Star Trek

What else can you print?

It’s 2015 and we are well into the manufacturing revolution, or so the media claims. No longer restricted to the realm of science fiction, 3D printing and one off manufacturing are becoming surprisingly commonplace.

From food to computers to cars, 3D printing is rapidly becoming a major component of our lives. I’m not just talking about printing plastic toys or parts – no, 3D printing has evolved! From computers that make themselves, to drivable cars printed in 24 hours, it seems like the only limit to what we can make is self imposed by our own imaginations.

Or by what we saw on Star Trek as kids. You decide.

 

VOLTERA

Building hardware sucks!

I assume. I haven’t so much as built my own computer, let alone built my own computer chips and circuit boards. But I know people who have, and according to them it is not a simple venture.

According to them one of the most dangerous components of any electronics project is the circuit board. It involves experimenting with violable chemicals, or waiting weeks after sending their designs off to a  fabrication house.

In short, building a circuit board had two options – messing with chemicals or waiting for weeks. Kind of a tough choice if you’re in a rush.

The Voltera V-One 3D printer wants to offer a third option.

L: insulating mask being laid down, R: second layer bridging over first layer

The Voltera V-One can create a prototype board right from the comfort of your own home.

Gerber files go in; prototype circuit boards come out.   According to the Kickstarter funding this project, the printer lays down a conductive ink to create the traces and an insulating ink as a mask between layers.

These boards aren’t meant to replace mass manufactured PCBs – this is a one off manufacturing prototype tool that helps you get  there faster. The designers claim that you can now you can quickly test an idea without wasting money or two weeks of your time!

The Kickstarter campaign started for this project around Valentine’s day. Their goal was $70, 000 over the course of the month. As of February 18th they have raised $333, 137 and have over 20 days go to.

Conductive ink dispensing

FOODINI

This one is for those of us who hate to cook. A full meal with the touch of a button – sounds like a dream! Or restricted to the realm of science fiction and Star Trek.

Come on, we’re all thinking it.

Although the Fodini hasn’t reached ‘Replicator’ status yet, it is certainly on its way. The meals are raw, but with the push of a button you can have a fully prepared  meal. All you have to do is cook it.

It isn’t too different from a regular 3D printer, but instead of printing with plastics, it deploys edible ingredients squeezed out of stainless steel capsules:

“It’s the same technology,” says Lynette Kucsma, co-founder of Natural Machines, “but with plastics there’s just one melting point, whereas with food it’s different temperatures, consistencies and textures. Also, gravity works a little bit against us, as food doesn’t hold the shape as well as plastic.”

The startup is based out of Barcelona and it is one of a kind. It can print a large selection of foods, from desserts to more savory meals.

The creator,  Natural Machines, points out that it’s designed to take care only of the difficult and time-consuming parts of food preparation that discourage people from cooking at home. Like preparing homemade pasta, or perfectly shaped cookies.

As mentioned before, the device only prints the food, which must be then cooked as usual. But a future model will also cook the preparation and produce it ready to eat.

foodini

And since we live in the Digital Age, everything needs to be connected to the Internet of Things.

“There’s a touchscreen on the front that connects to a recipe site in the cloud, so it’s an internet-of-things,-connected kitchen appliance,” said Kucsma. Users will also be able to control the device remotely using a smartphone, and share their recipes with the community.

Doodler

The Doodler is kind of the odd man out. It is not a 3D printer per se, but it is  an additive manufacturing device.

In other words, it’s a pen that draws in 3D.

There is nothing controlling where the 3Doodler lays down material except for the user. You’re essentially printing in air.

Positioned as something of a toy, and developed by engineers from the toy industry, the 3Doodler helps to bring the concept of additive manufacturing to a new user

 

The Strati

3d-printed-car

With all the talk of those self-driving cars, we can sometimes overlook how those cars are made. Cars are not exempt from 3D printing. In fact, it’s already been done.

ABS plastics is the first to attempt to print an entire car.  They eliminate a car’s “frame” and integrate all exterior and interior features into a drastically parts-reduced automotive creation.

Everything on the car that could be integrated into a single material piece has been printed. This includes the frame, exterior body, and some interior features. The mechanical components of the Strati, like battery, motors, wiring and suspension are sourced from Renault’s Twizy, an electric powered city car.

Not only that, but this car may be on the road within the year. Once the 3D-printed car is cleared by U.S. vehicle rules and regulations, it will be drivable on public roads.

The Strati takes 44 hours to print, with the hopes that they can cut that rate to 24 hours.

With all these printing developments, one question remains – how long until we can 3D print the perfect spouse?

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Augmented Reality and Our Reality

A few weeks ago I went to the local Cineplex to watch a movie. The name of the film I saw is eluding me (must not have been that good), but the walk up to the theatre and back again stuck in my mind.

 

As I walked towards the ticket booth, I noticed several screens sporting animated photographers looking at their cameras and talking amongst themselves. Then, as I walked passed them, they snapped to life and started trying to snap my photo, begging me to strike a pose.

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A few more steps to a second screen revealed the purpose of this nice ego boost.

