Parametric is a favorite word among the digital design community. In fact, one of my colleagues at the university and a good friend of ours used it so often that six years ago, my two-year-old daughter would walk around calling everything parametric. It’s a fancy way of saying ‘something that exists in relation to a set of parameters.’ In the case of 3D design, those parameters are controlled by an algorithm, something that translates a given type of input into a particular form at output by putting it through a formula.
And the Kinect, in case you’ve been living under a poorly located rock, is the movement sensor that is used with the Xbox in order to stomp your way through Star Wars or help your Rabbids reach the top of a down escalator. If you can tear yourself away from those amusements though, it can also be used to design (or to3D scan, of course). Nate Asis, a Toronto-based designer, has used the Kinect as a design interface for a project he calls The Digital Hand. Performing a variety of actions in front of the Kinect while in the program gives the sensor the information it needs to create objects based on your body.
Asis describes the 2015 project:
“A design-based research project exploring the areas of craft production, technology and industrial design. Exploring the use of motion tracking digital tools, and rapid manufacturing technologies to create parametric objects created by the maker’s digital hand.
“Completed as undergraduate thesis project at OCAD U.”
Currently, the program can be used to create three different objects: a table, a blanket, and a dish. Each one has its own set of inputs that it reads in order to create the end product. The table, called the Skeleton Table, is generated by using as points in a polygon the position of the user’s hands, feet, and head. The resulting trapezoid is not only dependent upon the bodily proportions of its creator, but also their position in relation to the Kinect, giving the shape a more dynamic set of angles.
The dish, titled Wave Dish, is a candy dish-sized object with a surface that ripples in response to the data gathered from finger points of the Kinect user. The idea is that you stand before the sensor and make a wave motion with your hand and at each frame of the recording, the position of your fingertips is recorded as a black circle. As those circles build up on each other a 3D digital topography is created that blends all of the frames into a single articulated surface.
The final creation currently possible through the Digital Hand is a blanket known simply as Dot. Few people realize how similar a stitch of a knitted product is to a pixel, but this particular parametric creation capitalizes on it. First, the silhouette of the user is captured and broken down into pixels. The distance of each pixel from the sensor is assigned a stitch density. The closer a pixel is to the sensor, the more densely packed are the stitches, giving a textured pattern for the fabrication of a woven object.
I’m not sure the objects that result from this process are designed rather than produced, however the process itself is certainly designed and creates an interesting mechanism for the exploration of technology and intuition. Asis described his thinking behind the project, telling Co.Design:
“Possibly the biggest advantage to CAD software and digital manufacturing is the ability to create perfectly defined objects. It’s really great in the way that things are exactly as rendered and what you see is what you get. But it’s almost at the expense of the human connection. The Digital Hand is a bridge between the physical world and the digital world. Creating objects that aren’t defined by perfect numbers or round dimensions but by the feeling of human intuition and spontaneity.”
You won’t be able to run out to the your local tech store and pickup a Digital Hand disc for your Xbox, but Asis hopes to have the Wave Dish for sale through his website sometime in the near future. Discuss further over in the 3D Printed Furniture forum at 3DPB.com.