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June 22, 2011

Housifier update

First, the application as it stands and then the work-in-progress information. This is also going up at Housifier to give a sense of where it’s going.

Directions: Click and drag on the edge of a part to alter its length. Click on a part to set the camera to view it, select ’3d view’ to return to the orbiting view. Change the ‘tooth size’ slider to alter the tooth size/number of teeth per face. Export is coming!

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(For images documenting the process that has come to this point, check out my Flickr page)

Housifier involves alternating between engineering problems and User Experience problems*. The engineering refers to the rules that govern the actual shape that has to be constructed – considering material properties. measurements and thicknesses. It’s new and pretty interesting territory for me. After years of considering pixels and clock cycles it’s refreshing to contribute to the process of making stuff. Thankfully, the right answers are relatively clear -a press-fit join either holds or it doesn’t.

The third part,  the User Experience, is a lot less clear-cut. There are principles to apply and yardsticks to measure actions by, but trying to anticipate what a system that people are going to find clear, powerful and entertaining is a difficult process. Similar to the concept of the Minimum Viable Product being the cheapest thing to test, I’m trying to focus on the Minimum Viable Cognitive Load – the smallest required engagement from a user that will result in satisfying usage of the application. The one thing I am constantly surprised by is how little attention people want to give to something in order to understand it!

My current goal is to remove the need for sliders or other excessively numerical forms input from the design to produce a box. From there I’ll be integrating with the Ponoko API so that orders can actually be made through the system. After that I’m going to look at options for surface detailing- engraving patterns and cutting holes, though there are some technical hurdles there that might require a jump into Unity3D. From there we should be ready to get into the extrusion of any old shape, and you’ll finally have your dollhouse!

* And programming problems, which are by no means trivial but place a distant third after the engineering and UX considerations.

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