Everything, Everywhere Learning

When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail. When you’re an entrepreneur, well… A swiss-army knife solves problems differently than a hammer. I try to learn, about everything. When you learn by doing, you try to BE everything.

Think about it, people are able to do what people do. When it comes to the potential of our biological design, there are examples that stretch the limits. If one human brain can understand high and mighty concepts, can’t any human brain? Experts exploit the idea that what you don’t know can hurt you. It takes effort to learn the manipulations and languages of specialists. Though as much as it seems insurmountable, it’s tempting to think that conceptually understanding everything is within reach.

Specialty is a combination of technical and mental skill. Specialists have a coherent domain. What is a generalist? Can a generalist also be a specialist? Opportunities differ between specialist and generalist. Incentives also differ. To avoid a division, I’ll just say that we’re all polymaths.

Which returns me to the idea of “understanding.” To conceive a human experience is conceptual by its nature. I think, therefore I am able to inhabit the viewpoint of someone else. In a word, this is empathy. Metaphor provides a space to empathize with understanding. Capture ultimate wisdom with simplicity. No algorithm can appreciate a synthesis as human as gestalt.

Learn in the Right Direction

I’ve played many roles, Chief Cook and Bottlewasher among others. You could say I’m a generalist, but we navigate complex personal and professional terrains. I cull self-generated ideas constantly. I follow ideas where they want to go. To visualize an idea, it’s helpful to build a prototype. The prototype gradually changes to become the product. Products should serve needs. I like to start with an identity. Though graphics are a currency, it’s also about art. Self-expression. Make it fun to create a logo or t-shirt.

I’ve been my own client on many occasions. Coding and design are opportunities to practice my skills. I’ve challenged myself learning new tools to execute tasks. Learning new roles and skills is exciting. Some barriers are bigger than others. Good resources are invaluable.

I’ve always enjoyed mobiles. I spent years, part time, on the design, manufacturing and marketing of a kinetic sculpture, The Upwardly Mobile. It wasn’t a commercial success, but is a personal accomplishment. See the mobile in this video: https://youtu.be/0v5x_706bAk

In my experience, the best teacher is, well, experience. I learn more about business every day. I designed and produced The Upwardly Mobile in the 90’s. I spent many hours and dollars on injection molds and packaging. I learned about margins and costs.

It may be cliche, but I failed young and it stoked my desire to conceive better ideas, to learn and challenge myself. If I didn’t have early disappointments, I wouldn’t appreciate the lessons learned. Investments pay off in different ways, lessons for the price of tuition. I now consider possible outcomes more realistically and have less anxiety about dabbling in the unknown.

Digital Twins

Goals and visions are only as valid as efforts toward progress. I’ve discussed many world-domination schemes with entrepreneurs, but “utilitarian” experience is where it gets real. Stop sharpening the pencil and start using it.

One of my “bright” ideas continues to be an intoxicating journey. An idea I’ve been incubating since 2019, I share more information at the Area 34 Brewing website. I formed a LLC and I’m looking for a partner/partners to help me with the project. My goal is to create a MVB (minimum viable brewery) and cultivate local resources. If you’re interested, contact me. See the Opportunity Synthesis (for prospective partners).

I decided to channel my inner metaverse by endeavoring to display a 3D model of the brewery in a web browser. A combination of technologies was the solution. The virtual brewery is a “digital twin.” I defined the 3D geometry using CAD software. Materials and texture maps were added in VRML. VRML, a scene description protocol, is a well-supported open standard. The JavaScript library X_ITE (excite) renders VRML in the browser with no need for an external viewer. View Area 34 Brewing’s contribution to the metaverse: see the virtual tavern and brewhouse at https://area34brewing.com/tapworld/tap.html

Creating a metaverse site was a secondary reason for building a digital twin. I built the model to visualize features and assist me in more deliberately constructing the space. Measurements and shapes taken from the model are useful for building.

Setting Standards

Why is the metaverse such a big deal now? One thing that’s consistent about tech companies spewing metaverse commentary is home-field advantage. GPU makers, cryptocurrencies, servers and gadgets, take your pick. Everyone with a metaverse technology is forcasting a market with more of it.

You can find virtual worlds to explore today, but the 3D web is still in its early days (if you consider 25+ years since the advent of VRML early). Technological advances have eliminated many of the bottlenecks that contributed to the mediocre web experiences of the ’90s. The search for ways to make the web more powerful and seamless has been constant. Web browsers are incredible operating environments for sharing data. Even without extreme input devices and user interfaces, browser-based solutions have consistent appeal.

While the sophistication of 3D mapping and rendering has increased over the last two decades, VRML2, released in 1997, is a solid standard with support now and into the future. It has survived the test of time. VRML .wrl models published in the ’90s are still supported on modern browsers. CAD software is likely to export models in the format.

VRML is an ISO standard and is platform-agnostic. Standards assure wide support for anyone building an attraction. The responsiveness and functionality of viewers will continually improve. My CAD software didn’t support X3D, a newer standard. Len Bullard offers a concise overview of these standards and the 3D web in his post “Extensible 3D: XML Meets VRML” https://www.xml.com/pub/a/2003/08/06/x3d.html

Exporting my brewery model as VRML was sufficient for my prototype online world. Shapes were exported from layers of the CAD model. Editing the VRML source file was required to add colors, materials and other information. I placed the .wrl (VRML) file and X_ITE library on a HTML page. The page, library and texture map images are hosted on a web server. During editing, I checked progress by uploading the changes and reloading the page. The model contains many shapes. I completed changes to the scene iteratively.

