Robots

The robots are coming. Boston dynamics is already advertising its first product, ‘Spot’ the dog. Atlas will no doubt be next and just like chess computers that eventually beat grand masters, so Altas is on course to becoming the ‘perfect’ ballerina.

atlas-00Photo: Unknown (maybe Boston Dynamics)

Watch this video if you don’t believe me:  Atlas YouTube video

Of course watching 10 robots performing Giselle flawlessly would not be the same as watching real dancers. It would be highly impressive from a technical viewpoint but it would lack the wonder of watching humans performing. So no need to panic just yet. The real problem will come when it is impossible to know whether the dancers are robots or real people.

I reckon by the year 3000 robots will be walking among us and we will be hard put to tell the difference. It may well be that a law will be introduced requiring robots to be clearly marked and registered, but that won’t stop law breakers.

Rhino 6

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/Stratos/stratos08092019HQ4.blend

After much tweaking it’s time to put the Stratos to bed. This is the final image and I am pretty happy with the results. Although most of it was done in Blender 2.8, it would have been impossible for me to achieve this quality without building the initial model in Rhino 5.

However, I have seen plenty of stunning examples on YouTube built solely in Blender, but how this has been done is still a bit of a mystery to me. Even using shrink-wrapping I was unable to achieve the quality I was after.

The next step is to try out the updated Rhino version 6. I have avoided this up till now but my Rhino 5 has a Windows license and I no longer use Windows, so it has been rendered obsolete. Rarely do I enjoy the ‘thrill’ of trying new updated software as it’s a bit like walking in new leather shoes compared to comfy old ones (a pain) … but unlike shoes, which have to be replaced, software does not wear out.

So I download the Rhino 6 trial for Mac successfully, unlike when I last tried via Windows 10. My initial impression is that nothing has changed. I glanced over all the drop down menus and could not see any additional functions, though there may well be one or two lurking somewhere. I can only conclude that this new version 6 is more of a bug fix than anything profoundly earth shattering. That is a shame as I found many functions in Blender superior, which they could easily have adopted to improve user experience. Examples of these I will post later as I come across them. On the plus side, as little has changed I at least do not have to relearn it all over again and can carry on as normal, which is a great relief.

Now I don’t want to get too picky as it is early days. However within the first hour of using Rhino 6 it crashed. I may have been pushing it to its limits but that is no excuse. It should just ignore my commands or at the very least give me a warning that proceeding is inadvisable. Also a .obj file that was previously saved in Rhino 5 (16mb) was now (167mb) saved in Rhino 6! I have yet to discover the reason for that. I would also be interested to know why Rhino 6 software (1.3GB) is almost 4x larger than Blender software (350mb), despite having less functions!

Open source software like Blender (Linux) are invariably more stable than bought software and you do have to ask yourself why is that. Well? Answers on a postcard please.

Watch this space for any further reviews, groans, moans and meltdowns.

Reflections

klf3

A visit to Karlsruhe for their spectacular ‘Schlosslichtspiele’. This is an annual light festival event lasting for several weeks from August till September. Many artists and companies are involved in putting together a light show projected onto the impressive baroque facade of the palace.

klf1

The setting was perfect with a warm summer evening and clear skies. The event is free and there was plenty of space in the enormous grounds to find an ideal viewing spot.

reflect1

After a weekend in Karlsruhe it was back to Pforzheim and time to reflect on how different the two towns are.

reflect2

Pforzheim suffered greatly during WW2 and I took time out to visit the memorial, which stands high on a hill where the debris from bombed building was taken and now over looks the town.

denkmal2

It’s a bit of a slog to get up to but well worth it just for the views over Pforzheim and Baden Wuerttemberg. The shiny metallic memorial sculptures reminded me of a mix between 911 and 2001 and below this plaque explains the event:

denkmal

Which roughly translated reads as follows:

Debris hill 23rd February 1945

This artificial hill was created on the Wallberg (hill) from the debris of Pforzheim.

It reminds us of the horrors of WW2, particularly on the 23rd February 1945. In less than 20 minutes the town was completely devastated. More than 18,000 people died.

