Kirt's Cogitations™ #174
These original Kirt's Cogitations™ may be reproduced
(no more than 5, please) provided proper credit is given to me, Kirt Blattenberger.
here to return to the Table of Contents.
Cog·i·ta·tion [koj-i-tey'-shun] – noun: Concerted
reflection; meditation; contemplation.
Kirt [kert] – proper noun: RF Cafe webmaster.
Voxels are the way of the future for search engines designed to
mine for 3-dimensional objects across the web. Car parts, furniture, art collection object, or just about anything
represented by a 3-D vector file format. Researchers at Purdue University have created a method whereby inputting
a 3-dimensional sketch of, say, a football, will result in files containing objects that have a shape close to
that of a football.
For the system to work, cooperative users must make the 3-D files available for searching. The most likely
early adopters will be manufacturers and distributors with inventories of solid parts, like aircraft, automotive,
appliance, tool, plumbing, and furniture products. Once a standard is defined, a whole new dimension (pun
intended) of resources will be available to folks looking for parts that can be described by what will become a
simple 3-D sketching interface.
Today's search engines perform what can loosely be described as a 1- or
2-dimensional search for images. Even so, the image pixels themselves are not actually scanned for content, but
relies on file names and descriptive "Alt" text to clue in the search engine. That is where the voxel comes in.
Whereas a pixel represents a color and a location in an image, a voxel represents a volume (hence the "V" in
voxel) at a given point in the solid object. Since both the presence and absence of material is represented, a 3-D
search engine can tell the difference between a disk with rounded edges and a toroid that is basically the same
shape, only with a hole in the middle.
Thomas Funkhouser, a Princeton University professor, has put a 3-D search engine
(sketch applet by
Takeo Igarashi) on the Web that lets the user sketch an object using a computer mouse, add a text
description, then search for similar models in design databases. Once there, click on the Text & 3-D Sketch link,
and play around with the application. I sketched a hollow bowl and it found bowls and pots without entering any
text keywords - amazing.