HP Sprout Pro G2

HP visited Duke’s Technology Engagement Center (TEC) this morning to provide an overview of their Sprout Pro G2. Describing the Sprout is a tricky thing to do considering the unique capabilities of the device. As HP was quick to mention, there really isn’t anything else like Sprout on the market, and until seeing it function, I assumed they were exaggerating… I was wrong.

At the heart of the system is a robust all-in-one Windows 10 computer (i7 processor, advanced graphics, 16GB of RAM, wireless keyboard/mouse, etc.), all the things you’d expect in a higher-end computer. What makes the Sprout unique is that it has built-in dual screens, one consisting of a traditional monitor and the other being a downward facing projector. The projector projects on a touch sensitive pad (HP calls it the Touch Mat) that easily connects to the base of the unit. The device defaults to extended desktop (one on top of the other), which can take a moment for novice users to fully understand. Both screens are touch sensitive, but the Touch Mat can also be used in conjunction with a stylus, and is a joy to use with minimal lag and various levels of pressure sensitivity. It does feel like you are writing on paper. If HP had stopped here with the Sprout, I’d have been impressed. It would have been a nice classroom computer with touch surfaces, annotation, and a document camera built in.

But wait, there is more… in 3D! The Sprout Pro G2 also offers up 3D scanning in two flavors. The first is a “quick scan” mode where you take an object and hold it under the projector. As you run the software and slowly rotate the object, the computer begins to create a 3D model of the item. The scull that HP provided worked very well, but some other items at the TEC didn’t scan as well (perhaps because of their symmetric nature, reflective material, etc). These scans are ideal for simply creating 3D objects for viewing on a computer or virtual environment, and not really for 3D printing.

The second method of scanning is considerably more accurate, using the 14-megapixel camera, but can be a bit more time consuming. In software, you set the level of accuracy you are looking to achieve, and the device scans the item over multiple captures. The level of accuracy was impressive.

No digital media demo would be complete without a few minor hiccups that HP identified as either an issue with a piece of software, our demo unit, or was an update on the near horizon. For example, we weren’t able to share the content from the projector to the TEC monitor. But, HP assured us that this was an issue with our unit.

As with all well-supported technologies, the Sprout Pro G2 receives regular updates, so it will be interesting to see where this device is in 2-6 months. I’d also be interested to see how well this device would perform in a classroom environment. Overall, this is a very interesting piece of technology, especially considering the took place at Duke’s Technology Engagement Center, the de facto hub for all things 3D in the area.

Wacom’s MobileStudio Pro

Following up on Wacom’s Companion series, the MobileStudio Pro doubles down on power and capability. If you’re looking for the functionality of a tablet-aided desktop on the go, it’s an incredible tool. Even more so than the Companion, the MobileStudio Pro feels like a tablet built for professional designers, and less so one for the average tablet user. For our purposes in producing academic media, the MobileStudio would be great for a course on art or design, but its hard to envision another context where we would need the 8,192 levels of pressure it provides.


3D Animation Process For The TEC

Since joining OIT as a video producer last year, my responsibilities have broadened to include animation and its integration into our production workflow.  Our process normally incorporates 2D animation however we see a need for 3D animation/modeling rising on the horizon.  Utilizing Adobe Illustrator, After Effects, and Cinema 4D lite, I created a short sequence intended to illustrate and encapsulate the nature of our newly renovated home here in the Telcom building:  The Technology Engagement Center (TEC)


As with any production project, I started with research and a previsualization.  The TEC center is home to 3D printers, laser cutters, and CNC routers.  It’s a workspace designed specifically for the collaboration and creation of ideas.  This guiding principle informed my process.


I decided to animate three robots working together to create the logo for the space thereby illustrating the intersection of cooperation and cutting edge technology that the TEC embodies.


Modeling is the first step of the actual creation process.  I “built” the robot arms in Cinema 4D out of basic geometric shapes with three articulation points for movement that turned my models into virtual puppets.  I created two 3D printer bots and one router bot.  Rigging is the second step of the process.  Each arm section needed to move in tandem with other attached sections.


