Thanks to COVID-19, many of us are trapped at home for the next month or 3, and are looking for a productive way to spend our time or keep the kids occupied. What better way than learning new skills in something you are really interested in doing while spending no money for the training? Pluralsite is one of several companies offering such training, in their case for any kind of computer skill set you can imagine. For some of us that means training in a wide range of IT jobs that you can do remotely, which could mean additional income during the current crises. Then there are things like video game creation, 3D modeling, and programming, all across a range of platforms, that can grab the imagination of anyone who wants to become truly creative. You don’t need to give them a credit card to sign up for the free courses, just an email address, but you only have until the end of April to take the classes; come May 1st it will go back to costing money to get access to them.

Thanks to the folks at Games from Scratch for the heads up on this opportunity. I am including their YouTube video on the Pluralsite offering, where they go into some detail about what you will actually have access to there. They also mention several of the other training opportunities, such as 3 months of free classes on every aspect of making games for the Unity Game Engine with free courses, projects and tutorials to get you creating with style.

The videos of KYARY PAMYU PAMYU’s music have always been some of the most surreal footage coming out of Japan, but her latest seems to be somewhere between the Wizard of Oz and Plan 9 From Outer Space, with a cast of munchkins played by Easter eggs. The track is, appropriately, called Easta, which is Japanese for Good, and I can’t help but feel there is a bit of a second language pun going on there. The new single (which has 5 tracks on it, but tow of them are just instrumental versions of two of the others) is her 14th, and was released this past week on the 5th. At the same time, she also released her KPP 5 Years Monster World Tour 2016 DVD, filmed at the final performance of the tour at Budokan. Here’s the bit I find really interesting; folks picking up the limited edition version of the disc get a VR headset included with it, so they can get the full 360 degree immersive effect of the concert. That’s right, they filmed a VR version of the show, and put it on disc.

If you are playing with 3D modeling, be aware of MakeHuman, a free open source tool for creating 3D characters. Written in Python, it integrates seamlessly into blender, and allows you to instantly generate a fully rigged and ready to animate human or near-human. It’s slider set has over a thousand morphs you can apply to modify your character, including (but not limited to) Age, gender, height, weight, body proportions, face shapes, eyes, nose, mouth, chin, ears, neck, hands, feet.. the list goes on. And it is licensed under the CC0 license from Creative Commons, giving you unparalleled freedom to use your creations however you like. The folks over at Games From Scratch did an excellent introduction video on this, which I am including here so you can see just how easy and powerful this package is.

The SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival 2017 entries are still open, and will be until March 21st, which is also their deadline for VR Theater entries. So you still have a bit of time to submit your projects to the gathering, which will be held from July 30th to August 3rd in Los Angeles this year. Yes, the competition can be daunting; after all, these are most of the folks doing serious VR and Animation work on the planet. But if you have something that you are proud of and willing for others to see, this could be the perfect venue for you to put your work in the public eye. And maybe it might be you standing on stage and accepting the award this year.

It will be years before a manned Mars mission gets to happen, and all bets are off about which country might get there first. But starting this past Monday they cut the ribbon for the opening of new Destination: Mars exhibition at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It uses a mixed-reality presentation created by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory to give you a fully immersive idea of what being on Mars would be like. They used all the images they received from the Curiosity rover to build the virtual environment, so you can’t get much closer to an authentic experience than that. They are using the Microsoft HoloLens™ mixed reality headset to deliver the experience, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin will be your holographic guide. For those who missed it, I posted about this last June, complete with a couple of videos demonstrating the process; nice to know it is finally available. I am adding this to the list of fun exhibitions I want to visit, and am thinking some time next year I should be able to make it. Perhaps I will see you there.

The Stargate Project created a life size replica of a Stargate in the park of Musée royal de Mariemont in Belgium. This is for an exhibit about the roll of Egyptian Gods in Geek Culture that will be running through November 20th, covering everything from the Stargate TV show and Movies to Comic Books. The first video is about the production of the Stargate, using milling, laser cutting, and 3D printing. The second video is of one that is much smaller and easier to 3D print and assemble, using the plans from Thingiverse, if you wanted to make your own.