Tatara: a furnace for creating sculpts and mesh

In real life a tatara, or 鑪, is a traditional Japanese furnace for smelting iron and steel. In Second Life, Tatara, xreated ny Yuzuru Jewell under his Kanae Projects brand name, is a suite of tools which can be used to create sculpt maps and mesh collada files ready for upload to SL, and which includes both texture and bitmap editing capabilities as well.

Tatara combines a number of tools in order to manage this. The tools can be used individually or collectively, depending on the complexity of the object being created, and have a range of menu-driven options to further enhance their capabilities. The tools themselves are:

  • Tsuchi – allows an object to be displayed in orthographic projection from three directions, allowing to be edited and refined
  • Rokuro (lathe) – which I looked at in November 2012, which can be used to create basic shapes and forms for export as sculpt maps / meshes
  • Tokoroten (“extruder”) – which allows shapes or parts of shapes to be stretched, twisted, etc.
  • Mage – which can create more organic shapes and pipes and tubes, etc.
  • Wappa – which can be used for detailed editing of a section of a shape created using Mage
  • A bitmap editor and a texture / drawing tool.

Once a desired shape has been created, it can be saved / exported from Tatara as a sculpt map (.TGA format) or as a mesh .DAE file, each of which can be uploaded to Second Life, and file formats such as .OBJ and .XML are also supported. There are a number of sample shapes provided within the suite to help people get started, and files produced via other means can also be opened in Tatara and previewed / edited. When loading files produced elsewhere, Tatara automatically disables any tools which cannot be used in editing the loaded shape (so you may find, for example, that loading a sculpt map will disable the Rokuro and Tokoroten tools).

Using the Mage option in Tatara to create a teapot using an uploaded image as a guide
Using the Mage option in Tatara to create a teapot using an uploaded image as a guide

Tatara can be downloaded free-of-charge in a trial mode which will remain functional for three days. This allows access to all the features in the suite, other than saving / exporting creations. For this, a licence option must be purchased via Yuzuru’s in-world store. In addition, Tatara includes four optional plug-ins:

  • Cam and gear plug-ins for the creation of either cams or gears, which must be downloaded separately
  • Polyhedron plug-in which allows you to choose ten or more kinds of polyhedrons
  • Stair plug-in which allows the creation of four different types of stair, each with a user-definable number of steps.

Each of the four plug-ins also requires the purchase of a user licence to fully unlock them.

Installation

Tatara is available in three versions: Windows 32 and 64-bit versions and a Mac OSX version. There is no installer per se – the necessary files are provided in a ZIP file, which simply requires downloading and then unpacking to the desired folder.

Once unpacked and launched, Tatara will start-up and display a prompt for your user name and password. If no licence has been purchased, clicking cancel will allow access to the application in the trail mode.

A mesh shape: left - created using Tatara (Tsuchi); bottom - the saved DAE file being uploaded to SL; right - the finished shape with texturing applied (images courtesy of Yuzuru Jewell)
A mesh shape: left – created using Tatara (Tsuchi); bottom – the saved DAE file being uploaded to SL; right – the finished shape with texturing applied (images courtesy of Yuzuru Jewell)

Use

The UI itself comprises two parts: on the left, a preview pane which displays a representation of your model, which can be drag-rotated in all three axes to examine the design; on the right a series of tabs accessing the various tool options, together with a set of menus and options – some of which may be tool-dependent.

Getting to grips with Tatara is a little complex, but Yuzuru provides a solid user guide on the Tatara page of his website and a range of tutorials on his blog. Even so, it is fair to say the tools do require a good understanding of modelling and projection, and achieving a desired goal can take time if you’re not used to using creation / editing tools of this type. Nevertheless, the results can be very worthwhile, and for those wishing to add to their armoury of content-creation tools, whether looking to make sculpts or basic mesh, Tatara and Yuzuru’s other tools are well worth a look.

Designing a a ceiling light frame using Tsuchi and, inset, trhe finished, textured piece about to be installed (click to enlarge)
Designing a ceiling light frame with the aid of Tsuchi and, inset, the finished, textured piece about to be installed (click to enlarge)

The full range of tools provided by Yuzuru comprise:

  • Rokuro – reviewed in this blog in November 2012
  • Rokuro_Pro – a version of Rokuro which includes a texturing capability and a series of plug-in tools
  • Tokoroten (“extruder”) – creates extruded forms of sculpted prim
  • Tatara – an advanced sculpted prim editor which includes functionality from Rokuro and Tokroten and well as three additional modes, which can be used individually or collectively to create sculpt maps
  • Shibori (“iris” – as in camera eye) – a “shrinkwrapper” for shrinking a sculpt around a given shape
  • Nomi (“chisel”) – creates a sculpted prim or mesh with a relief surface from one picture using the picture’s brightness
  • Hanko (“seal”) – a tool which allows you to add your signature to a sculpt map.