I then took the Adobe Illustrator file of the TEC logo and broke it into individual pieces as prep for animation.  Each letter would be 3D printed with the multicolored hexagon portion of the logo, “etched” into the placard I was creating.

The next step is animation.  This is the most difficult part in my opinion as timing has to be perfect for each puppets’ role on the virtual stage.  I decided to coordinate the animation from the ground up.  I first animated each of the individual characters of the logo to “rise” out of the placard.  I then animated each of the two 3d printing arms to match the “rising” of the letters so that they could be completed in two “passes” and simulate the feel of the 3D printing process.  Next, I matched the “router” arm’s movements with the progressive “embedding” of the multi-colored hexagons.  Finally, “lit” the scene with virtual lights and animated a camera to sweep around the screen to give it a more cinematic feel.

This completed the 3D animation part of the sequence.  Finally, Steve requested that I create a laser etched “burn-in” of the Duke logo in the lower left to represent the laser cutter.  I brought the animated 3D sequence into After Effects and did a progressive write on of the Illustrator logo that was revealed via an animated mask.  I then used two particle emitter layers.  One followed the animation with sparks and the second followed with smoke.  I then attached the end of a generated laser layer to follow the two emitters.  After reviewing the final animation, I felt that another emitter layer needed to be added to the 3D animation to simulate flakes coming off of the placard while the hexagons were etched in.  I’m pretty happy with the result!  The whole project took about 12 hours and was both a professional development exercise for me and a useful end product for the TEC. Check it out and feel free to come over to explore the TEC!

NextGen 3D TV With No Glasses Makes Its Debut At CIT Showcase

Steve & 3D TV

Izon Technologies delivered our long anticipated 3D TV that requires no glasses.  We had been waiting for a “short throw” version which is still in development so we opted to get their standard model. This model is designed for digital signage applications so you need to be about 10 feet away for the best effect.

The overall reaction was mind blowing. I think some people didn’t realize what this was at first – how can you see 3D images with no glasses? There were some that mentioned they still felt queasy and uncomfortable with viewing 3D images but that is something we are really looking to research further. Without glasses restricting your vision, it should be more natural and appear like a simple 2D image to those that can’t view 3D due to some challenges with their eyes.

The Duke Digital Initiative plans to loan the TV and camera to any interested faculty for teaching or research. We’d also like stereo content to add to our catalog for demonstration purposes. The television will be at our new production offices and studio at Telcom so we’d be happy to schedule a viewing. Contact DDI at ddi-requests at duke.edu for more information or to see for yourself.


Shooting Brains In 3D – Part 1

IMG_9708 Blur

With the incredible demonstration of glasses free 3D we saw last week from Izon TV, we reached out to our go to technology innovator, Dr. Len White from Duke Institute Of Brain Science in order to create some new content for further testing when we get the monitor back in January. This was our first lab shoot with the SONY HDR-TD30V Camcorder (whose price has now dropped to $999!) We had never tested the close up ability of the camera before and given the fixed convergence of the camcorder, we thought this would be an interesting test.

IMG_9709 circle

We were joined by the amazing technology team at the Duke School of Medicine who helped us connect the HDMI output of the camera to the video screen behind us. This provided Dr. White a confidence monitor as well as helped us set lighting. We were all really impressed with the quality HD output of the camera. The camera is smart enough to know that you’ve connected at 2D monitor so it only outputs a 2D image. We also found out that the camera’s HDMI output can be set to either output the SONY interlaced format or standard side-by-side output. This may create an interesting use case for live, overflow monitoring in 3D.

Slamming door sounds not withstanding (it is finals time at SOM), Dr. White got some very nice HD 2D footage to work with. Preliminary viewing on our existing passive LG 3D display were quite impressive. One issue that we assumed we’d have to deal with is the close up work. If you think about it, if you stick your nose up against something close, your eyes cross. The 3D camera’s “eyes” are at a fixed distance so it doesn’t like being close to an object. We should be able to adjust the convergence in Final Cut X using the Dashwood Stereo 3D Toolbox LE ($99). Final Cut X appears to be reading the SONY interlaced footage but it will take more work to see how it translates (as compared to SONY Vegas). This is a major focus of our testing and we’ll write more about it once we’ve done some more research. The Duke Digital Initiative is also working on setting up a 3D content channel on YouTube that will allow you to view some of this content on your own 3D displays.


