If you have ever played with 3D modeling/drafting software, you’ll know that most of it is non-intuitive and is riddled with bugs. It involves refreshing the screen a lot because of artifacts that occur when deleting lines and your CPU fan ramping up to full speed. None of this describes Google Sketchup. It’s the easiest and best 3D modeling package I’ve ever used. Today I spent some time drawing a 3D model of my house in order to chose some landscaping for the front yard. It took me a couple of hours to draw but most of that was spent running back and forth between the computer and the tape measure. If I had an assistant, I could have hacked it out in about 30 minutes I think. I haven’t decided on the landscaping yet but I’m fairly pleased with the result. Here is another house that I designed from the ground up for a piece of property I’m trying to market.
I would say it took roughly 4 hours but that was the first model I made so I had a lot of undo’s and other learning mistakes. On both of the houses, I drew every line by hand besides the trees but I was easily able to import pictures. For instance, the siding on both drawings is actually just a picture of siding that I rescaled to work as a texture map. There are several video tutorials available and I think you can watch them all and be proficient in less than 30 minutes. Google Sketchup is totally free for download so no excuses.
Long before the latest 3D craze that was spurred single-handedly by Avatar, there was a big virtual reality boom in the early to mid 1990’s. It was a prime time for virtual reality 1.0 because of movies like the lawnmower man and the availability of relatively cheap 3D-capable hardware. If you already had a 386DX/25, you could interface a Mattel Power Glove and a Segascope 3-D to it via parallel ports and run rend386, a MS-DOS based virtual reality environment. By that time, those items were outdated and showing up at thrift stores for next to nothing and rend386 came with several books, most notably Virtual Reality Creations with was written by the authors of rend386.
As of 1993, the Dave Stampe and Bernie Roehl decided to split up and perpetuate virtual reality research with separate tools. Dave Stampe apparently went on to write a tool called VR-386 which was essentially a 90% rewrite of rend386 and was exponentially better. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to find any more information on it than is mentioned here on the power glove page. Bernie on the other hand went on to create a tool called AVRIL. Then Bernie went on to work on VRML which was designed to be used in a web browser and subsequently worked on Java3D. Taking a quick look at some of the Java3D examples, I’m thinking that it’s not really quite as easily implemented as rend386 but I’ll reserve judgment for a later date when I have a chance to delve into some of these languages.
Reading the VRML wiki, it seems that VRML has been superseded by a language called X3D which is an XML based description language for virtual worlds which I plan to take a closer look at.
I am tentatively planning on building a USB power glove and/or Segascope interface out of an Atmel AVR at some point in the future. As we all know however, hardware useless without the accompanying drivers and software. Consequently, I’m still looking for the final environment in which I want to implement my interface. Maybe I’ll just grab a 486DX/66 and dig up one of those old copies of rend386 but I would far prefer something that I could use with Google Sketchup drawings so the search continues.
Here is a small contemporary house I drew in Sketchup
Here is the inside
Here is another inside view
Here is a view of the back
I’d love to walk through that house in 3D with my Segascope and power glove in hand someday…