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Fabricating Nature and a Physical Turing Test

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the hopefully-nature-isn't-a-stickler-for-copyright dept.

AI 36

Nwe submitter arrow3D writes "A new startup in Norway is focused on design and fabrication at the level and quality of nature. Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing, to 'support the future of design and manufacturing.' Their software was recently used to create the multi-material Minotaur Helmet by Neri Oxman from MIT, as featured in Wired UK last month. An interesting thought (as recently illustrated in Dilbert) is the idea of a Physical Turing Test for synthetic objects and that both Turing Tests may require each other — i.e. only by designing and building at the resolution of nature can we achieve the intelligence of natural objects. Their software platform is still very much under development but they've started trying to 'save the world from polygons' with a KickStarter campaign that's live now."

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Meets the Slashdot Test (4, Funny)

CajunArson (465943) | about 2 years ago | (#41972995)

The Slashdot Test: Any submission that includes references to Kickstarter and 3D printing is always posted to the front page.

Re:Meets the Slashdot Test (3, Interesting)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 2 years ago | (#41973219)

Anything that implies a new implementation of a Turing Machine also has better chances.

Re:Meets the Slashdot Test (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 years ago | (#41977145)

If it looks like an iPhone, and acts like an iPhone, can you prove it's not a Samsung clone?

Re:Meets the Slashdot Test (1)

ericloewe (2129490) | about 2 years ago | (#41977963)

I don't know, but if you can, you can do so with a Turing machine

Re:Meets the Slashdot Test (-1, Offtopic)

TuringTest (533084) | about 2 years ago | (#41974257)

And any submission that includes references to the Turing Test must have me!!!! :-P

Obligatory (4, Funny)

johanwanderer (1078391) | about 2 years ago | (#41973059)

Re:Obligatory (3, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41974451)

I was thinking this one [] would be the obligatory.


mill3d (1647417) | about 2 years ago | (#41973111)

What about just using NURBS and procedural surface displacement as is common in the film industry..?

Or subdivision surfaces... (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#41973577)

You know, 'cause they retain the simplicity of manipulation like a mesh, but the smoothness of a NURBS. Oh, and free source code from Pixar ;-)

I suppose the challenge in either method is the "blending" they're doing.

Re:Or subdivision surfaces... (1)

mill3d (1647417) | about 2 years ago | (#41973939)

Either, truly ; but I would think a built-in UV space could come in-handy here as well... The article talks about using parametric surfaces as a replacement to polys and voxels. It just sounds like trying reinventing the wheel to me as engineering, CAD and visualization apps have been doing that for years. As for the detail/resolution blending, it seems that having the shell of an object (or limit surface ;^) would be enough geometry-wise and have the lower resolution levels described mathematically should do, no?

Re:NURBS (1)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41974281)

The same issues as polygons - they break, leaving gaps when performing complex operations (or even not complex, if you don't do it just so).

It can be made to work, with a lot of effort and experience, but this is a new way that doesn't have those limitations. Not to say it doesn't have others, of course - mostly it's rather slow, compared to surface modelling.

Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

Re:NURBS (1)

mill3d (1647417) | about 2 years ago | (#41974659)

In essence, we're looking at a sort of Post-Script for 3D printers, if I'm not mistaken. I can imagine how this might be slow especially for describing intricate, layered feature sets...

Are you describing the 3D model being printed as parametric cross-section(s) along the printers' vertical axis then?

Re:NURBS (2)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41975001)

G-Code is closer to the role PostScript fills in 2d printing, but it's only loosely standardized, and every printer seems to need their own sub dialect of it. That's why there's still a common interchange format being used, with printer specific software/settings being used to produce the G-Code that actually goes to the printer.

We do support outputting to slice oriented formats (Bitmap and another that I've just gone completely blank on), but we don't use these internally. Instead, our software is using 3D functions. There is existing software that does this (CSG modellers) however we use both a different set of functions to those traditionally used, that have better properties for smooth objects (in our opinion).

Being mathematical, they are accurate to whatever numerical precision is used, so we can produce slices (our preferred format) or meshes at whatever resolution is wanted, as appropriate for the printer.

(The Fine Summary doesn't include that we already have an existing product based on the technology, but we want to make a more targeted version that doesn't require the customer to also have the Rhino 3D modelling software.)

Let's Get In To Physical (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41973113)

Let me hear your body talk
Your body talk
Let me here
Your body talk
Totally Hot

Right conclusion, wrong reasoning (4, Insightful)

vmxeo (173325) | about 2 years ago | (#41973497)

CG artists and designers know very well the limitations and tediousness of modeling with polygons. Mesh models tend to have all kinds of problems such as cracks, holes and self-intersections. This is due to a disconnect between the real world being represented and the modeling software's attempts to represent real, volumetric, complex and “messy” objects by only surfaces.

The attack on polygons is rather unwarranted. True, surfaces are only able to visually represent an actual solid object, but then again for most visual media that's all you need them to do. Ever been on a movie set? The walls are thin wood supported by flimsy frames. Floors are painted on. Props and set pieces are often foam. Materials are cheap, lightweight, and easy to handle. There's no way any of that would work for an actual building, but again, it doesn't need to. It just needs to look like it could work.