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It’s an advertisement for the Cineplex Magazine. You can go up to one of these screens and let one of these many photographers take your photo. A few more seconds, and the picture will be put on a digital cover of the magazine and emailed to your inbox. Of course, ads and promotions about the magazine are included in the package.

That’s right – coming soon to a theatre near you; augmented reality!

Augmented Reality

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Plain ordinary reality is boring. At least, that’s what the providers of augmented reality products want you to believe. And really, who wouldn’t want to have access to the games and information that this medium claims to have?

When you think about it, dating app Tinder is really just a piece of augmented reality as well.

Augmented reality products aren’t restricted just to entertainment or the social scope. Many companies and brands are jumping on to this bandwagon as well. If advertisements can entice people to watch them out of enjoyment, rather than necessity well, branding would be a piece of cake!

With smartphones becoming so popular and affordable in the last few years, augmented reality campaigns have become a very effective way for brands to do just that.

Unlike conventional forms of advertisements, augmented reality ads allow consumers a high level of interaction with the brand.

Check this Ikea example out.  People could place Ikea furniture in their own homes using an augmented reality App. No assembly required.

Still, augmented reality advertisements are difficult to master. There are many examples of companies just missing the mark with this new form of innovation.  Moreover, these apps can be difficult to use. and they are hard to develop. Even small errors lead to lack of quality and coordination.

But when they work, they work well.

Advertising and branding opportunities not with standing, how does augmented reality change how we entertain ourselves, and how we live our daily lives?

Not New

Let’s look at the history first.

This technology is not new.

It was first alluded to in 1901. Then, in 1968, the first augmented reality headset was invented by Ivan Sutherland.

It probably isn’t something you’d want to wear. Called the Sword of Damocles, this head mounted display system was suspended from the ceiling while the viewer experienced computer fed graphics.

Image courtesy of Mashable

For creating this horrifying looking device,  Sutherland is commonly referred to as the “Father of Graphics.”

Since then, the technology advanced very slowly until it bloomed in the 2000s. In the new millennium,  the technology began receiving more attention as a way to, quite literally, change the way people see and experience the world around them. In the past few years, augmented reality has come to play a major role in the tech field, especially when it comes to mobile technology.

Even print ads have augmented reality components with those lovely QR codes. Want to see more? Scan the image with your phone to make it come alive.

There have been amazing advances in AR technology in the last 14 years. So what’s coming in the next few?

Out of touch with reality? New augmented reality tools coming our way.

Let’s look at some technologies that are coming our way

Roomalive

For those of you familar with Star Trek, the first item might sounds familar.

Microsoft is developing augmented reality technology that transforms an entire room.

Using projectors and depth cameras, players can dodge and interact with content displayed within the room. It’s an extensive set-up using projectors and Kinect units.

Roomalive doesn’t focus on a single wall. It uses several projectors to cover an entire room. There is software built in to it to detect surfaces, where they are and how they relate to the floor in the room. So don’t worry about tripping over that table.

Of course, there are tools for developers to build their own content.

Unfortunately it is just a prototype for now. There has been no mention of commercial availability, so it could be a while yet before we’re exploring space with the crew of the Enterprise.

 

FlexSense

This next bit of technology sounds like something out of Minority Report or Avatar.

Microsoft has again taken Science Fiction and made it into reality. Named FlexSense, it is a flexible smart surface that connects to mobile devices and is, essentially, a transparent digital piece of paper.

According to Techcrunch, this technology is based on printed piezoelectric sensors that can detect deformation of the plastic sheet and translate it to software without the need for cameras or any kind of external tracking.

Which, as far as I can translate, means it is a digital piece of paper.

The Microsoft team hopes that FlexSense will connect with existing technology and Apps to perform 2.5D interactive tasks.

Time Traveller 

Want to see what a place looked like a hundred years ago? A company called Timetraveler Augmented recently announced the Timetraveler application.

It uses Augmented Reality on smartphones and tablets to view historical content about locations near where they used to stand.  Content includes historical film footage, reconstructions of demolished sites, and stories about the impact on the location.

Right now it is only working around the Berlin wall, but they hope to expand it to other locations shortly.

LAYAR even added the ability to show a superimposed Berlin Wall as far back as 2010!

It looks like it might only be available in the German iTunes store right now, however Google Play seems to have the link available regardless of location. There are free and paid versions of the app.

NoAd

We’re all sick of advertisements, but NoAd is trying to bring a little culture back to our rotting brains.

Based in New York right now, specifically the subway lines, it is digitally replacing all of the ads with artwork.

The free app  is simple to use. Just launch it and, using the device’s camera, position it over an ad. Onscreen, you can see the physical billboard transform into a digital static or animated artwork – turning your wait for a subway train to arrive into a cultural experience. No Ad has collaborated with 50 artists, but it is planning to expand that on a month to month basis.

The app won’t work if an ad has been altered or there’s graffiti on it – which, as the app’s creators see it, has become a form of artwork on their own. And as of now, the app will only work on the “100 most popular horizontal subway platform advertisements…often for movies, TV shows, and popular products.” The app will also not work if there’s a single, dominant advertiser, or if the ads have not yet been catalogued in its system.

So, looking at all this Augmented Reality technology coming our way, I only have one thing to say.

Make it so  Make it so