The total war – started by the National Socialists, Germany – aimed now also at our own town.

flowerpf

A beautiful mix of wildflowers alongside the Enz riverbanks.

duckpf

A duck on the River Nagold, which also flows through Pforzheim. The two rivers intersect in the town centre and this made it attractive to the Romans who first settled here. In fact for all I know I would not be surprised if the duck was standing on old Roman ruins.

The Zone

cat

Have you ever noticed how little animals and birds do. Look at your average dog or cat, they sleep all night and then for much of the day. Notice a field of sheep or ducks beside a pond, they too spend much of the day sleeping and I am pretty sure they are not suffering from insomnia.

You have to ask yourself what are we humans doing wrong. We dash around the world polluting the environment, provoke wars or else we spend hours frustrated waiting in traffic queues, checkins and such like.

Is it not time to rethink what we are doing and where we are headed. Why are people working their butts off just to buy things that give a momentary buzz. What’s with all these famous, rich, celebrities living in those huge mansions you see on YouTube. Empty mansions, spotless, sterile, never lived in. Too big even for three generations of one family. OK, so some are investments and some are historic buildings being preserved. However, even your average middle class family own a large house that will soon only echo to the hollow sounds of the children who once lived there.

I read that algorithms will soon replace most of what we humans do. No profession is untouched. Even art! A computer that composes music has already dumbfounded music critics. They could not tell the difference between real Bach and this computer that had been programmed to create Bach style music. The speed of change is so great now that even educating youngsters for specific professions is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Never mind, there is always Weezer.

Weezer – Islands in the sun.

Egrets

egrets

… a change of scene.

This is an old composite image of egrets I photographed mainly in Spain some years ago. I felt a short break was needed from nature walks, Boris and 3D modeling. What with Boris getting his just deserts, Rhino 3D software update costing me 1000 euros and with the summer being all but over, time to reflect on where I am going, what I am doing and what in the world is going on.

Stratos fin

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos-green.blend

Finally completed a homage to this 1970s classic sports/racing car and its Italian designer Gandini who created many other renowned designs. I built this model in Rhino 3D and Blender 2.8 (10%, 90%) respectively. The construction is based on rough and probably inaccurate technical drawings downloaded from the Internet so there are still a few questionable areas, if being true to the original design was paramount. However I usually do tend to modify designs here and there adding my own touch so they would never be concours winners. That’s my excuse anyway.

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos2.blend

As mentioned in my previous post, although the Stratos is a Lancia, its transverse mid-mounted 2.4 litre Ferrari Dino engine made it a Ferrari really. The compact design also filled a gap Ferrari had failed to fill. Having owned a Fiat X19 in my youth with the same layout, albeit smaller and lacking a Ferrai engine, I became a fan of this concept early on. The only downsides to this layout was a tendency to aquaplane in the wet owing to the lightweight frontend and nervousness in corners. Being short wheel-based it required quick reactions to halt a spin and over correction was always a danger, which I discovered to my cost on occasions. Access to the engine in the Fiat was also difficult, which Gandini solved in the Stratos by having a fully hinged rear end.

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos-green.blend

As far as construction of the model goes, I still find it easier to create the initial body shape in Rhino 3D before transferring to Blender 2.8. Still, my progress with Blender has come a long way so I hope soon to be able to complete it all in Blender using the shrink-wrap technique, which solves many of the surface issues when polygon modeling. The only shrink-wrapping I did on this model were the decals and badge logos so there is plenty of room for improvement.

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos-green.blend

Lancia Stratos

3D modeling, sculpting call it what you like…

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos.blend

My Lancia Stratos (WIP)

I enjoy building these cars, especially replicating the classics. To most people – with the exception of car designers, 3D modelers and petrol-heads they are just boring old cars, lumps of shiny metal enveloping greasy machinery that help pollute the environment and cost a fortune in time, money and nerves.

