TED Talk: Why I Built a Time Machine!

I spent the spring at TED this year, working on developing a VR piece about Coney Island’s Luna Park, and writing a talk about how technology has shaped entertainment. Cramming a TED talk into six minutes was no easy feat. The idea was to look back at the past as a lens to consider how technology during the first and second industrial revolutions defined the last century of entertainment, then to speculate how the dawn of today’s natural user interfaces will lead the way to new forms of entertainment that will extend into the next century. So, here it is at last, my TED talk!

The talk centers around a project I have been working on over the last several years- a historic reconstruction of Coney Island’s Luna Park as it appeared a century ago. The work done at TED this year resulted in a prototype VR experience allowing users to virtually walk through Luna Park as it existed in the milestone years of 1903, 1908 and 1914, and jump between these years as they explore. There’s tons more modeling to do to build out the experience, and after the talk I just had to put it aside for a while to reflect on why I am doing this completely obsessive project.

The current state of VR seems like an in-between technology to me. This isn’t where we are going, but rather a stop along the way.  I’m guessing some AR/VR device will eventually come along that mixes with just the right software experience to become the tipping point for mass adoption, but I think we’re still a ways away. In the meantime, it’s my hope to keep working on building out the Time Machine so that when technology finally catches up, it will be ready. There’s lots more work to be done modeling and then the exhaustive texturing that will really make Luna Park look like the glittering and glowing city of fire that it was.

A lot of my thinking about the piece left me thinking about how to turn this into a product that will interest people other than a very small group of Coney Island history buffs. It’s playful, but is it a game? Or maybe the rides get built out as virtual rides and that could justify its existence as a software product? I toyed with the idea of using it as a collection game where we can roam the environment exploring and collecting people from the Scan-A-Rama archive.  Then it dawned on me… this is literally a Time Machine, and there are tons of other places I would travel in time if I could. Where would you go if you could travel anywhere in time and space? That’s when I realized that this is–  the first proof of concept destination for a Time Machine platform.

I have a vision of the Time Machine as a set of camera controller objects that allow anyone who is passionate about a place to build their own time machine that can travel to ancient Egypt or whatever place they are passionate about. That’s my real “big idea” coming out of TED- that the Time Machine platform should be an open source library of template Unity files empowering anyone to create and share their explorations. This could be a great tool for architects, archaeologists, crime scene investigators, history and literary buffs– anyone interested in experiencing places that can no longer be physically visited, and which bear examination as they changed over time.

Time jumping is definitely a feature that is already out there as a software principle. Consider Undo/Redo, the DVR, or Google Street view, which already has about 15 years worth of data. What happens when Street View hits 50 years, or a century? Time travel is coming, it’s just going to be different than what H.G. Wells predicted. The Eye in the Sky episode of RadioLab also talks about another form of time travel that has definite ethical issues. In an increasingly digital world, I predict that temporal travel will become more pervasive, so where would you want to travel? I look forward to hearing from potential collaborators or anyone who is passionate about places they would want to travel to.

If you have a Windows VR setup with an HTC VIVE, try out the Time Machine prototype yourself. Special props to Matt Laverty of Atomic Veggies and developer Daniel Alhadeff for their help on the project!

Download Prototype for 64 bit Windows systems with HTC Vive.
Controls: Use the controller touchpad to move, press the small button above the touchpad to jump between the years of 1903,1908 and 1914 (For example, while looking at the entrance)

Time-Machine

Fred at TED!

It’s been hard to keep my mouth shut the last two months, but I am finally able to announce that I will be spending the next 3 months as a Resident at TED, working on a project to recreate turn of the 20th century Thompson & Dundy’s Luna Park in VR, with an accompanying TED talk in June.


