3D Printed Plastic Cube Controller CAPTIVE Makes for Rapid Manipulation of 3D Images

3D Printed CAPTIVE CubeA plastic cube, CAPTIVE, which is basically a 3D printed 6DoF controller has been developed by researchers at the North Carolina State University. It can be used to manipulate virtual 3D objects on a computer screen. This device reduces the lag time in manipulating 3D images making it lesser than that of the existing technology.

The 3D Printed CAPTIVE Cube

3D modeling has always been an area of high-end innovation since decades. It is fascinating to see how 3D and higher dimensional information has been a milestone in the field of visualization research. Whether it is a student trying to figure out a human brain, a medical practitioner, a video gamer or an architect making plans for a new project, being able to study an object in three dimensions and manipulate them virtually can be immensely helpful. However, there is a major constraint if the tool used gives lag, producing latency between the movement seen on-screen and the movement of the device.

This is exactly where CAPTIVE will come in handy. This device comprises of just three components: a solid cube wire frame, a webcam which can be found on most smartphones or laptops and custom software. Although the controller with its color coded vertices and simple geometrical shape might have a resemblance to a toy but it is the very concept that it is built around which brings down this apprehensive lag.

This is how it works. The cube has a uniquely colored sphere at each corner. When a user moves the cube around, the webcam captures its image. A video recognition software, developed by the team, then tracks the movement of the cube in three dimensions by analyzing how each colored sphere moves relative to the others. This allows the system to assess the movement of the cube within 3D. This same movement is applied to a 3D object displayed on the screen. As this object rotates in a full six degrees of freedom and in sync with the cube.

This kind of 3D control technology isn’t new in itself, but it normally requires costly hardware. This is where CAPTIVE scores. It is simple, swift and cheap. One just needs to install the custom software and 3D-print the cube. Its creators say that it’s twice as quick as the existing competing systems because there is virtually no latency between the movements of the cube and corresponding movements of the 3D object.

The researchers say that their system could be potentially used for a large number of applications, from gaming and education to computer aided design tools and medical diagnostics. However, it is not confirmed as to when the software will be launched commercially.

The research paper, “Performance Characteristics of a Camera-Based Tangible Input Device for Manipulation of 3D Information”, documents the creation of CAPTIVE. It will be presented later this month at the Graphics Interface conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

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