Related Links

SL project news week 21 (1): viewer release process

Work continues on implementing the new viewer release process, although it is unlikely to debut this week (week 21). Commenting on the state-of-play at the Open-source Development meeting on Monday May 20th, Oz Linden said, “There are some new services to stand up, and I don’t have enough experience with that to be able to estimate it well.” He also indicated that the necessary changes to the log-in process I reported on in week 20  are still being progressed with care.

However, as of May 20th, 2013, the viewer beta repository has been discontinued by the Lab. This means that the next beta viewer to appear – which is due to be the Materials Processing viewer due out possibly later this week – will be built directly from the Materials project repository and not a merge with the existing beta viewer, although it will go through the existing beta channel for release and made available via viewer download page.

Viewer Naming

Under the new system,  viewer names will be broadly streamlined, with beta and release candidate versions of viewer being broadly identified by the viewer type and project name (e.g “Second Life Beta Materials” or “Second Life Release Candidate Materials”), prior to being updated as the release viewer.

“Willing to Update”

As previously noted in this blog, when a user downloads a specific viewer, they will only receive updates specific to that viewer until such time as it reaches a release status (although user can theoretically run several viewer side-by-side, and receive the required updates to each of them as they become available). However, the beta viewers will in future a new Preferences option, “Willing to update to release candidates” (Preferences > Setup).

The new beta viewer option for updating to RC status
The new beta viewer option for updating to RC status

Precisely how this option works is unclear (I have contacted Oz Linden on the matter but have yet to hear back), but it appears to suggest that if unchecked, then notification of any RC updates to the viewer will not be forwarded to the user  / automatically downloaded and installed, and will thus leave the user running with the viewer in a beta state until such time as a mandatory update is forced as the viewer becomes the de facto release viewer.

How Many?

The new release process means that there will be more viewer options to download via the Alternate Viewers wiki page. How many depends on the number of projects and general work is going on with the viewer. However, it also means that once operational, there should be fewer incidences when a specific project or issue interrupts the flow of viewer through to release status, as occurred towards the end of the 2012, when the viewer releases became “stuck” in the beta release channel as a result of a single crash issue.

Related Links

CastAR: looking at the virtual through a different pair of glasses

There has been a lot of excitement about Oculus Rift (OR) over the last few months and how it could revolutionise immersive gameplay, including the potential it offers to SL (and vice-versa).

Now The Verge reports on another innovative development using a headset system called  CastAR, and augmented reality system aimed at the gaming market and formally announced at the 2013 Maker Faire in New York. Whether it might find a suitable use within Second Life remains to be seen. However, whether it does or doesn’t, it is a fascinating concept which could potentially bring the world of high-end, ultra-expensive augmented reality capabilities directly into the home (and workplace?) for a variety of uses.

Currently in the earliest stages of development, CastAR essentially projects virtual environments into the real world, where you can directly interact with them in a variety of ways. It is the brainchild of former Valve employees  Jeri Ellsworth, a hardware engineer, and programmer Rick Johnson. “Former” because they were let go by the company in February 2013, along with 23 other engineers, after spending a year on the project. However, not only did Gabe Newell, co-founder and Managing Director of Valve let Ellsworth and Johnson go – he gave them his blessings to take the idea and the associated IP with them (a remarkable move in itself).  Since then, they’ve founded their own company, Technical Illusions, and have been hard at work developing a system which, according to The Verge, they’ve already poured a better part of a year of their lives.

Conceptual art for the production CastAR glasses (image courtesy of Technical Illusions / The Verge)
Conceptual art for the production CastAR glasses (image courtesy of Technical Illusions / The Verge)

The system comprises a special pair of glasses which house a set of projectors which beam the image from your computer – such as a game – onto a retroreflective projector screen. A camera also built-in to the glasses sees infrared LEDs positioned around the edges of that projector screen, allowing the glasses to track the exact position of your head so that the software can adjust the 3D perspective in real-time. The result is the projection of images and objects from the computer as 3D objects which you can move around and examine.

This is in marked contrast to the likes of Oculus Rift, where images are displayed on screens within the headset. The result is that even on the small-scale prototype the team have so far developed, it is possible to move around the projected image and interact with it: Sean Hollister from The Verge demonstrated playing a Jenga-like game which allowed him to dismantle virtual towers of block using a hand-held wand. He was also able to demonstrate playing a two-player shoot-’em-up, with both players using the same retroreflective surface, but each seeing views unique to their relative position and head movement.