This is the next step in the evolution of a project that I have been working on on and off for over 20 years, since I first went the NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program in the mid 1990’s. Back then, I created a series of Quicktime VR panoramas of Luna Park, and then a few years ago when 3D printing became widely accessible, I rekindled the project to produce a 3D printed model of the park that was exhibited in the Coney Island Museum. This upcoming phase will be focused on recreating the entirety of the park as a VR experience which will allow viewers to explore the park firsthand. It is my hope to share the models under a Creative Commons licence that encourages others to use virtual Luna Park and encourage its use as a virtual meeting place in the future.

There are several themes I am thinking about in regards to the TED talk I will be doing in June, but the general idea I am working with is about the history and legacy of technology as entertainment, specifically Luna Park’s role in defining everything we do for amusemnt today. Luna Park came out of the golden age of world fairs, a time when attractions in the 1897 World Columbian Exposition were effectively the physical manifestation of a memory palace containing all of man’s culture and knowledge. It was the real world embodiment of everything Google is for us today. The park was not only a showcase for fantastical, otherworldly architecture, it transported the melting pot of American immigrants to exotic locales around the world, even to the moon, anticipating what the future of entertainment would be like. Electricity, phonographs, motion pictures, infant incubators, simulation rides, they all began at Luna Park. I cannot wait to virtually resurrect it and share it with the world!

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A screencap of the Luna Park VR prototype, with cell shaded rendering style

 

Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio 2015 Year in Review

Before the year ends I wanted to write about some of the events I was able to be a part of this year with the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio. I had a spectacular year of making 3D portraits for thousands of people at a slew of events that included talks as well as scanning events at the Innovation Loft,  Midwest Reprap Festival, Newark New Jersey, Westport ConneticutBay Area and New York Maker Faires, at Pepsico’s Executive World Summit, and Theatre Bizarre. I also spent the year on an artist fellowship at Wheaton Arts’ Creative Glass Center of America in which I innovated and explored methods of glass casting from digitally designed objects. Stay tuned for more on this- I will be posting the findings from this fellowship in January (I am just wrapping up there now). Finally, I went out to Seattle and set up a bot lab at the Pilchuck Glass School, where I will be teaching a class TaDDDaa!! in June of 2016. The class will cover techniques of glass casting from a digital workflow that includes 3D sculpting, scanning, printing, and CNC carving. If this list isn’t impressive enough for you, I also had two amazing corporate gigs in November that I’ve been meaning to write up- The first being at Google of their internal user experience conference; Google UXU, and the second for Pfizer at their Excelerate innovation conference!

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Google’s UXU is an internal conference for the company’s entire UX ladder to meet up, compare notes on best practices, hone skills and get inspired to create some of the world’s best digital products. I was honored to be invited to come out to the Googleplex and deliver the conference’s opening keynote address, one expanded from my talk at Bay Area Maker Faire about the History of Technology as Entertainment that included my work on recreating Luna Park with 3D printing, and ended with some conjectures about 3D printing and what will happen when hot rod culture gets a hold of self driving cars. Was the talk well received? Here’s what one attendee said:

Right to left: Speaker Corey Pressman who gave a great talk about poetry for robots , Speaker Stella Grizont who talked about the science of happiness, conference organizer Thea Kluge/Carter and myself

Right to left: Speaker Corey Pressman who gave a great talk about poetry for robots , Speaker Stella Grizont who talked about the science of happiness, conference organizer Thea Kluge/Carter and myself

The second day of the conference I ran the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio at their mixer and created a number of great portraits for people

The second day of the conference I ran the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio at their mixer and created a number of great portraits (Click to view larger).

November was busy! I had barely returned from the Googleplex when Pfizer’s Excelerate conference began and I spent two days making 3D portraits of some of the movers and shakers of one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. I even made a portrait of the CEO, Ian Read!

Here I am with Pfizer CEO Ian Read!

Here I am with Pfizer CEO Ian Read!

Ian Read's raw scan

Ian Read’s raw scan

The cleaned up scan ready for printing

The cleaned up scan ready for printing

The final print...in Pfizer Blue!

The final print…in Pfizer Blue!

