A popular use of 3D printing – and one that we’ve seen a lot of – is the printing of video game characters. Gamers have always loved having figurines from their favorite games, but they used to have to shell out money at their local toy store or game reseller for relatively generic collectibles. With 3D printing, game figures can be produced less expensively and with added creative touches or personalization.
It would seem to naturally follow, therefore, that a technology would develop that would allow gamers to 3D print scenes or characters from their favorite games directly from the screen, mid-play. That’s about as personalized as you can get, and there are a few companies that have been developing ways to freeze and print game action. One of the most interesting of these, and one which we’ve been following closely, is Whispering Gibbon, a British startup that has quickly become a leader in 3D content generation.
In January, the company was the recipient of a major, six-figure investment from venture capital firm Northstar Ventures, and we predicted that the increased funding would significantly further their forward momentum. So far, it looks to be doing just that. Whispering Gibbon is gaining a lot of attention for their innovative RenderFab technology, which allows users to convert objects optimized for visual, onscreen display to models optimized for 3D printing.Because today’s video games are tending towards more and more sophisticated 3D graphics, you’d think it would be relatively easy to convert an on-screen image into a 3D printable model. Not exactly, says Joe Stevens, founder and CEO of Whispering Gibbon.
“You’re looking at a game character, say, that purports to be 3D but with a virtual image much of the information about what actually makes up that 3D structure is missing – the game only needs enough data to produce an image on the screen,” Stevens explained to Forbes.com.
RenderFab fulls in that missing data, allowing users to grab 3D content from their screens and easily convert it to printable models. Whispering Gibbon began working on the technology last year, and it’s already garnered a lot of interest from companies outside the gaming industry – like architectural firms, for example.
“The starting point was to develop a piece of software which would enable you to grab any 3D content that had been optimised to be displayed on screen and 3D print it,” Stevens told TCT Magazine. “Primarily this was for gaming but game content is actually the most difficult to grab because within a game so much of what you see on screen is faked. Once you’ve cracked that then it becomes pretty trivial to do the same for an architectural model and other CAD data.”
The beauty of the technology, for gaming purposes, is that users can now 3D print models that are completely personal. Game action can be captured as it is happening, meaning that once you’ve finally beat that level you’ve been struggling with for weeks, you can grab an image from your moment of victory, 3D print it, and display it as a trophy – or, if you’re playing against your friend in a multiplayer game, you can print his agonizing defeat and give it to him for Christmas. What’s not to love? Discuss in the 3D Printed Gaming forum over at 3DPB.com.