Public Release: 

It's time to 3D sketch with air scaffolding

The Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST)

People often use their hands when describing an object, while pens are great tools for describing objects in detail. Taking this idea, a KAIST team introduced a new 3D sketching workflow, combining the strengths of hand and pen input. This technique will ease the way for ideation in three dimensions, leading to efficient product design in terms of time and cost.

For a designer's drawing to become a product in reality, one has to transform a designer's 2D drawing into a 3D shape; however, it is difficult to infer accurate 3D shapes that match the original intention from an inaccurate 2D drawing made by hand. When creating a 3D shape from a planar 2D drawing, unobtainable information is required. On the other hand, loss of depth information occurs when a 3D shape is expressed as a 2D drawing using perspective drawing techniques.

To fill in these "missing links" during the conversion, "3D sketching" techniques have been actively studied. Their main purpose is to help designers naturally provide missing 3D shape information in a 2D drawing. For example, if a designer draws two symmetric curves from a single point of view or draws the same curves from different points of view, the geometric clues that are left in this process are collected and mathematically interpreted to define the proper 3D curve. As a result, designers can use 3D sketching to directly draw a 3D shape as if using pen and paper.

Among 3D sketching tools, sketching with hand motions, in VR environments in particular, has drawn attention because it is easy and quick. But the biggest limitation is that they cannot articulate the design solely using rough hand motions, hence they are difficult to be applied to product designs. Moreover, users may feel tired after raising their hands in the air during the entire drawing process.

Using hand motions but to elaborate designs, Professor Seok-Hyung Bae and his team from the Department of Industrial Design integrated hand motions and pen-based sketching, allocating roles according to their strengths. This new technique is called Agile 3D Sketching with Air Scaffolding. Designers use their hand motions in the air to create rough 3D shapes which will be used as scaffolds, and then they can add details with pen-based 3D sketching on a tablet (Figure 1).

The team came up with an algorithm to identify descriptive hand motions from transitory hand motions and extract only the intended shapes from unconstrained hand motions, based on air scaffolds from the identified motions.

Through user tests, the team identified that this technique is easy to learn and use, and demonstrates good applicability. Most importantly, the users can reduce time, yet enhance the accuracy of defining the proportion and scale of products.

Eventually, this tool will be able to be applied to various fields including the automobile industry, home appliances, animations and the movie making industry, and robotics. It also can be linked to smart production technology, such as 3D printing, to make manufacturing process faster and more flexible.

PhD candidate Yongkwan Kim, who led the research project, said, "I believe the system will enhance product quality and work efficiency because designers can express their 3D ideas quickly yet accurately without using complex 3D CAD modeling software. I will make it into product that every designer wants to use in various fields."

"There have been many attempts to encourage creative activities in various fields by using advanced computer technology. Based on in-depth understanding of designers, we will take the lead in innovating the design process by applying cutting-edge technology," Professor Bae added.

Professor Bae and his team from the Department of Industrial Design has been delving into developing better 3D sketching tools. They started with a 3D curve sketching system for professional designers called ILoveSketch and moved on to SketchingWithHands for designing a handheld product with first-person hand postures captured by a hand-tracking sensor. They then took their project to the next level and introduced Agile 3D Sketching with Air Scaffolding, a new 3D sketching workflow combining hand motion and pen drawing which was chosen as one of the CHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems) 2018 Best Papers by the Association for Computing Machinery.


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