The OGLE project allows you to capture 3D images from your screen in the same way as you now capture 2D images. I think the software is free, and it works on Windows. I suppose this has commercial implications for virtual world owners (you can clone your in-game avatar and use it outside), but it should also make 3D objects more commonly available. An avatar on every blog.
Theres also a link to Dimension Printing, who produce 3D printers, which build up a 3D object by applying layers of ABS plastic, much as a colour printer builds up colours by applying RGB layers. The result is that you can build objects directly (if theyre in ABS) or you can automatically build exact moulds or templates from which to produce objects in other materials. (And of course there are already personal fabricators that allow you to build in other materials.) At $18,900 this technology is almost within reach of the artist/hobbyist/ enthusiast/ nerd spectrum, to which Im proud to belong and in which most exciting developments first happen.
Just as a musical performance can be captured digitally, exactly copied many times over, and reproduced faithfully whenever you want, so the uniqueness of objects is coming to an end. For mass-produced objects it already has. But think of the Michelangelo project. Could I now have a perfect David in my own house? (Well, no, because the printer will only produce objects up to 8 x 8 x 12 inches, but you see my point.)
For simulations, too: suppose you want to exactly reproduce the controls of a system in a simulation device? What about the dissection of frogs?. The days when a simulation has to be on a screen may be coming to an end. They already have – see the Laerdal babies – but personal fabrication brings immediacy and speed. The Dimension site doesnt say how long it takes to produce each object, but over time speeds may come down until you can have it almost instantly. (Cut the frog here, and ….bz bz..bz bz… THIS is what you get.)
CSVen ends his post: “I have to admit though, I think the technical side will be a cakewalk compared to some of what Iâ€™m hoping to accomplish.” Im intrigued. Our dreams and plans are the most important simulation: the simulation that takes place before the reality, not after it. As such I think they are the most fascinating thing about us: so I hope CSVen tells us more soon.