It takes a virtual forest

Ars Technica has an article up about a new 3D tree building utility from a group at Stanford University:

Researchers hope to enable crowdsourcing of virtual worlds

As stated in the article:

“It may not be completely obvious why research like this is so important, so we’ll spell it out at the risk of over-simplifying matters. If virtual words are to proliferate, one major bottleneck to that proliferation will be visual design. Let’s face it: few of us can draw something as simple as a tree well in two dimensions, let alone three. However, if a system could be devised that would allow everyday people to participate in the crowd-sourced construction of virtual worlds, then that particular bottleneck could be done away with.”

The virtual tree designer is called Dryad. You can download the software for free from the Dyad website. There’s a great little gallery of example trees at the site.

You use sliders to create your tree. Many parameters can be tweaked to morph your tree the way you envision it. If this method does not appeal to you, you can scan trees that have already been made and modify on to your liking. Your creation can be saved out as an OBJ file, a common 3D file format. Sculpted prims import to Second Life are in the OBJ format. I’ve not had a chance to see if one of these trees can be imported in this way to Second Life. A copy of your final tree is saved back to the Stanford for others to view and modify.

As quoted in the article:

“Ultimately, Koltun and his fellow researchers hope to produce a number of similar tools for other objects in order to allow anyone to contribute to the look and feel of virtual worlds. “We want to ensure that users always have something in front of them and are not confronted with the daunting task of sculpting,” he said. As everything from games to entire communities move into user-generated virtual worlds, these tools should help ensure that limited design skills and artistic ability don’t prevent anyone from shaping those worlds.”

Programs like this will spur on virtual world development even faster, making it possible for people not skilled with 3D software to become content creators. This can only lead to more diverse and rich virtual worlds for us all to explore. I personally will welcome forests of sculpted trees replacing the cardboard cut-outs that serve as trees today in most of our virtual worlds.

Jump over to this excellent article for much more information on this new free virtual world construction utility.

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