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  • Spencer Bennington

Field trip to the Advanced Visualization Center (AVC)!!

Last week I waxed poetic about virtual reality, augmented reality, and the connections between these concepts and martial arts.


This week our topic of discussion focused primarily on 3D printing technologies and what they could mean for the future of production, consumerism, and the power of individual makers. If you've never seen a 3D printer before, check out this video of one in action:

In a nutshell, 3D printing gives power to the consumer to become a producer of a variety of different items. While most household 3D printers use basic plastics or bio-compatible filament, industrial printers can make use of metals, mixed media, and even living tissue. As the above video explains, all you need is access to a machine and the correct digital files that can be easily accessed on websites like Thingiverse and then, before you know it, you too can print your own octopus figurine giving five middle tentacles!


Some things you just can't un-see

Personally, I decided to test this process out by trying to print my very own copy of a Bruce Lee figure uploaded to Thingiverse. He wasn't quite finished yet but in the picture below you can see a little purple blob in the far right corner...he's coming!



Lucky for me, as a graduate student at the University of South Florida, I have access to terrifically smart people like Howard Kaplan at the Advanced Visualization Center. Any student can send a 3D print file to the AVC and have their project printed for the low low cost of the materials. This is a great way for students from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds to create prototypes, learn more about advanced technology, and explore interesting concepts outside of their normal studies. Howard's team is devoted to teaching students and faculty how to use these cutting edge technologies to advance their own research.


Last night, our class was lucky enough to get a private showing of many of the AVC's offerings including the 3d print lab, various VR headsets, and a giant 3D capable super-duper bagillion pixel screen stack.



Another helpful staff member (also named Spencer) acting as our VR sherpa

Testing out the Oculus Go...yes after last week's post I impulse bought one on Amazon

Adam using the Oculus Rift to try and...insert floppy discs to produce digital butterflies?

Me attacking him while he's vulnerable with a 3D-printed prosthetic claw of mixed filament types

Much more adept than Adam at catching butterflies

I can't express my gratitude enough to Howard, Spencer, and Dr. Steve Jones for facilitating such a fun field trip. I felt like an elementary school kid visiting the science museum all over again.


So, where do 3D printing and advanced visualizations connect to Martial Arts Studies or Tae Kwon Do? Did I mention I'm printing a plastic purple Bruce Lee figure?


In all seriousness, there's a surprising amount of martial arts training equipment and practice weapons available for 3D printing. This is definitely something I will take advantage of seeing as how the price for even the most basic practice guns and knives for self-defense training can start around 10-20 bucks USD. Combine this with the kinds of accessories martial artists love (belt holder, displays, breakaway practice boards, etc.) that can all be made of simple, cheap filaments and you've got yourself a bargain. Depending on the item, the process of making, scaling, prototyping, and iterating, can provide the martial artist with invaluable insight into the usefulness of the item much the same way any student can benefit from this type of learning.


As far as advanced visualization goes, I've been impressed with the ways 3D scanning technologies and motion capture have been incorporated to preserve the embodied knowledge of martial arts masters much more effectively than print media or even high-definition videography ever could. A great example of this kind of work is the Kung Fu Living Archive currently still being developed in Hong Kong. This project endeavored to use motion capture software to immortalize the techniques of many of Kung Fu's living masters and their various styles. Some of the process can be seen in the news coverage below.



Additionally, some videos circulate the web of various people's experience with this technology when it was showcased as a museum exhibit. Sorry, but you'll have to watch the curated exhibit tours on Vimeo--I promise it's worth it!



Make no mistake, motion capture technology has been used for years in service of popularizing and publicizing martial arts. My first introduction to this technology was the first "next-gen" variant of the Mortal Kombat franchise--Deadly Alliance.


MKDA featured three distinct fighting styles (two bare handed and one weapon style) for each of its 24 playable kombatants. Each of these different styles were imported to the game through a series of motion capture videos to give the characters a realer sense of martial disciplinarity in their fighting habits. Of course, this realism starts to dwindle when fireballs, physics-disrupting kombos, and brutally sorcerous fatalities get thrown into the mix but, hey, it's a video game!




In my own research, I'd like to further explore advanced visualization strategies to aid students of Tae Kwon Do. Once specific project I think would be particularly helpful is a flexibility tutorial that allows students to see which muscles are being stretched/strengthened during various exercises to help them achieve the necessary, full-body flexibility to be a healthy martial artist.


Speaking of my own research, check out my bonus blog from this week to get a preview of many exciting conferences coming up in the next couple of months--check back for sweet videos of those performances.


Ok, that's enough for today--thanks for reading. Happy making out there :)


Kamsahamnida!