They’re printed out of meat

Paul Raven @ 23-08-2010

First came the 3D printer… then came the CandyFab. But the collision of food and fabrication technology continues apace, as Fab@Home devotees start using scallops and turkey “reduced to an extrudable form” (shudder) to print user-designed meat-shapes.

OK, so it’s much cheaper and easier (not to mention commonplace) to just mould reclaimed meats into shapes, and more sophisticated work is being done in the medical sphere toward ‘printing’ new organs (or just growing them [via SentientDevelopments]), but I just couldn’t resist the headline.

And one thing’s for certain: when some smart so-and-so does the first 3D printout of John Scalzi’s head made from bacon, the internet will explode.


We can misremember it for you wholesale: historically layered Londons, and the past as palimpsest

Paul Raven @ 28-05-2010

Via Bruce Sterling, one of the more obvious augmented reality applications, done elegantly: historical archive images overlaid onto the real (present/baseline?) world. The older I get, the more I become fascinated with history; if someone did up layers like this for the whole country, I’d probably never switch it off. [image ganked from TechVert; please contact for takedown if required]

London Museum archive photo augmented reality app

Give it a couple of years (or maybe less), we’ll be doing the same with archive video. Another few years, generative CGI that is practically indistinguishable from archive video. Alternate history as real-time immersive gaming experience… think of the 80-hours-a-week WoW player, and it’s easy to assume that some people will pretty much live in AR environments full time. A subsection of those people will make their entire living in that space, geographically contigious with baseline reality but offset (or derailed completely) from historical temporal flow. Whose laws will they obey? Who will they pay taxes to? What will their game goals be? Imagine a Victorian London ARG that’s something like The Sims – your goal is, basically, to survive your chosen socioeconomic mileue for as long as possible without dropping out… or dying in the attempt.

Related bonus link: MeFi points out an experiment into the mutability of memory as manipulated by doctored ‘historical’ images and media artefacts. Apparently not a very rigorous experiment, but nonetheless, the implication is that it’s alarmingly easy to convince us that a fabricated event actually occured. This is, hopefully, a temporary problem. It’s going to take us a little while to evolve the sort of high-sensitivity bullshit filters that an impossible-to-police internet demands, and ubiquitous AR will raise the bar another few notches; I suspect we’ll get there eventually. But unless technological progress hits a brick wall fairly soon, I suspect we’ll never fully catch up. This is a little like what evolutionary science calls an “arms race”, I think… though we’re now in an arms race with the cultural and technological output of our own species.

Thinking about it again, I guess we always have been… I’m sure I’m reinventing the wheel here (and if you can point me toward more thinking alonmg these lines, please pipe up in the comments), but the enormity of this revelatory idea has pretty much scuppered my chances of concentrating on anything else for the rest of the day.

Dangerous ideas: controlling design files for illegal objects

Paul Raven @ 14-05-2010

Here’s an interesting question for a future full of fabrication devices: if it’s illegal to own a certain object, is it also illegal to own the design files that would enable you to print out that object?

Fabbaloo asks the question after noticing some enterprising member of the counterculture thought of a great market for customisable designs in 3d-printed plastics – namely bong-lovin’ weed smokers.

We know that possession of “drug paraphernalia” is considered illegal in some jurisdictions. But would possession of The Design be considered illegal?

When we’re in a world where we can (relatively) instantly produce any object ourselves, is it the actual object that counts or the design? We like to think that’s the case for run-of-the-mill objects, since it’s not the printing goop that’s important; goop becomes commodity and the design rules.

Will our repositories be searched for the presence of “illegal objects”? Will repository operators ask submitters to delete suspected items for fear of the authorities? Will questionable content migrate from public repositories into private libraries run by secret cabals?

The simple answer, I’d suggest, is “yes”: nation-states will almost certainly try to outlaw or control ownership and/or access to design files for objects with potentially criminal uses. (The bong is a rather mundane example, as it facilitates a victimless crime; however, that’s not so clearly the case with a hundgun made almost entirely from plastics.)

Of course, az eny fule no, controlling the distribution of entirely digital data (especially files of small size) is something that nation-states and corporations alike are struggling to do even now. Which suggests that 3D printing itself will become the target of legislation; if you can’t control the draft, your best bet is to close the door tight.

Fabber viruses

Paul Raven @ 07-04-2010

Among the obligatory swathe of spoof posts for 1st April this year was one from 3D printing outfit Shapeways, who claimed to have fallen victim to the first proof-of-concept virus for fabricators[via Fabbaloo].

The best spoofs always have an element of truth, or at least truthiness. While Shapeways have fabricated this particular incident (arf!), its believability hinges on the fact that 3D printing is a networked technology, and that everything can and will be hacked.

Sven Johnson has already sent back reports from an imperfect future regarding 3D spam, which is likely to be as ubiquitous as it is for email and fax machines (which some people really do still use, apparently), but is there any scope for piggybacking illegal or exploitative content on legitimate 3D design files (like some form of steganography)? I don’t know enough about viruses or 3D design software to be certain, but my guess would be that if someone can think of a way to make a fast buck from it, it’s going to happen eventually.

3D object scanning using an ordinary webcam

Paul Raven @ 20-11-2009

Just in case you thought Tom Maly’s speculations about fabrication tech eradicating Fed Ex were a stretch too far, and that the technologies required are no where near ready… well, you might have a point. But even so, 3D technologies are developing rapidly and cheaply, as demonstrated by some people from Cambridge University who’ve written software that allows a common or garden webcam to scan three dimensional objects in realtime as you turn them in your hand:

ProFORMA uses a fixed video camera to allow on-line reconstruction of objects held in a user’s hand. Partial models are generated very quickly and displayed instantly, allowing the user to plan how to manipulate the object’s pose in order to generate additional views for reconstruction. We demonstrate how augmented reality can be used to assist the user in view planning, guiding the user to collect new keyframes from desirable views in order to complete and refine the model.

Yeah, sure, it looks a little janky and lo-fi. The point is, ten years ago it would have been pure speculation; so where might we be in another decade?

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