Friday, November 16, 2007

It's the Little Things That Matter

Why do some people succeed and others don't? Two sports teams with equal talent and the same records. One wins the championship and the other doesn't. Why?

Two animators or texture mappers enter a contest. Both have the same level of talent. One wins the contest the other doesn't. Why?

Being successful or being mediocre is your choice. It is just as easy to be successful as it is to be mediocre.

What is the difference between being successful and being mediocre? It is taking the time to do the little things. It is that simple. Here are some examples.

Star sports figures practice the basics every day. Practice shooting 100 baskets every day and you will be a better basketball player. Take the time to learn the different nuances to using your feet for ball handling or how to hold a golf club and you will be a better soccer player or golfer.

Successful writers take the time to proofread, spell check, and the other small things that many writers forget to do.

Successful animation films use modelers, animators, texture mappers and texture painters that take time to do the little things. All the aspects of making a model are important. All the aspects of rigging and animation are important. All the aspects of texture mapping and texture painting are important.

Too often I hear people say that a particular task is not that important. The texture map is good enough. The texture painting is good enough.

Good enough is not success. Some sports teams feel that being in second place is good enough. Others find that making the playoffs are good enough. Some are happy to play the championship game even if they lose. For them that is good enough.

The team that wins the championship is successful. For them good enough is not good enough!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Avatars and Online Identity

Avatars are important! I believe as online communication increases and as virtual worlds become more commonplace, the avatar we choose to be, becomes part of our online identity.

We buy books at Amazon, music from iTunes; we buy and sell items on eBay. Use a credit card or PayPal and you can buy whatever you want.

Establishing online identity is a vital concern for many forms of online communication and online transactions. This is certainly important in business and financial transactions. It is also important in other areas, for example, online voting and other areas of online activity where verifying who you say you are is who you are.

Certainly, privacy issues are extremely important. However, in many real world transactions, we need to establish identity. When you write a check or use a credit card, often you are asked to display your driver's license. When you apply for a job, you need to present different forms of ID to verify that you can work in the United States legally. When you register to vote you need to verify your identity.

I am a strong privacy rights advocate. However, I do believe that in the online or virtual worlds, there are times that you need to verify your identity.

Avatars are one method to do this. Maybe PayPal can use avatars as an additional method to help verify one's identity. Maybe online customers should establish an avatar to represent their online identity.

Online identity is an important issue. It will definitely grow as online business and virtual worlds continue to grow. It will become more important as online communication grows.

Your online identity is extremely important. Avatars are one way to help define this valuable asset.

What Avatars Say About Ourselves

Avatars and virtual worlds are reflections of ourselves. We may enter a virtual world to escape the pressures of the real world or enter a virtual world to explore creations of one's or an other's imagination. However, they say something about ourselves.

Avatars say a lot about the people they represent. Some people want an avatar that looks exactly like themselves. This is important for online communication for the professional and business worlds. For example, as a writer, I want an avatar that represents me, that looks like me. I do a lot of blogging in addition to this blog. Blogs are my marketing tools. My writing is my brand. I want people to associate my brand with my image and avatar.

Many people want an avatar that does not look like them. They may choose an avatar that represents the person that they want to be. For example, they choose an avatar that represents a football or basketball player. It represents the athlete within themselves.

Some choose an avatar that represents a facet of their personality. For example, a person that always sees the comedy in life may choose a clown avatar.

Avatars are important! I believe as online communication increases and as virtual worlds become more commonplace, the avatar we choose to be, becomes part of our online identity.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Avatars and Technical Support

Avatars are a great way to provide step-by-step instructions to resolve a problem. When you have a technical issue with your computer, sometimes it is just easier to listen to someone show and explain to you how to fix the problem.

Avatars are user-friendly and provide a more human approach to learn how to fix a problem. Some people learn by reading and others learn by watching and doing.

Naturally, this is not an "either or" solution. The tech support site would also provide written instructions. The avatar adds an additional method to resolve the problem.

Monday, November 12, 2007

GeoUV and Texture Mapping

Texture mapping is an important process. It defines your models. It makes s a model appear as wood, marble, etc. It gives a dress or a couch a fabric texture, suede texture, etc.

According to Wikipedia,

"This process is akin to applying patterned paper to a plain white box."

Texture mapping is important. It is one of the components that makes a model look realistic. Quite simply, the better the texture map, the more realistic the model.

This post is about GeoUV from Geometric Informatics, the company whom I am employed by. GeoUV is a plug-in for Maya and 3D Studio Max. GeoUV excels over other texture mappers by automating the mapping process while minimizing distortion. It increases the amount of memory used for each object, resulting in more efficient memory use and more realistic detail. It is available for Windows or Linux platforms, allowing you to work in your environment of choice.

Here are some examples from GeoUV. This first example illustrates how GeoUV creates a more realistic texture map.

The following images are a tree and its associated texture map.

This last image is of a teapot. I've included it for its beauty.

Click here for an evaluation version of GeoUV. This page also includes links to videos that act as GeoUV tutorials for both the Maya and 3dsMax versions.

Please keep the following in mind when you use the evaluation version.

The evaluation version has limited functionality. Meshes are limited to
triangles; quads are supported in the full version only. The evaluation version
displays the texture coordinates as a flat 3D mesh rather than as actual UV
values. However the full version displays the texture coordinates as actual UV

Friday, November 9, 2007

Eliza and Avatars

One of the most popular programs in computer science is the Eliza program. This program simulates that you are talking to a person when in fact you are having a conversation with a computer program. Here is a link to a Web-based version of that program.

Wikipedia ( provides a nice history behind this program. Here is an excerpt:

ELIZA is a computer program by Joseph Weizenbaum, designed in 1966, which parodied a Rogerian therapist, largely by rephrasing many of the patient's statements as questions and posing them to the patient. Thus, for example, the response to "My head hurts" might be "Why do you say your head hurts?" The response to "My mother hates me" might be "Who else in your family hates you?" ELIZA was named after Eliza Doolittle, a working-class character in George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, who is taught to speak with an upper class accent.”

I think it would be great to add an avatar interface to this program. Try out the Web-based version previously mentioned and then imagine how the program would work with an avatar.

Avatars and Education

Avatars are excellent for online education. They provide the human interaction that is natural in classrooms and in the traditional learning environment.

I teach students online. Message boards, email, and instant messaging are great tools for writing. But what about voice communication! Posting a question on a message board is useful but many times asking the question is better. It is instant, direct, and uses the nuance of voice. Skype works well but avatars are better.

Avatars provide a face to the students and a face to the teacher. They provide the human element to online teaching.