refreshingly different take, the world of the game Mimicry is the “ultimate sandbox game” – set in a literal sandbox. Participants manipulate piles of real sand, as Kinect-powered cameras track their work and project imagery onto the sand from a rendered analog version of the same world. The player mimics the virtual, the virtual mimics the player, and the stuff of each fuse in a real/virtual hybrid in sand.
I’m a little confused by this, but that’s not my point. It simply seems to me that here are multiple possibilities for connections, for educational and other applications that might generate examples of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. And one thing that’s compelling about much of the imagery from all of these activities? They all feature interaction, the satisfaction of being able to touch – and to play.
[Images from Simtable, Solid Terrain Modeling, SandyStation, and Little River Research and Design]