Printing real world objects will need to account for much more than simply surfaces, much as a real structure requires more design and construction than a movie set. Developing procedurally generated materials and processes is an important step in making that happen. This goal of this project is to do just that.

In short: It's new media. New media requires new ways of working.

Re:Right conclusion, wrong reasoning (1)

Yaa 101 (664725) | about 2 years ago | (#41974003)

Surfaces are the photo of the real object, the trouble with surfaces is that you have to calculate the deception, and in the end the real thing will need much less energy.

We would not be able to be here if nature wasn't so efficient as it is, so taking natures algorithms and paterns to solve our space/time dilemma's is not such a bad idea.

Re:Right conclusion, wrong reasoning (1)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41974349)

The trouble is, everyone working with the new media is trying to bring the old workflow directly over. For example, the generic file format for 3D printing models is STL - a truly terrible file format that is a simple list of free floating triangles (no shared vertices or anything nice).

We (the people are Uformia) aren't really aiming for visual modelling. It's the printing we're aiming for. And we think just adding more and more complex methods of describing surfaces isn't enough, especially with the new printers coming out that combine materials.

Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

Re:Right conclusion, wrong reasoning (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 2 years ago | (#41975165)

I agree. I'm fairly certain they're simply re-inventing wheels here.

First off, I'd like to know what new way they've decided to define a "pure mathematical volume"... Why, might it be defined by the boundary between its interior and exterior? You know, its SURFACE? Secondly, I'd like to see how a mathematically parametrized surface (used to define a 3D volume) compares to nurbs or subdivision surfaces (both are parametric surfaces already in use in 3D modeling -- the parameters are the relatively sparse vertices' of the framing mesh). Third, did you know it's possible to define complex shapes via composing said parametric boundaries using boolean intersections and/or apply even/odd rules to create voids or have multiple types of materials in the same space? Why you can even use recursive algorithms and complex dimensions to compose such things with near infinite detail (limited by your available RAM + storage). Lastly, I'd like to know why this is considered "new", since I've been using purely mathematical formulas and algorithms to define 3D volumes in Pov-Ray for over a decade. Ray Tracing a Fractal is rendering "at the level and quality of nature!" Oh, no wait, it's still limited by the display resolution and calculation accuracy...

...Much like 3D printing resolution is limited by the stepper motor and materials used, not the polygons. Even a stepper-less motor will be controlled by CPU timing loops somewhere along the line, and it isn't capable of floating point calculations at the resolution of nature in real time. Unless they're creating a purely analog or quantum computer to go along with the stepperless 3D printing machine (good luck keeping it calibrated, btw), this won't be "designing and building at the resolution of nature".

Furthermore, we already DO build things at the level and quality of nature -- It's called Nanotech, Molecular Biology, Gene Therapy, etc. We already know EXACTLY how we can efficiently represent a watermelon digitally. We sequenced its genome, then GZipped it. The more geonomes you GZip the higher the compression ratio!

Re:Right conclusion, wrong reasoning (2)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41975341)

Without getting into too much detail:

No, it's boundary is just a side effect of the definition. We use zero value to be the boundary, but that's just a convenient convention.

NURBS and other parametric surfaces still have limitations. It's very difficult to define complex shapes with them, and the boolean operations often break, leaving you with gaps between patches or surfaces that have no matching other side. The staff and beta testers include people experienced with polygon and NURBS, and there are things people are used to not being able to do (or have to do certain ways) with NURBS that "just work" with this system.

Functional objects aren't new, by any means (they predate polygons in fact). We're using some new functions (rather then the boolean ones used in existing CSG modelers).

3D printing resolution IS limited by the polygons. If you try to put a mesh into any existing printing software that has individual polygons sized at the precision of the motors, the software does break (and the mesh file will be measured in gigabytes).

And yes, "resolution of nature" is a marketing phrase. Don't ask me, I just work here.

Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter. We have an existing product (which isn't mention in the summary, but is in the Kickstarter) but we want to make a more specific user friendly version.

Possibly a good product, but much marketing hype (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41973499)

"Fabrication at the quality of nature" - A lot of marketing hype right there.

That aside, if you are not modeling something, and we are modeling still (it lives inside a computer dangit!), you have two choices:
1) parametric model (finite dimensional)
2) non-parametric model (infinite dimensional)
Infinite dimensional of course in the sense of as big of a sample sizes you use.

Their blog post disses polygon (a parametric model), but I bet that their product still inherently uses it. It also disses voxels,a volumetric sample point - i.e.non-parametric model. An interesting side point: voxels are not cuboids just like how pixels are not squares (

I think their product is essentially a mesh fixing/cleaning product and can save a lot of people a lot of headache (if it works). But that article is disingenuous and just a pile of hype that smells a lot like the "Unlimited Detail" farce a year or 2 back (

Re:Possibly a good product, but much marketing hyp (1)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41975385)

It's definitely marketing hype, but that's the kind of thing marketing is about.

There's kind of two processes being described in the product. Mesh repair is working with polygons and adding/modifying the polygons to produce a better mesh. This is intended to make better meshes for the second part, which is mesh mixing. Mesh mixing is functional, so can be sampled at any resolution.

Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

Advertising (2)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#41973521)

Another ad for a Kickstarter campaign. Yawn.

There many good "organic" modelers. Autodesk Mudbox is widely used by pros. Curved surface volumetric modellers go back a long way. I used one of the very first back in the 1980s, one based on deformable superellipsoids and running on a Symbolics LISP machine.

As for the "physical Turing test", if your demo reel doesn't show that you can pass that, it won't get you in the door at Pixar.

A new startup in Norway invented POV-Ray? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41973523)

Ok, I didn't read the article, but that's certainly what it sounds like. POV-Ray is the ultimate nerd-raytracer: Programming language and retracer at the same time.

Eleventh Post!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41973597)

Eleventh Post!!

Nature builds things with structures of atoms... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41974071)

And the currently available fabricators build stuff in slices.

Is Anyone Else... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 2 years ago | (#41974561)

Is anyone else reminded of the Minbari when they look at that helmet? Would that make it a warrior cast?

Three words (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41975333)

Constructive Solid Geometry

WTF, this was already invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41975847)

Seriously, how is this different than Constructive Solid Geometry?
See AutoCAD, SolidWorks, MasterCAM, etc.

Re:WTF, this was already invented (1)

arrow3D (2773363) | about 2 years ago | (#41978739)

Hmm, their stuff doesn't look like CSG to me - look at the blends and morphs for example, those are certainly not CSG operations.

Also, don't trust wikipedia. CSG means something very specific and is not just an interface that lets you do Boolean operations. See explanations from some of the guys who came up with the stuff: Requicha (pdf) [] and John Woodwark's website []

Only a system which has a CSG tree as an internal representation and point membership evaluation can be called a real CSG system. As soon as it stores surfaces, it's just back to being a plain old BRep system.

The packages you mention don't actually use CSG, whatever they may call their operations. Ones that do are: iCAD (from japan), BRL-CAD (US-Army, now open source) and the old AutoSolids add-on for AutoCAD (which is dead now).

If you're interested in reading up some more, a good starting point might be the original reports []

I can help if you have further questions :)

Re:WTF, this was already invented (1)

Wizarth (785742) | about 2 years ago | (#41986313)

You're right, it's not just CSG - although the system does contain CSG-esque boolean operations.

Our currently live product (Symvol) shows how our software does keep a tree - and we use point evaluation for producing output. MeshUp is going to be more targeted/simplified to use, so the tree possibly wont be shown/will be an advanced view.

Disclaimer: I work for Uformia, the company running the Kickstarter.

Turing Test? (1)

bitspotter (455598) | about 2 years ago | (#41977537)

The analogy to the Turing Test doesn't make any sense.

The Turing Test was proposed as a way to tell if a human-made thing is intelligent, based on an inability to distinguish them from non-human-made things that are assumed to be intelligent, after you conceal all the factors that allow you to tell if the subjects were or weren't human-made.

The author is proposing the Turing Test is a way to tell if a human-made thing is human-made, based on an inability to distinguish them from non-human-made things that are assumed to be non-human-made, after you conceal all the factors that allow you to tell if the subjects were or weren't human-made.

You're trying to control for the same thing you're testing for.

Re:Turing Test? (1)

phrackwulf (589741) | about 2 years ago | (#41982529)

Our instruments are functioning and unable to measure our instruments! *SHOCK*

Nothing new (1)

EdZ (755139) | about 2 years ago | (#41979097)

Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing

So, identical to existing CAD packages such as Solidworlds, Pro/Engineer, Catia, FreeCAD, OpenSCAD etc? Yeah, that's a totally new generation right there, nobody has marketed products for solid modelling physical objects with the intention of producing them with some sort of additive/subtractive machining process before, no siree.

Re:Nothing new (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41995747)

Agree there is nothing new with the "new generation" of cad packages... leaky unstable polygon meshes of massive file size for complex models. yes siree.. tis true "Solid" modeling programs output "polygon" models; they use solid modeling methods that are stable but output polygons.

Awesome! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41995537)

Hey! This is a profoundly awesome event. Every 3D printing company should be looking at this. Volumetric modeling of mixed materials is a dream come true for me. At last, no more leaky solid models dependent on mathematically unstable polygonal shells typically so full of holes as to not be usable directly by machines, limited in resolution with enormous file sizes for complex models.

infinite detail - unlimited detail (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42000123)

Uformia wants to save the world from polygons, which reminds me about Euclideon (Unlimited Detail, Geoverse). There is another common point. By looking at the wiki page of "Digital materialization (DM)", we see that among the attributes of a DM system is "infinite - ability to operate at any scale and define infinite detail".

All this makes me wonder if there is a deeper relation, namely if an "unlimited detail" algoritm may use 3D data compressed (by an algorithm akin to fractal image compression) in a function representation (FREP) style, which already gives "3D who's in front information", then use a sorting algorithm exploiting the tree of the FREP to associate to each pixel from the screen a visible "3D atom". Explained in more detail here: Digital materialization, Euclideon and fractal image compression [] .

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