Saturday, 12 October 2013

Building Age Maps

As soon as I saw the Wired article come through on Twitter I knew it was something pretty cool. The article, Brilliant Maps Reveal Age of the World’s Buildings, brings together a series of maps that use data on the age of buildings to create some gorgeous looking interactive maps. This is a pretty good example of using relatively approachable tools (incl TileMill) to present complex data in an intuitive and revealing way.

Here are a few stills from the set:

[Building age map images via the Wired article]

Friday, 11 October 2013


I hadn't realised there was such a refined hobby/process for creating these paper or cardboard models. They are generated from digital models, but must require a fair bit of work digitally to not mean a huge amount of work physically. The Papercraft Museum site had some nice introduction to the pursuit including intro videos and then a library of models.

I found about this because of this half-size Lamborghini Aventador police car (on laughing squid) which is pretty awesome, shows off the form beautifully and looks strong in card. I like how this process uses larger faces and this given everything a very digital-model feel. below you will also see one for Darksiders (via GadgetSin)

One of the reasons for my interest is that here in BE UNSW in terms of design education have students building models all the time using various methods. I havene ever seen one of these papercraft models though, and they would be very interesting a the larger scale.

Plus it is obvious, but still clever that the model comes pre-coloured because of the printing...

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Video Games and Learning MOOC - Wk1

I started my first foray into the new world of the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) through Coursera and what we (few fellow UNSWers) chose was Video Games and Learning run out of the University of Wisconsin - Madison by Constance Steinkuehler and Kurt Squire. UNSW has joined Coursera as well and I believe will have its first course/s running in the first half of next year.

For those who dont know what a MOOC could possibly be, it is a university course, well generally a shortened version, that is available to anyone online for free. So some of these courses have tens of thousands of students enrolled - not all participate or 'complete' but the raw numbers of active students are extremely high. So anyone can have a taste of a course from best unis in the world alongside a truly broad spectrum of participants from all over the world, all ages and backgrounds.

Onto the Course itself. We are at the end of week 1 - well this course has a long week 1 that goes for 2 weeks it seems - but anyhow we got a quick look around the Coursera interface before the Week 1 lectures were posted, esp as we early timezone folk were up and ready. The interface is neat and tidy, though not exciting in any way with the usual forum and announcement type pages. The structure chosen for the course looks like a Weekly Topic logic and the forums themselves are quite good (just be wary about subscribing to a topic like 'introduce yourselves' :-)

The week 1 lectures were nicely shot videos which did a nice job of introducing the material. We got a nice conversational video with Constance and Kurt, then some more lecturish snippets and some supporting videos from James Paul Gee. The week 1 assignment was to find a game we hadn't played before, preferably in a genre we weren't familiar with and to play it for at least 30 mins. We then had to reflect on how the game informed/structured our learning to play. The preference was for a 60 second video, though you could do 250 words if that was problematic.

Here is my video for League of Legends where I used Ezvid to capture my gameplay. That turned out to be a silly idea as it saves straight to youtube and I wanted to speed things up to squeeze more of the play into that 60 secs. So I uploaded the video then downloaded it again with keepvid and brought it into Premiere. After a quick audio capture I sped the video up 10x, made a few tweaks and hey presto assignment 1. I will need to work on the audio quality for the next one. One of the greatest challenges (that lots of people struggled with) is getting something good through in just 60 seconds when there can be a heap to cover...

With so many people doing the course there are an armada of submissions and it can be work to mine them for interesting ones - and there are some great little videos people have done. There is lots of interesting discussion about learning and games across a suite of threads. Some of the discussion is closely tied to the game in question, while other threads are dealing with more general questions of what we might learn from games that can apply to education. The pattern so far is that those intro lectures were very prominent at the start, but as the submissions started to come and the discussion forums took over. Now the lectures are very much in the background and the course is living and breathing through the discussions and student interaction.

Fellow BuiltEnvironmenter Dean Utian has become something of a celebrity already in the course and is waaay out in front of the Forum Leaderboard thingo. Here is Deano's video as well...

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

3D Printing

The options around 3D printing just keep expanding as companies, kickstarters and researchers push the boundaries in terms of technology, process and affordability/approachability.

Here in UNSW BE we have a suite of different machines and by years end will have more. While we do have the larger more 'complete' machines, I am fascinated by the low-end models that are cheap enough for individuals to afford and are taking the notion of 3D printing to where regular 2D paper printing went all those years ago. I am keen to try the Makerbot Replicator 2X next, see how having the pair of nozels and some more filament options changes the 'possibility space' of these print_while_iterating_design machines.

On a different  note, I had to post briefly about the Digital Grotesque Grotto which is another project breaking 3D printing away from being a desktop affair. The Semi-Architectural size demo crafted from sand really illustrates how digital models can generate forms that then marry in with new construction processes to make a new style of place possible. Check out the Digital Grotesque site for some nice 'architect-speak', digital models, images and concept ideas.

[Image of the Digital Grotesque printed architecture demo via the official site]