The initial CastAR prototype glasses shown at the 2013 Maker Faire
The initial CastAR prototype glasses shown at the 2013 Maker Faire (image courtesy of The Verge)

Right now, CastAR is in a very rudimentary stage of development, as indicated in the coverage found in The Verge, as are the potential uses for the system.  Ellsworth and Johnson have presented an early prototype of the system at the 2013 Maker Faire in New York,  where they have also been soliciting feedback on possible uses for CastAR.

One suggested idea would be to make the retroreflective surface room-sized, allowing for complete augmentation / immersion in  3D environment where one and not only look around, but also interact with the objects they find. Quite how this would be achieved is open to debate; redecorating an entire room as a holodeck environment isn’t something that is likely to be welcomed in the average home – although the potential for low-cost specialist environments might be another matter.

However, entire holorooms aren’t necessarily what Technical Illusions are considering. As The Verge states, the team are still very much open to idea, and while Rick Johnson “envisions little children filling their Tonka trucks with virtual sand; family board games; and incredible sessions of Dungeons & Dragons“, Jeri Ellsworth is quoted as saying, “I suspect we’re going to be very surprised about what people find fun in this space,”

One of the aims the team has is to keep overall retail cost of the unit low – around $200 once it is available on the market, largely thanks to their ability to use readily available components, and also in being able to design their own chips and code. To fund the project, the team plan to launch a kickstarter fundraiser in the near future, and will be making a Software Development Kit available to game-makers. However, the aim is very much to try to make the system a commercial product in its own right. This may start small, with simple games played on a small projection surface and a couple of headsets with control wands – but how far the system goes beyond that could be anyone’s guess.

Related Links

SL10BCC: the deadline approaches!

sl10b-enchant-2There are just a few short hours in which to apply to be a part of the SL10B Community Celebration. Applications close at midnight SLT tonight – Monday 20th May, 2013.

If you want to be a part of the celebrations an exhibitor, performer or volunteer or if you wish to book a slot in the Community Celebrations Auditorium, now is the time to do so!

Here’s How

  • First: please make sure you read the event policies and understand all requirements
  • Second: follow the links below for any of the applications you wish to submit:
    • Exhibitors – art, informative, community-related, instructional, media; all can be accommodated at SL10BCC. You’ll need a good idea of what you are proposing to build – it should be community-orientated and celebratory. The clearer the information you can give, the easier it will be to assess your application. Remember, all exhibition builds must conform to the requirements specified in the event policies
    • Performers – If you want to be involved in the musical celebration as a live performer or as a DJ, let us know with this form – and don’t forget to include the times that would suit you best for appearing on stage!
    • Presenters – want to run a workshop, give a presentation, teach a class, put on a media event or performance art, then fill-out this form – and remember to include the times that would suit you best for hosting it
    • Volunteers – we’re looking for keen, outgoing, friendly people to volunteer as Greeters / Hosts, Moderators, Exhibitor Assistants, and Stage Managers. If you’re interested, check-out our Role Descriptions and use this form to volunteer!
  • Third: Let us sort through and consider all the applications. Acceptances will be sent out in the week starting May 20th, but it may take a little time for us to contact everyone.
The beautiful Main Stage from SL9B - one of the many stunning builds from the 2012 celebrations
The beautiful Main Stage from SL9B – one of the many stunning builds from the 2012 celebrations

This year marks a very special milestone for Second Life – so why not be a part of it yourself, and join one of the biggest events in SL’s year and make it truly memorable? You don’t have to be SL’s greatest builder or singer or have special experience in dealing with visitors and providing help (training and support will be given for this!); but you will be among hundreds of others all working together, having fun, sharing in something very special – and doubtless make a lot of new friends along the way.

So go on, while there is still time – click those links and make SL10BCC your celebration of Second Life!

Related Links

Viewer release summary 2013: week 20

This summary is published every Monday and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Viewer Round-up Page, a list of  all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware) and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy
  • By its nature, this summary will always be in arrears
  • The Viewer Round-up Page is updated as soon as I’m aware of any releases / changes to viewers & clients, and should be referred to for more up-to-date information
  • The Viewer Round-up Page also includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog.  

Updates for the week ending: May 20th, 2013

Depreciated / Discontinued Viewers

  • SL Development viewer – depreciated as of version 3.5.2.274629 April 24, 2013
  • Zen Viewer – discontinued by developer and no longer available, January 27th, 2013
  • Phoenix viewer – development and support ended on December 31st, 2012

Related Links