Castles in the Air

I use materials and texturemaps loosely. I don’t attempt to recreate the real-world building in the virtual model. I’m exploring colors and patterns. There are many skills required to master 3D light and color. I’m just starting to learn.

During implementation, real-world choices about materials, textures and colors are constrained by the supplies of source materials. To quickly build texture maps, I found doors, windows and other materials via image searches. In some instances, I selected the material for my Bill of Materials. Search images available online or capture texture maps in the real-world with a phone camera. I created my metaverse to begin a conversation, the world is very much “under construction.”

There are trade-offs between tolerance and precision. VRML is a plain-text description of a 3D model. For this and other reasons, file size can become an issue with elaborate styling or detail. I created a 3D model for the beer taps. The CAD transformation for the barrel and body of the tap generated a VRML description with a large number of lines. Instead of using the model, which would have put an unnecessary burden on client processing and memory, I opted to use a much smaller texture map (23K vs. 4MB).

A responsive web experience viewing a 3D model in a browser is an achievement. Performance is dependent on many factors. A simple, well-conceived model can capture the essence of a space without burdensome detail. File size impacts the responsiveness of downloading and viewing.

A Digital Line in the Sand

If a picture is worth 1000 words, a 3D model is worth 1000 pictures. Should 3D modeling be a tool in your virtual toolbox? NEW SKILL ALERT: The digital lumber exists for each person to build something in virtual space. Digital picks and shovels are abundant for mining content. In the future, there will be no shortage of virtual worlds vying for your attention. How will time spent in online worlds give you satisfaction, pleasure, skills, agency…?

Building a digital world takes time and effort, in real-world terms. The virtual realm seems more controlled and organized, but that value proposition degrades under scrutiny. Virtual land grabs are rife with froth and frenzy. Can any virtual platform offer the depth of the real world? Building an independent world is the way to fully steward your digital assets. A virtual plot of land in a world of someone else’s creation may not enrich you. Engagement is a delicate balance of the desire to develop an online space and being compelled to keep up with the digital Joneses.

Virtual worlds are an escape to some. Where are you escaping to? The metaverse will be a distraction like other worlds of information. It has utility, as seen in the ‘industrial metaverse’. There are intelligent visualization challenges being addressed. However, when the omniscient observer suffers from observed omniscience, the virtual world loses its connection. It becomes out of ‘touch.’ Instead of appreciating the magnitude of problems at earth scale, charts and graphs color-code the distress. A monitor or goggles provide impunity to the sensors sounding the alarm.

Double Vision

We share real-world 3D spaces through pictures and videos, much more easily than building a world to inhabit. Spatial experience is the default of existence. Is finding refuge in a virtual world escapist? People decorating or mining their identities online connect to a thought, idea, action that is somewhere else. Conflating our biological habitat with an avatar’s may undervalue biology and the lessons learned in the course of living, being. Where do you cede control to the ‘other’ dimension? Engaging a 3D model transports you to a dimension within the screen. You are acting in a space removed from your physical reality.

Working in simulated three-dimensional space requires orienting yourself (position, view) in the world. It takes practice, trial-and-error to build the translation function in your brain. It’s also dependent on input devices. The signals from keyboard and mouse, pointing devices, etc. are mapped to the world depending on the world viewer.

The VRML source code for my world required minimal changes. The CAD meshes and solids are translated to shapes in VRML. The objects are allowed to have interactive features in addition to styling. The code exported by the CAD software was formatted well, making it easy to edit. It was a matter of managing a list of values to copy/paste characteristics for each shape.

Learning something new: search, search, search, read, read, read. Bookmark pages, use a blank document to record keywords (transcribe from written notes if you prefer). Note-taking promotes an investment in the information. Investment increases retention.

A Mobile for Your Thoughts

The next era of 3D visualization is here. 3D is dimension and depth and includes non-linear ways of ordering and retrieving data. Geometry is not flat, it has elevations, curves and holes in irregular surfaces. Large language models map many dimensions and are landscapes and worlds unto themselves.

How many dimensions do you inhabit? You, reading this, exist in a time-space moment. In some same dimension your future self will exist along the plane of time yet to be completed. I’m happy to now be reaching friends and acquaintances (from the past).

The skills I’ve gained working on personal and professional projects are a suite of tools for problem-solving and implementation. If you have a project or idea and would like to collaborate, let me know. Whether we’ve connected recently or not, send me a message.

I’d like to offer my help with projects or ideas you are incubating. To encourage you, I’m giving away The Upwardly Mobile to anyone messaging me with a request for advice, while supplies last. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks for YOUR interest and your time. Keep on.

About Peter

As a consulting professional in the Internet industry, I have helped small- and medium-sized businesses and community organizations effectively design and deploy web services and information. Years of hands-on design and project management experience for this market have inspired me to post my ideas and insights on a public forum -- blog.collab.us.
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