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Roboworld is now open at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh. Billed as the largest robotics exhibition in the United States, it includes robots you can play air hockey and basketball with, and a number who demonstrate the basics of robotic senses. There are also some famous Film Bots, such as C-3PO from Star Wars and Maria from Metropolis, as well as Gort, Robby, and Dewey. The Post-Gazette has a nice little video introduction to the exhibit, if you don’t mind sitting through a short commercial first. And then there is Robot Truth

For the last few decades, one of the major players in the graphics/3D modeling/rendering/animation arena has been Caligari Truespace. Their all-in-one 3D software suite sold for $600 and required nothing else to take you from start to finish on creating your own models, movies, animations and commercials. You can download it here for free, and you can see the full specification list to get an idea of just how powerful this tool set is.

While not completely free (you have to buy the magazine), you can get Realsoft 3D 5.1 on the disk that comes with this months 3D World Magazine. Another industrial grade software suite, this one normally sells for $750, and again covers every aspect of the 3D modeling and animation process from beginning to end.

Both of these are professional fully featured animation packages, actually used to create things you have seen online, on TV, and in the theaters. If I had to choose between them I would go with Truespace, but that is probably because I have used it for the last decade or so and was always impressed with the results it gave. I don’t have the same hands-on experience with Realsoft, so I have no basis of comparison so far. Thanks to Vesa (a name, not a credit card) in their Tech Support group, who helped solve my registration issues, I now have the chance to find out, and will report back here about it.

Caligari’s Truespace was bought about a year ago by Microsoft, who changed the price to free. The idea was to make this the core tool for creating content for their Virtual Earth project in their ongoing battle with Google. The economy train wreck means Microsoft has pulled back support for the product a few weeks ago, so you should download all the software, plugins, and training materials for your archives now, as at least some of them may be going away.

With Realsoft 3D, they have released version 6 for the full money amount, and are offering an upgrade deal (just under $400) for those who install 5.1 from the magazine. Basically a variation on Trialware without actually crippling the software before making it available; it is only missing the new bug fixes and features of the more recent version. The June issue of 3D World actually leaves the stands on June 24th, so you still have 2 weeks to go out and find a copy; after that it will be gone.

The opening version of Wolfram/Alpha is now online and ready for testing. As I mentioned back in March, while the name sounds like the IT department of the evil Lawyers company in Angel, Wolfram Alpha is a computer program that actually answers the question you ask. Or at least that is the goal, and they are off to a good start. For those who think this sounds like Deep Thought from Hitchhikers, my favorite answer so far: if you ask it what is the meaning of life, the universe, and everything it gives the correct answer. Thanks to Sci Fi Scanner for thinking to ask it that question.

Eyeborgs opens this week in London, even though it’s a US movie. So does The Clone Returns Home, and Stingray Sam (a space musical western with unique design features). But there are other movies opening soon, including Star Trek 11 and Moon. And besides the Sci_Fi London festival, another party in that town is Anime Extravaganza at the East End Film Festival. Without getting Close Up and personal, I can tell you one of the Anime’s I am looking forward to is Oh! Edo Rocket!, and let’s not forget Death Note Day on the 28th in New York, and all across the country when the showing of Death Note 3: Change the World hits all the Fathom Events digital theaters. And don’t forget the Robot Penguins working for the Army.


The Clone Returns Home

Stingray Sam

Here are a few 3D creation tools everyone should have in their arsenal. First up, DAZ Studio 3D; while not Open Source, this one is one of the best 3D software packages ever built, and released online for free. The other killer application is Blender, a full-service Open Source 3D program with more support than you had ever suspected was available. Between these two, you will be able to create anything you can think of for a 3D environment, and never have to pay a penny to pull it off.

Everyone should try their hand at building their own SciFi, using whatever tools work for them. One of the more expressive and accessible formats is animation; pretty much everyone can enjoy and follow a good video. And using animation avoids all those real-world constraints like special effects budgets and the laws of physics. 2D animation puts you in the realm of traditional cartoons, a format made popular over the last hundred years or so, and there are a number of free tools and a host of training resources available online. For instance, one of the commercial software packages, ToonBoom, has a few free online tools at Animachines. One takes your WebCam output, blends a simple animation, and gives you an animated gif you can use on your pages. The other lets you do frame-by-frame animations using 4 simple shapes for your building blocks. Much more powerful are the Open Source programs you can download and install, like Pencil, which runs on MACs, Windows, or Linux, and gives you a traditional hand-drawn animation environment that works with both bitmap and vector graphic images. Another is Animata from eastern Europe, designed to let you build backgrounds and animations for live theater/concert environments. K-Toon from Brazil was primarily for Nix systems (Unix, Linux, etc.) but now can be used everywhere; development seems to be stalled a year or so back, but it is still worth a look. Another great open-source program is SynFig, still under current development but mostly for Nix systems. It has tweening automated, which reduces the workflow steps necessary to create quality animation and puts feature-film level animation into everyone’s hands. Then there are programs like Creatoon, no longer supported but still a tool that can help you build your animations.