Based on Alan Turing’s famous Turing Test, known as The Imitation Game, The Nature Game seeks to draw attention to the convergence between natural and man-made objects. In conjunction with Uformia, for the first time Inside 3D Printing San Diego housed The Nature Game this week — and we’ve been looking forward to it since it was first announced last month.
The prompt is straightforward, though it is ultimately anything but simple:
“As advanced modeling technologies continue to make significant strides toward ever increasing control over design, manufacturing and creation processes, there is a new question to consider:
Can an object be explicitly designed and fabricated by humans that seems to be naturally grown and/or expresses properties and complexity only found in naturally produced objects?”
Throughout the two-day conference, attendees were invited to stop by The Nature Game’s booth on the exhibit hall floor to examine 18 objects. Finally, at Thursday afternoon’s panel, the answers were revealed, as we could find out which had been created by nature and which through human design.
When I stopped by the booth on Wednesday to take a look at the varied objects, I declined to vote. I wanted to remain impartial as a journalist (and I have a personal tendency to be very wrong when voting between two choices). I did chat with Uformia’s CTO, Turlif Vilbrandt, though, about the objects and the nature of the game.
While repeatability is often a focus on successful manufacturing, one light I had not given much thought to about this aspect of production is that repeatability is key in separating nature from man; natural production can never be truly replicated. Vilbrandt used the example of a mixed can of paint to illustrate the difference, telling me that while two hues may be mixed by human hand, it would be impossible to truly replicate the same pattern of swirl between two batches, as nature does still play into the process. The objects on display that had been made by human design were necessarily fully replicable, then; every groove and orifice would be able to be recreated in exact duplicate, and this is the key to what separates the two categories we see in The Nature Game.
Fast forwarding then to Thursday’s panel presentation, I was among the crowd keen to discover the origins of each of these objects.
“When might 3D printing be beyond detection from nature?” Tyler Benster of Asimov Ventures asked as he kicked off the session.
Present alongside Uformia’s Vilbrandt were a representative from Organovo, a sculptor using 3D printing to reimagine how we make art, a physicist, and a New Zealand-based university lecturer. These individuals of such varied backgrounds were brought together by a shared interest in this unique project.
As the results came in, those involved in The Nature Game indicated that despite the premise of the project, they had not necessarily expected to see quite the split they did, with several objects seeing a 50/50 split in votes from viewers unable to decide whether a piece had been made by nature or by the latest in technology.
The only majority-incorrect response, it should be noted, came about in the 3D printed human tissue, an application where Organovo has been making incredible headway for some time now. While there is a cellular-level differentiation to be made between native liver and bioprinted liver, without understanding the biology behind this, looking at the cells that had been printed into ExVive tissue products can certainly be deceptive as one considers the origin.
As 3D printing continues to expand its capabilities, with incredible work from designers and software developers alongside the hardware capabilities to bring highly detailed and organic-appearing structures into the physical world, we may continue to see the lines blur between what is natural and what has been made. Taking the concept of a “maker” to an entirely new level, creations that make viewers do a double-take will certainly take their place in the 21st century as generative design and complex structures bring together nature and maker.
Full results are as follows, as Vilbrandt shared:
- 1. Human — Peter Fried: The Blaschka Squid (We have in fact seen this beautiful model before.)
- 71% of voters correctly identified this as being human-made
- 2. Nature — Bismuth
- About a 50/50 split among voters
- 3. Nature — Desert Rose Gypsum
- Almost 100% correctly identified
- 4. Human — Seth Astle
- About 60% of voters thought this was manmade
- 5. Human — Evan Kuester: Vascular Tree
- About 65% thought this was manmade
- 6. Nature — Ice Jade
- 97% correctly identified this piece
- 7. Human — Andy Lomas: Cellular Form
- About 65%
- 8. Human — Marco Teran: Alligator Skull
- About a 50/50 split
- 9. Nature — Statice
- 100% identified
- 10. Human — Alan: Buggy Lamp
- About 60% thought human-made
- 11. Nature — Cactus Fiber
- About 65% thought this was natural
- 12. Human — Iain Jackson
- Over 80% correctly identified
- 13. Human — Mathieu Sanchez: This Is Not a Dog
- 58% thought this was human-made
- 14. Human — Ross Stevens
- 60% thought this was human-made
- 15. Human — Andrew Werby: Fircactyambar
- 71% correctly identified this
- 16. Human — Ross Stevens: Lysom
- 55% thought human-made
- 17. Human — Andrew Werby: Crojasamas
- About 72% correctly identified this
- 18. Human — Organovo: ExVive Human Liver Tissue and ExVive Human Kidney Tissue
- About 70% thought this had been nature-made
You May Also Like
Benny Buller on VELO3D’s SPACtacular Rise in Metal 3D Printing
2021 has already been a SPACtacular year for the 3D printing industry, with several companies already announcing mergers with special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). This includes Markforged, Rocket Lab, and...
Materialise Has Option to Acquire 3D Printing MES Company Link3D
Belgian 3D printing service and software company Materialise (Nasdaq: MTLS) has announced that it has an option to acquire Link3D. The transaction will close later this year, but the company...
3D Printing Bureaus on the Rise: Sandvik’s BEAMIT Acquires 3T Additive Manufacturing
The BEAMIT Group has acquired polymer and metal additive manufacturing (AM) provider 3T Additive Manufacturing from the German holding group AM Global. The deal represents the first step towards BEAMIT’s...
3D Printing Webinar and Virtual Event Roundup: April 10, 2021
We’ve got another packed week of webinars and virtual events for you, starting with Hannover Messe 2021 on Monday. What else is coming up this week: ASTM CoE’s personnel certificate...
View our broad assortment of in house and third party products.