However, only those in the above category can really understand the complexity of building or designing a car, whether that be 3D digitally or hand-building the real thing in a garage. It has many similarities to the challenge of portrait painting. Just as in portrait painting the omission of smallest insignificant detail can make or break a work. Sometimes you think you have done everything accurately but it still looks wrong. You search high and low for errors, often fruitlessly.

Rotate the car by just one degree and all the lines change, as do the highlights, shadows and reflections. Unlike most products, cars are a mix of rubber, metal, glass and fabric, which make them more complex than almost any other. Reflections on the painted metal surfaces must be perfect otherwise they indicate damaged bodywork or badly resolved surfaces in the design phase. The reason Jaguars or Porsches look like quality when compared to a Ford or Toyota has much to do with the way surfaces have been resolved. Connecting three different angled surfaces together can often require a great deal of creative skill to make it look right and pleasing to the eye.

Cars needs balance, proportions, dynamics and aesthetic lines that are in harmony with each other and there are always many additions such as wheel arches, door handles and lights etc., that can make this a challenge.

The Lancia Stratos above is possibly my all time favourite sports car and one that I had the privilege of driving once albeit for only a couple of kilometers. ‘Shit off a shovel’ comes to mind as it weaved its way from the traffic lights and no wonder it has a mid-mounted 2.4 litre Ferrari Dino engine in what is a very compact, lightweight body. It was designed specifically as a racing car or rally car to be more accurate and was only produced for the road in any numbers to qualify for the category of production rally car. The bodywork was designed by Gandini, one of Italy’s finest car designers who was also responsible for the Lamborghini Muira, among other classics and strangely enough the Citroen BX. Probably the only citroen he ever designed.

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/stratos.blend

This is a work in progress and some details have yet to be added. The red lines indicate errors in the topology that need fixing. The A-pillar also looks incorrect to me but it is faithful to the technical drawing but that may be inaccurate, which is why it is so important to have accurate reference drawings. Still with a bit of tweaking (not twerking) I think we can fix that.

I always felt the Stratos was the perfect design but once you begin to analyze it more carefully for a replica, flaws become apparent. These flaws are the very thing that give it character and its own special DNA. There is a temptation to remove them or make corrections but like cosmetic surgery it just removes the very thing that made it unique and special. Just as in life drawing or portrait painting you must look and observe carefully. The eye is just a camera while the brain processes the image. However the brain has a habit of ignoring details and refers back to memory to save processing time, often in error.

Nostalgia

ARomeo2-200-E

For me these simple old-timers are still beautiful to look at and in many ways much more harmonious than some of today’s tortured designs. SUVs that look like they were created by a frustrated designer on coke or by committees only interested in their next cafe latte. What with bland one-box people carriers and family saloon cars that all look alike, it is hardly an inspiring sector. Of course times were simpler back then and there were less people involved in creating a product. Today it is probably a case of too many cooks, or something …

… one thing is for sure design aesthetics has not really advanced since the advent of the motorcar, it has just changed fashion and adapted to form following function, which is no bad thing of course. This old Alfa Romeo is a racing car too, so it is a little unfair to compare them but I think most petrol heads would agree the heyday of car design is over and we are now entering a more rational, controlled era … and talking of racing cars there is nothing more tortured than today’s Formula One cars with their nasty spoiler add-ons, bits stuck on here and there like wind-tunnel test models or an old guy’s shaved face flecked with bits of bloody tissue paper. The driver has also disappeared from view so you might just as well be watching slot car racing for all the entertainment.

Alfa Romeo 312

Blender:File:/Users/apple/Desktop/3D/ALFA/Alfa-new/blend-new/alfa-12C4.blend

A new classic under construction and much of it built in Blender 2.8. My interpretation is based on the Alfa 312 12C single-seater racing car. There were many versions of this classic shape so I have taken those bits I found most interesting and made a mongrel of it. This is an attempt to reduce the topology polygon count and keep to quads, something that I have yet to achieve successfully when transferring a Rhino .obj model to Blender.

Created with GIMP

Blender 2.8 has many interesting ways of displaying models, in fact almost infinite when combining different display options. Here it is shown ghosted, which can be useful sometimes.