Of course, you’ll want to take your latest 3D design and print it so you’ll have a physical object. But in some cases, you’d like to have a rendering of it. If you use OpenSCAD, FreeCAD, or most other CAD programs you can get a simple rendering of your object, but what if you want something that looks real? [Teaching Tech] shows how you can use a website, Vectary, to get realistic photo renderings of your 3D models. (Video, embedded below.) The free plan has a few limits, but nothing that should bother most people.
Vectary is sort of like a super version of TinkerCad with a lot of options for realistic modeling and augmented reality. Some of the more advanced features are behind a subscription plan, but for what [Teaching Tech] is showing, you can use the free plan.
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A trick famously used by Nintendo to keep its slowly aging SNES console fresh against newer competition was to produce new games with extra support chips in the cartridge to push out hitherto-unthinkable performance. Chips such as the famous SuperFX gave us 3D polygonal graphics, but it would have been a few more years before even much faster platforms could achieve real-time ray-tracing. Nintendo may not have managed it, but here in 2020 [Ben Carter] has a SNES on his bench rendering a complex 3D ray-traced world.
Ray tracing refers to the practice of rendering a scene with accurate lighting by tracing the rays of light that go towards making each pixel. It can achieve results that even approach photorealism, but it remains an extremely computationally intensive job for any computer. To do this with a SNES he hasn’t resorted to a modern computer like the excellent Raspberry-Pi-based NES DOOM cartridge, instead he’s tried to create something that might have graced a Nintendo custom chip back in the 1990s. The tool may be a thoroughly modern DE10-Nano FPGA dev board, but what it implements could conceivably have been made as a 1990s-spec ASIC. In it are three ray tracing cores that do the work, but the final rendering is handled by the SNES itself. At 200 x 160 pixels and 256 colours it’s no graphical powerhouse, but the maximum frame rate of 30 fps makes it no slouch for the day. The video below the break supplies extra detail.
Perhaps an unexpected takeaway of the rendered scene lies in how of its era it seems. It comes from an age in which checker-board floors, mirrored balls, and azure blue skies looked so futuristic, and just before the likes of Toy Story redefined what the general public might expect from 3D rendering. If Nintendo had produced a ray-traced SNES game using a chip like this one, it would have certainly been a defining moment for gaming in that decade.
Continue reading “A SNES, Ray Tracing”
3D graphics were once the domain of university research groups and large, specialized computing systems. Eventually, they were tamed and became mainstream. Your phone, tablet, and home computer are all perfectly capable of generating moving 3D graphics. Incidentally, so is Microsoft Excel.
This is the work of of [s0lly], who has been experimenting wtih Excel in this way for quite some time. Starting with pseudo-3D graphics, the project then progressed to the development of a real 3D engine. Naturally, things couldn’t stop there. The next logical step was to advance to raytracing, which was pulled off with aplomb. Shiny spheres on featureless planes are par for the course here.
The graphics are necessarily basic, with resolutions on the order of 256×144. Output is by changing the individual color of the various cells of the spreadsheet. The relevant files are available on Github, for those eager to tinker with experiments of their own. We’ve seen others attempt similar work before, with [C Bel] writing a full game engine for the platform. Video after the break.
Continue reading “Experiments In 3D Graphics Via Excel”
[C Bel] teaches Excel and he has a problem. Most of us — especially us Hackaday types — immediately write a VBA (Visual Basic for Applications) macro to do tough things in Excel. Not only is this difficult for non-technical users, but it also isn’t as efficient, according to [C Bel]. To demonstrate that VBA macros are not always needed, he wrote a 3D game engine using nothing but Excel formulae. He did have to resort to VBA to get user input and in a very few cases to improve the performance of large algorithms. You can see his result in the video below or download it and try it yourself.
The game is somewhat Doom-like. Somewhat. As you might expect it isn’t blindingly fast, and the enemy is a big red blob, but as the old Russian proverb goes, “The marvel is not that the bear dances well, but that the bear dances at all.” (And thanks to [Sean Boyce] for recalling that quote.)
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Motion control photography allows for stunning imagery, although commercial robotic MoCo rigs are hardly affordable. But what is money? Scratch-built from what used to be mechatronic junk and a hacked Canon EF-S lens, [Howard’s] DIY motion control camera rig produces cinematic footage that just blows us away.
[Howard] started this project about a year ago by carrying out some targeted experiments. These would not only assess the suitability of components he gathered together from all directions, but also his own capacity in picking up enough knowledge on mechatronics to make the whole thing work. After making himself accustomed to stepper motors, Teensies and Arduinos, he converted an old moving-head disco light into a pan and tilt mount for the camera. A linear axis was added, and with more degrees of freedom, more sophisticated means of control became necessary.
Continue reading “DIY Motion Control Camera Rig Produces Money Shots On A Budget”
This hack turns the Sony SmartWatch into a wristwatch. Functionally it’s not all that impressive. But the journey to get to this point represents quite a bit more. This example features an animated tea pot using a 3D rendering engine ported over to the device.
[Federico] started work on the project soon after hearing that Sony had released details about developing for the hardware. He dug into the documentation but soon found it lacked the depth he needed to get a handle on bare metal work. He shelved the project for a while until coming across the Astrosmash project we featured in June. That used a wrapper that allows Arduino sketches to run on the watch. After studying how that’s done he had enough background to port this code.
We’re still waiting to see a really innovative hack for the watch. But we’re glad to see progress with each new proof of concept like this one!
Continue reading “Sony SmartWatch Hack Lets It Tell Time With A Teapot Animation”
Amazing 3D rendering in real-time
Ah, the 90s. A much simpler time when the presenters on Bad Influence! were amazed by the 3D rendering capabilities of the SGI Onyx RealityEngine2. This giant machine cost £250,000 back in the day, an amazing sum but then again we’re getting nostalgic for old SGI hardware.
Well, Mega is taken… let’s call it Grande
[John Park] needed to put something together for last month’s Maker Faire. A comically large, fully functional Arduino was the obvious choice. If you didn’t catch the demo last month, you can grab all the files over on Thingiverse.
Is that an atomic clock in your pocket or… oh, I see.
Here’s the world’s smallest atomic clock. It’s made for military hardware, so don’t expect this thing to show up at Sparkfun anytime soon; we can’t even fathom how much this thing actually costs. Still, it’ll be awesome when this technology trickles down to consumers in 10 or 20 years.
Converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB
[Karl] is working on an awesome project – putting a Raspberry Pi inside an old TRS-80. The first part of the project – converting a TRS-80 keyboard to USB – is already complete. We can’t wait to see this build finished.
A DIY Propeller dev board
Last week we complained about the dearth of builds using the Parallax Propeller. A few noble tinkerers answered our call and sent in a few awesome builds using this really unique micro. [Stefan]’s Propeller One is the latest, and looking at the schematics it should be possible to etch a single-sided board for this project. Awesome work and thanks for giving us a weekend project, [Stefan].