Tuesday, January 7, 2014

3D Systems Announces the FIRST Consumer Art Focused Haptic-based Mouse!

3D Systems is serious about consumer 3D printing.  Product categories that once were the sole arena for high priced tools have seen major disruptions in the last few months.  First the Sense was released and now 3D Systems has announced the TOUCH, the first ever consumer haptic-based mouse for better and easier virtual sculpting.  It will come bundled with Cubify Sculpt for just $499.

3D Systems TOUCH Haptic Mouse

Why the TOUCH Haptic Mouse is Important

Reviewing some of the published accounts of the announcement of the TOUCH it became clear that reviewers with a computer-centered technical background just don't get why this device is so important to the democratization of 3D design and printing.

But, on a personal level, I CANNOT OVERSTATE the importance of this breakthrough!

In fact, the job for which the TOUCH is designed to facilitate is the very reason for which I became interested in 3D printing in the first place... alternatives to traditional clay sculpture. 
At the risk of repeating myself, my daughter is a very talented sculptor.  But,  working with porcelain and other clays has risks... especially in her chosen style of work, which was to build a vessel and carve it in intricate patterns.  Silica dust and toxins in some of the glazes are just a few of these hazards.  Then there is the all to frequent instances where a piece will crack in the kiln after hours and hours of design work.  Casting and wheel working just could not be used for the intricate patterns that she envisioned.  So I began looking for alternatives and found 3D printing.

But, an artist that is used to working with her hands may or may not be all that comfortable with using a standard mouse with a 3D design program to produce sculpture.  My daughter certainly has NOT been.  The sense of touch is critically important for a sculptor.

I knew that the answer was a haptic mouse that provided the force feedback that mirrored the feel that she was used to experiencing when sculpturing clay.  But, cost was always the big hurdle prior to now haptic devices meant for artistic applications cost a small fortune for an artist. 

A 3D Mouse is Useful; but, it NOT a Haptic-based Mouse

I regularly use the 3DConexxion 3D SpaceNavigator.  It's wonderful and I love using it.  It makes rotating objects in Sculpt very, very easy and quick.  But, it is NOT a haptic-based system.  It doesn't help me at all with the actual sculpting process other than simple angle rotation.  It doesn't help me with controlling the height or depth when pulling and pushing the virtual clay in Sculpt.

My Expectations for the TOUCH Haptic-based 3D Mouse in Cubify Sculpt

Obviously,. I don't have a TOUCH.  In fact, I only learned about it today when 3D Systems announced it.  But, I have drooled over various haptic devices beyond my budget for years.  So, I have a pretty good idea what I expect it to do for me... and, hopefully, my daughter.

Plus, I've used a WACOM pad with pressure sensitive pen that crudely allows for some of the functionality of a haptic device without the force feedback.

I'm expecting to be able to FEEL the clay and be able to experience different pressures as I change the hardness of the clay in Sculpt.  I expect to be able to have more control over the depth and height of cuts and pulls.  What I do NOT expect is the precision of a device costing thousands of dollars. It will be enough for me if the TOUCH finally allows my daughter to finally feel comfortable with a software sculpting application. 

If it does, it may be the first step to migrating to 3D Systems' professional level sculpting applications and haptic devices.   At the very least I expect it will improve my abilities to sculpt... and that is a HUGE thing!  :)

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