Saturday, 24 January 2009

Electric Cars

Browsing through the goodies on Inhabitat revealed a wealth of advancements on the electric car front which followed nicely from the extended discussion on the TWIT podcast around the Tesla. Our car is still zipping along fine, though each service seems to be reveal a decent amount of dollars that need to be spent. We have thought about hybrids like the mighty Toyota Prius or the new Honda Civic - but look at the future of electric.

Since we are kicking off with the Tesla - lets start with the expensive and powerful. The sporty styling belies the electric grunt under the hood and to push the idea, the second image shows how Keio University Eliica intents to take a shot at land speed records in style.

[Tesla image from their site and the Eliica from the Inhabitat article]

There are a growing armada of other electric cars and their hybrid cousins in various guises. No doubt Toyota will elevate the Prius soon enough, but the rest of the gang are bringing things to the table. You can read heaps more from even just the Inhabitat articles - but here are some of the (rather regular) looking new-comers. The Chevy Volt; The Chrysler 200C EV; The Cadillac Converj and the super BMW Mini-E. They may all look like regular cars, but they are certainly at the cool end of that scale and some of the interiors are dripping with geeky tech to match their new-age engines.

[images of the Chevy Volt, Chrysler 200C EV, Cadillac Converj and BMW Mini-E all via Inhabitat articles]

There is always more though, so lets look at a concept car which would actually clean the air while it drove around. If you can think how virtuous you may feel ripping around with an electric car, actually cleaning up the atmosphere is a pretty neat extension of that. The Green Apple concept car is a clever idea for sure. Lastly an image of a new charge point in San Jose for electric cars integrated with a streetlamp - cool ideas abound.

[Green Apple concept car image and chargepoint photo both via their Inhabitat articles]

One of the things I like about all of these, and why I like to cover them briefly here, is that they are all exhibiting new qualities of design and innovation and no-doubt there was lots of cool concept sketching, rendering and 3D modelling done along the way.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Maya 2009

I received and installed Maya Unlimited 2009 just now from its nice shiny little box. It will be fun to see how quickly things come back for me. I was able to get a fair bit from the software when I was playing with it last time - but that was Maya8.5 - how time flies.

It came in the big bundle of other goodies - alas all for Windows - so I will have to work out a cool way to run those without having to resort to bootcamping out to windows on this machine... I hear Alienware calling - yoiks I must be getting delirious.

First impressions - Feels kinda the same so far. The first set of essential skills movies feel exactly like the 8.5 set from memory and there are zillions more online - even though I have my books as well. The interface is basically the same as well, though there are a few subtle changes like the little cube in the corner for example...

Now off to read the cool excerpt from The Art of Maya book before getting stuck into the learning tomorrow.

Dell XPS730 Labs for FBE

FBE are all set to fill labs 1 and 2 with a suite of Dell XPS730 gaming workstations fitted out with a pair of NVIDIA GeForce 9800GTs to go along with the 2.83 quad and a nice 23" HD monitor etc etc. This suite will compliment the XPS420's purchased at the start of 2008 and allow much bigger concurrent groups to make better use of the 3D tools including the various game-engines for Architectural and design work.

[the big case of the Dell XPS730 which will start to fill up the FBE labs in 2009 - though with a different screen actually]

The Architectural Computing program (new as it is) looks like it will have a pretty big boost in student numbers and thus this hardware becomes all the more useful. We will also see Crysis used in classes for the first time this coming session and the ongoing use of UT2004, UT3 and Garry's Mod on top of more traditional 3D tools (3DS Max, SketchupPro, Solidworks, Revit, ArchiCAD, V-Ray, Maya, and a host more from Second Life to MyVirtualHome)

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Win7 and OS changes

We had a bit of a play with the Windows 7 Beta recently which is kinda fun. It didnt leap of the screen as being dramatically new, there are a few UI changes (the new taskbar is neat and seems to work nicely). It does seem to be a 'refinement' of Vista I guess and that IS good. We didnt test the 64-bit goodness which is another direction that I am keen to walk down.

I still have possible plans to arm myself with a gaming laptop for play and some 3D dev work and the choice of OS would be interesting there - esp when Windows7 eventually hits the shelves.

Check out Gizmodo's coverage of Windows 7 and particularly the new taskbar.

[Windows 7 desktop via Gizmodo]

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

CryEngine Architectural Visualisation

Andrew Wallace graduated from FBE not so long ago and working with Lara Caldera Architects has brought several real-time visualisations into play using a range of game engines and technologies. One of the recent pieces was for an African Children's Hospital competition which was realised with the CryEngine and looks great.

The desert setting may have suited the FarCry 2 engine as well of course, but as we can see, the Crysis tech does a fine job. I believe the base model came via ArchiCAD actually, but wherever it comes from it will be in metric - one of the things I love about this Engine over most others.

Here are a couple of stills from the project as well. For my part I actually get pretty disoriented just watching a 'walk-through' like this straight up. I am wondering if some form of HUD map might improve that side of things, so I can tell from the plan how all the visuals actually piece together.

[images from the Lara Calera Architects African Children's Hospital project using CryEngine2 via their website]

Monday, 19 January 2009

Maya gear-up and Nikki Braine

With my next session coming sooner than I am ready for - I have ordered a nice shiny new copy of Maya 2009 (comes with other software that wont run on the Mac - but hell it might be fun to try Mudbox under bootcamp).

In the meantime I figured I need a nice way to get back a range of skills with the tool so I grabbed copies of the official Autodesk training books for Learning Autodesk Maya. The Modelling and Animation Handbook and then The Special Effects Handbook. These are pretty flash books and I hope will be fun to run through - for training books they are nicely produced - I hope the content lives up to the looks. The books are the work of Marc-Andre Guindon (


By way of inspiration, check out the work of student Nikki Braine. She has a cool showreel featuring clips from her work which includes Procrastinating Gus. I think seeing student's work is just as inspiring as the full studio pieces with specialised team players. I guess it is proof that without the big army with you, we can still make cool stuff.