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.”

Affordable 3D handheld scanner to bring fast replication to the masses

A handheld 3D scanner that is dramatically cheaper than many of its rivals is set for release, enabling users to quickly create stl files for 3D printing, or convert them for use in VR.

The 198g scanner, which is from emerging 3D printer company XYZprinting, is set to go on sale at the start of November for a puny £149, making it a serious option for Christmas gifts.

It is designed to be very simple and quick to use, with the holder moving the scanner around the object they are capturing, and the scan appearing in real-time on an attached computer. They are even able to stop and start a scan to get a complete capture.

We witnessed it capture a complete head scan in about 90 seconds, which was then ready to be 3D printed using a simple interface.

At present it can only capture scans of up to 60cm x 60cm x 40cm, but that’s set to change in February, when an update to Intel RealSense – the scanner’s underlying tech – will allow both new already purchased models to complete full body scans.

3d-scanner-xyz

The scanner is undoubtedly going to be a hit with 3D printing enthusiasts, but it could also help to bring more people into the 3D printing fold.

XYZ’s printers are designed to be affordable and easy to use, and combined with the scanner, could be an appealing option for families looking for semi-educational gifts come the holidays.

The scanner does need to be tethered to a computer to work, but could easily be taken out alongside a laptop, enabling users to 3D scan objects in the wild.

Parents could use the tech to add some fun to a family outing, and creative types could use it to capture objects to later edit, adjust and augment.

A volunteer is scanned using the device at the IFA International Consumer Electronics show in Berlin. Images courtesy of XYZprinting.

A volunteer is scanned using the device at the IFA International Consumer Electronics show in Berlin. Images courtesy of XYZprinting.

There is also some serious potential for it in the virtual reality field. While the scanner is primarily designed for 3D printing, the stl file it produces can be converted into an appropriate 3D file for use in VR environments.

Given that VR is set to skyrocket next year when the major headsets are released to consumers, there is going to be an increasing demand both for 3D object files and the means of quickly creating them.

While many of the 3D objects and environments headed for VR are undoubtedly going to be painstakingly created, there is definitely going to be a big market for 3D models that can be quickly generated.