New software lets novices turn sketches into sophisticated 3D animations

New software developed by Moka Studio and EPFL (École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne), called Mosketch, will allow anyone to create professional-grade 3D animation without sophisticated training or Hollywood-level budgets.

As it currently stands, 3D modelling and animation requires a lot of time, money and training. This precludes many with an interest or idea from breaking into the field, placing unfortunate limits on a field that has huge potential in a variety of areas.

Mosketch aims to counter this entry ceiling by delivering performance equal to that of the more expensive animation applications, but with an accessibility that allows artists with no 3D knowledge whatsoever to enter the field and use the software.

“The strength of our software is that it easily transforms 2D sketches into 3D, letting artists create 3D animation seamlessly and naturally,” said Benoît Le Callennec, co-founder and CEO of Moka Studio.

Images courtesy of EFPL

Images courtesy of EPFL

The software works by bringing together two major methods of animation: direct kinematics and inverse kinematics. Direct kinematics has artists change each joint of a character individually, while inverse kinematics allows artists to guide any part of the character’s body. Unlike current market heavyweights, Mosketch allows users to easily switch between these methods and model a complete posture with only a few sketches.

Perhaps the true innovation of the software, however, is the way in which it calculates 3D characters’ postures. Mosketch’s enhanced algorithm runs in parallel, making it 10 to 150 times faster than other programs and letting artists shape a character’s posture in real-time.

This focus on the artistry side of things extends to other areas of the program as well; Mosketch is purposefully designed with flexibility in mind, avoiding the intense preparation and complex control rigs needed with a lot of other software.

“Thanks to our advanced mathematical models, artists can animate any 3D character without a lot of up-front work. That makes our software much easier to use,” said Ronan Boulic, head of the immersive interaction research group at EPFL.

Perhaps the most exciting potential of the software however, is its possibilities in research applications outside of standard 3D modelling. The software could be used for both planning in robotics and developments in virtual reality.

Due to the time investment usually required, developing content for virtual reality can prove a real challenge. This new software will vastly enhance the field due to the simple fact of the efficiency its algorithm lends to creators.

By focusing on accessibility to artists, regardless of previous experience, Mosketch may serve to massively increase the range of those involved in virtual reality, and their creations.

“A key challenge in virtual reality is shortening the time lapse between a user’s movement and the corresponding shift in what he sees,” Boulic said. “The algorithm we developed for Mosketch can speed interactions in complex modelling environments, such as virtual prototypes for manufacturing or complicated tasks for robotics, or even for developing humanoid robots.”

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You can now explore the International Space Station with Google Street View

If you’ve ever wondered what life is like aboard the International Space Station then Google has a treat in store for you because beginning today the ISS is available via Google Maps’ Street View.

Astronauts have been working and living on the ISS – a structure made up of 15 connected modules that floats 250 miles above Earth – for the past 16 years.

Now with Street View regular citizens can explore the station, and go everywhere from the sleeping quarters to where the space suits are kept. This is the first time Street View has ventured beyond planet Earth, and for the benefit of viewers the Street View feature also comes annotated, with handy little dots you can click on to explain what everything does, which is another first.

“In the six months that I spent on the International Space Station, it was difficult to find the words or take a picture that accurately describes the feeling of being in space,” said European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet in a blog post.

“Working with Google on my latest mission, I captured Street View imagery to show what the ISS looks like from the inside, and share what it’s like to look down on Earth from outer space.”

In his blog post, Pesquet goes on to describe how because of the constraints associated with living and working in space, it wasn’t possible to collect Street View using Google’s usual methods.

Instead, the Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design a gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS.

Still photos were captured in space that were sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

Images courtesy of Google

“There are a lot of obstacles up there, and we had limited time to capture the imagery,” recalled Pesquet.

“Oh, and there’s that whole zero gravity thing.”

Pesquet ended his blog post by revealing the inspiration behind the Street View and ISS collaboration.

“Looking at Earth from above made me think about my own world a little differently, and I hope that the ISS on Street View changes your view of the world too.” said Pesquet.