2015 was an amazing year for me. I can’t say I got rich, but as the first year out on my own doing what I love without working for someone else, I think I did pretty well for myself.  Just writing it up now, I realize that Fredini Enterprises has done some great work… and there’s a lot more where that came from! I have a lot of exciting things in the pipes for 2016 – new products, artwork, inventions and more, so stay tuned.

Happy New Year Everyone!

Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio at Theatre Bizarre 2015!

Its been a whirlwind year and I have completely neglected documenting all the things I’ve been up to, so I’m going to make a push in the next month to write up everything, starting with this year’s pilgrimage to Theatre Bizarre, Detroit’s amazing masquerade ball held in the world’s largest Masonic temple. Last year, I brought the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio out to capture some of the party’s most outrageous visitors and this year I succeeded in getting some even better portraits. Here’s some favorites!

JohnDawnDunivant-printPattyChrisSchorfhaar-print NicoletteAndrewWarczak-print london-print LauraRichardKimmel-print JohnKellySiegel-print JimJaniceLeach-print GaryBasemanJoane-print DanHawley-print CaseyAlisonGies-print AndreaRainer-print VedaRamonGrobbel-print TomCapizzi-print ShannonPeshkopia-Michelle SchphinktieKristen-print SamanthaWaldenmeyer-print RodKammer-print NicoleDerickCasier-print MattLavere-print LouisCharlotteDevaney-print KrystalLehl KarenJohnEnglish-PRINT JosueMaldonado-print JasonLajudice-02-print HeidiCraig-print GoatMan-print GinaEricAckerman-print ErinSanders-print DownAClown-print DanaMccoms-print CoreyMichaelBauser-print ClarkAimeeEagling-print Chainsaw-print BrettCarson-RubberChickenMan2 AngelaCharlieThurman-print AngelaBrendonDoran-print AlexLeal-print AlexandraominicReisner-print

And some physical 3D prints:
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Jetguy Big Boy CoreXY to be Exhibited at World Maker Faire New York

Jetguy‘s custom built CoreXY open source 3D Printer will be showcased at World Maker Faire New York this weekend at the Scan-A-Rama 3D Portrait Studio in the lower level of the New York Hall of Science building. Come out and watch this amazing machine with an amazing 330x325x390mm build area, filament detection to pause prints in case of a feed failure, Dampened Stepper motors for extremely quiet performance, and a number of other custom features. This machine is not to be missed!

  

Kembra Pfahler 3D Portrait

I 3D scanned Kembra Pfahler of the Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black this spring and have been working on a 3D portrait of her off and on for a while now. My initial intent had been to do something with many arms, reminiscent of the Hindu goddess Kali, an image inspired by her love of blue body paint, but this imagery was not at all working for Kembra.  She felt Kali was too obvious and already done by Nina Hagen. So my scans of her have been languishing and waiting for inspiration. I had included her in some sketches for the Gates of Hell that I’m working on, but had nothing yet… until last night when this came together. Its 3D printing away now on my Jetguy Big Boy printer for another 20 hours, but I’m looking forward to seeing how it comes out!

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Bay Area Maker Faire Talk: Fredini’s History of Technology as Entertainment

Its been a whirlwind ever since I went out to San Francisco for Maker Faire. I meant to post a recap of some of my favorite highlights of the weekend, but have been swamped with Scan-A-Rama and getting ready for this year’s fellowship at Wheaton Arts. This week I’m doing a quick visiting artist stint at the Pilchuck Glass School to get a 3D printing studio up and running. I’ll be teaching a course there next summer about methods of creating 3D printed models for glass casting… more on that later (but I’ll be looking for artistic teaching assistants with expertise in 3D printer building, 3D modeling and glass casting, so give me a shout if you’re interested!).

In the meantime, Maker Faire posted my talk on YouTube. Overall, I’m happy with it. I confess I was called out by a fan for screwing up the Arthur C. Clarke quote, which should read “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.“. Anyway, here’s the talk, and if you get a chance its just one of a playlist of a lot of great pieces, so check them all out!