Sunday, August 14, 2011

Graphics: Materials

I'm still not sure what I want to do with my new found graphics hobby, but the previous brick wall proof of concept was a bit boring visually, so I decided to learn how to declare materials in OGRE. Basically, all you have to do is put your images in the [/media/materials/textures] directory and create a materials script in the [/media/materials/scripts] directory. There are a bunch of scripts already in that directory, so you have a lot of examples to work from. When watching the next video keep in mind that OGRE is a real time rendering engine, and yet I'm getting close to photo realism in real time!

The cool thing about materials in OGRE is that they are declared by scripts. This means that you don't need to recompile your application to change materials. Wouldn't it be cool if you could declare scene objects through scripts too? According to a buddy much better at this stuff than I am, that's what Lua is for. Lua is a scripting language that integrates effortlessly with C++, and is almost just as fast as compiled C++.

The latest games that are being developed, including my current inspiration (Overgrowth), use scripts for almost everything. The rendering engine and physics engines are in compiled C++ or C#, but the artificial intelligence, behavior, animation, etc. are all scripted, and apparently Lua is the best. Thus, my next challenge is to integrate Lua into my existing rendering and physics engines. I am having wayyy too much fun!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Graphics: Way too much progress!

I don't understand what makes me get excited about certain things. I don't understand why I lose interest or gain interest in things. However, I have learned to just accept it and to follow my gut. I'm not intentionally setting my DobBot project aside. I will finish it. But right now my gut is telling me that I need to poor myself into real time graphics.

I got a book on Blender called Blender for Dummies. It's actually quite good. I learned that the reason you right click to select objects in Blender (instead of left click in EVERY OTHER application!) is to get you to use the right and left mouse buttons equally. In theory this minimizes fatigue and keeps you modeling for longer. I guess it makes sense. Blender is going to be something I pick up over a longggg time. I know I'll be proficient eventually, but I'm not in a hurry.

I have decided to use Code::Blocks as my IDE for writing c++ code. OGRE, the rendering engine I have decided to use, is coming naturally, so I decided to also start picking up the Bullet Physics Library. After getting them to compile and play nicely together it was MUCH easier than I expected to create a wall of cubes and shoot a ball into them! Here's a screen capture:

Keep in mind that this is real time rendering and real time physics! I'm blown away!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Graphics: I think I have too many projects...

I have a lot of hobbies. Sometimes I think I have too many. For a while now I've attempted to stay on topic with my blog so I don't give readers whiplash, but today I decided to change that. I'm going to try to start blogging about all of my random hobbies and projects as they are born, die, or are just forgotten about for a while.

Today my hobby is Graphics. I realize that is a large umbrella to be lumping things into, but I think the category will work for now. The truth is that I can't be more specific because I don't actually know what I want to do.

Coming from a computer science background most of my hobbies, and even my day job, drifts toward coding and technology. In the last few years I've written smart phone apps, web apps, linux admin scripts, firmware for micro-controllers, hostware to talk to the firmware, 3d objects for printing on my 3d printer, and the list goes on. One thing I haven't done since college is write 3d graphics / rendering applications. I feel like it's a muscle I need to stretch. I don't know what I want to do with the added muscle yet, but I've felt this way for a while. That's it... time to start a new hobby.

As a fun way of getting started I've decided to make a simple 3d game, but what technology stack / tool set should I use? At the moment all I have are requirements. Everything must be opensource because I believe in opensource. The rendering engine must be written in C++ because I want it to be as fast as possible, but not be a dead end.

With these requirements I am currently digging into Blender for artwork and OGRE for the rendering engine. God help me. Blender is the least intuitive application I have ever used! If anyone has some good tutorials, send them my way! OGRE, on the other hand, is a gem.

Finally, when starting a new project I find I need a constant source of motivation and inspiration. I just found it in a project called Overgrowth

These guys are good! I have to preorder to support their brilliance!

Update: Allan Ecker was kind enough to send me some cool blender links. I'm sharing so the world can benefit:
"Here are links for Blender: This is the basic, stop-pulling-your-hair-out tutorial that explains how not to be totally dumbfounded by the 3D view, which makes sense once you get the hang of it, but is totally baffling otherwise. has a long list of very good video tutorials which go from some excellent basic tutorials straight up to some pretty esoteric stuff, but is where you want to go for photo-realism. Once you're ready for that kind of thing."

Thanks Allan!

Monday, July 11, 2011

tv: Dogbot Learns to Feel, Part 2

Season 2 : Ep. 5 | 12:32

This episode is the fifth in a series of episodes on creating a dog robot. This episode looks at a primitive pressure sensor design that I printed on my 3d printer. Is it enough to help DogBot feel its environment?

Sunday, June 26, 2011

tv: Dogbot Learns to Feel, Part 1

Season 2 : Ep. 4 | 11:26

This episode is the fourth in a series of episodes on creating a dog robot. This episode looks at a primitive pressure sensor design that I printed on my 3d printer. Is it enough to help DogBot feel its environment?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

tv: DogBot Electronics

Season 2 : Ep. 3 | 13:02

This episode is the third in a series of episodes on creating a dog robot. This episode explores the boardruino, an arduino clone, and the ability to control servos with only a few lines of code.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

tv: DogBot Math

Season 2 : Ep. 2 | 9:56

This episode is the second in a series of episodes on creating a dog robot. It shows how to use MathCast and OpenSCad to calculate the equations necessary to make the robot move realistically.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

tv: CAD a DogBot

Season 2 : Ep. 1 | 9:39

This episode is the first in a series of episodes on creating a dog robot. It shows how to use OpenSCad to design the skeleton of the robot.

Friday, January 21, 2011

AllSeeing: back to the beginning...

In 2008 I found the RepRap project by searching for prototyping services. I was attempting to build a custom webcam mount just for the fun of it. Since then I have been deep into the RepRap movement and have started to make occasional videos about my research. Over my Christmas vacation I decided to take a step back and apply all that I have learned and all the tools that I have acquired and start designing and building a camcorder mount. Here is a shaky video of where I'm at right now with the mount. I had to film my camcorder, so I had to use my phone to take the video. :)

It still needs a lot of work but I hope you will agree it has already come a long way. So that's the first set of information that I wanted to share in this blog post. Stay with me while I switch gears. I found the following video last night. I smiled to see how much progress has been made by start-up companies in the area of robotics.

Now let's put these two things together. I'm just an average tech geek who built a 3d printer and likes to play with robotics. There are tons of people like me. The moment the people like me make the realization that [building printers] and [using those printers to build robots that pick up your dishes and put them in the sink] share comparable complexity is the moment the robot will become just another tool in the tech geeks tool box.

"Whacha doin' this weekend?"
"Oh, I'm just designing an upgrade for my drink bot. It dropped a glass last week and I have a feeling I need to increase the range of motion of its thumb."

On a final note, Forrest over at Technocratic Anarchist was working on a robotic hand last year. Cool.