Izon TV Glasses Free 3D Breakthrough



If that’s all I wrote on this update, that would pretty much sum it up. The 50″ Glasses Free 3D TV from Izon TV is a true breakthrough in immersive viewing technology.  The system uses the lenticular lens and 4k panel as others in the field, but the “magic” is in the software. Unlike previous televisions we’ve tested, there was no proprietary software required to re-encode the content, no converter boxes to run through. We were able to view my standard 3D side-by-side content from my USB drive (encoded HD MP4 file), HDMI out of a 3D BluRay player as well as a first I’ve seen, live content via HDMI out of our Sony HDR-TD30V HD 3D Camcorder (which has now dropped to $1200).  We also saw some 4k digital signage content that could be useful for some of the commercial venues around campus.  We also discussed other use cases including viewing medical content or immersive video conferencing (since it handles live 3D content)

It all looked fantastic. Looking at the screen bezel, the image looked inset. Pointing at the image in front of the screen made it look as if you were inside the screen.

The lenticular we saw was optimized for around 9′ of distance however they said they had the ability to create other lenticulars for other distances. The viewing angles were great. You lost the 3D effect at about 25° but it basically just faded into 2D. We had one person comment that it was far more comfortable for them to watch than 3D with glasses while another commented it was about the same. One thing about not having glasses on is that it allows you to look around the room to “rest” your eyes from the 3D more easily. If you are wearing glasses, you tend to keep focused on the screen for longer stretches of time.

Izon is a content company having contracted with many major studios to do 2D to 3D conversion. They do offer services to help enhance 3D content, but I have to say, that our point and shoot content looked pretty spectacular on their screen.

We’re hoping to have a unit for extended testing after the first of the year. If you are interested in reviewing for use in your school or department, please email oit-mt-info@duke.edu.


Glasses Free 3D Makes Debut At Duke

3D TVs

We’ve been talking about glasses free 3D televisions for the last few years (NAB 2014 Report) and have seen good advances in phones and viewfinders for 3D cameras. I was excited to hear at this year’s NAB that the monitor that had been shown as a prototype was finally in production.

Dimenco provided us with a display in time to bring to the Friday Visualization Forum and the CIT Showcase.  The overall response to the monitor was mixed. Most people were impressed with the advancements in the technology, but unfortunately we received a prototype version that took much work to make function and was ultimately unable to display 4k resolution content.

The monitor itself is extremely heavy. We’ve been spoiled with the light weight LED displays. the 50″ monitor weighs almost 100 pounds.  Although it was a 4k panel, we could not get 4k content to work. Using HD content lowered the overall resolution and produced noticeable bands in the image that were quite distracting.

The monitor can’t display live content, but requires encoded content. We used standard side-by side content. Dimenco shows 4k content using an image and a depth map as shown below.

3d 4k

I still believe glasses free 3D will have a place in the classroom as it provides a more immersive experience while not distracting from other classroom activities. We’re excited to continue to keep both eyes on this sector of technology.

World Maker Faire in NYC

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I was able to attend the World Maker Faire this year in NYC. It was an excellent and well attended event. As one might imagine there was a focus on 3D Printing, Laser Cutting, CNC routing and other fabrication technologies. We say products from brand new start-ups to seasoned industry veterans like Durham’s own ShopBot. […]

Oculus Rift Checks In At The Marriott

Mark McGill has brought his Oculus Rift in for demos over the last few weeks. I was impressed with this form of interactivity but also questioned if this would ever become “main stream” or at least more widely accepted given the physical constraints of the system. As we start to really look at glasses free 3D technologies, it will be interesting to see how these binding physical interfaces develop. Article courtesy of Christine Vucinich. http://www.dailydot.com/technology/marriott-transporter-oculus-rift/