In 1993 Todd Rundgren released the first interactive album entitled No World Order. It was available as a CD-i on the Philips CD-i player. The device connected to your TV and stereo. As the album played, the listener used an interface, basically a set of buttons and sliders, to provide input as to which snippet of music would be played next. The listener could control aspects like direction (forward, repeat, backward) and mix (natural, spacious, sparse, karaoke, and thick). Left to its own devices, the device would play a song from beginning to end using the choices that were selected; however, as the song played, the listener could change the parameters and get the device to select a different snippet of music to yield a different version of a song. The experience was not as fragmented as it seems. Though primarily a rock artist, No World Order is a rap album because the style lends itself to being played in any order.
When the album came out I was working on HOOPS — a 3D graphics system that ran across a variety of platforms. In addition to my responsibilities of developing graphics drivers for a plethora of PC graphics cards, I also wrote some of our test programs. One of them was stdtest.c for a standard test. I would run the program on all of the graphics devices and make sure the HOOPS driver had output the correct geometry, color, lighting, and patterns. When I got the No World Order CD-i disk, I thought I should clone the Rundgren interface and make a HOOPS test program that let the user test the device driver by generating different rendering conditions for geometry (cube, sphere, pyramid, line), color (red, green, blue), lighting (unlit, flat, Gouraud, Phong), and pattern (e.g. solid, dashed, dotted) based on the settings from the user interface. Left to its own devices, the test program would cycle through the graphics scenes, and the tester could just sit back and look for irregularities. When an apparent problem was observed, the tester could play with the buttons and sliders to focus in on problem areas (e.g., clipping bounds incorrectly set). Alas I never acted upon my instinct.
Project Shapeshifter is one of our new technology previews on Autodesk Labs.
The technology preview allows the user to generate 3D-printable objects with a user interface that is a collection of buttons and sliders. Just like playing with the knobs to get a different version of a song, a user plays with the knobs to generate a unique 3D shape. Why didn't I think of this in 1993? I was in the neighborhood.
It's easy and it's fun. You should try it. The 3D-printed results will be music to your eyes and hands.
Disorder is alive in the lab.