Saturday, 9 June 2012

Why SketchUp Matters...

Thinking about Google's sale of SketchUp a little more I begun to realize what makes me uneasy about this parting of the ways. It's not just the change of ownership from a company whose ethos I admire to one I am a little less comfortable with, its the fact that I think SketchUp, and particularly here I'm thinking about the free version, matters, and especially matters to the heritage community.  A threat to SketchUp is a threat to digital heritage in general and the democratization of the study of cultural heritage, the wrestling of heritage recording from the hands of the expert into a skilled community.

As an example, let me introduce you to the work of Tom Harvey. I don't know Tom, we've never met, although I've used his work, the freely offered fruit of his labour with SketchUp, especially his excellent Stonehenge model.  But what marks Tom's work out as exceptional is his steady methodical effort to single handedly create a digital version of his home town of Leominster, using SketchUp and sharing the results in the 3D Warehouse and on Google Earth.  This is digital heritage at its best, an authentic record of a community and its architecture at a point in time emerging from that community.  And what is the catalyst, well I'd argue it is the democratizing influence of SketchUp, its ease of use, its zero cost, its accessibility.  Meddle with that model and I fear that both the ethos that prompts the work of individuals like Tom and the ability to create it, vanishes.

What's Up SketchUp

Google have quietly parted company with their SketchUp product to Navigation company Trimble, best known for their range of navigation and survey grade GPS hardware. Now this raises all sorts of interesting questions. What are Google up to parting with a significant piece of the jigsaw that is the Google Earth hegemony?  What are Trimble up to, not noted for their consumer grade or navigation GPS, with a corresponding requirement for 3D urban environments, why are they interested in SketchUp and what market are they aiming to break in to?

The sale of SketchUp has some interesting implications for users.  For the time being, at least, Trimble have committed to honoring the free basic version of SketchUp and educational licensing, while obviously promoting the premium Pro version.  More interesting are the implications for 3D Warehouse contributors as Trimble have acquired, along with SketchUp, the assigned rights to the Warehouse.  Now this is interesting.  Google are a company that pride themselves on making money without being evil and their support of the free product, educational and philanthropic funding and general goodness is manifold (although let's not be naive here, they get up to some less shiny stuff too).  Trimble among their portfolio of products include a substantial defense element.  Now, how do you feel about your carefully crafted 3D models working alongside an unmanned drone, say circling silently over the streets of Gaza or the West Bank...Just asking.  Warehouse users have a limited period to op out of licensing their models to Trimble before its a done deal.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Mountains of Data

Enjoying the work of Edinburgh based Dutch artist Eddy Van Mourik, seen on his blogs Field and Mountains of Data.

Eddy qualified from the Edinburgh College of Arts with a degree mixing visual arts, landscape architecture and the earth sciences (nice!).  As well as working in game engines his present work involves an inciting blend of digital representation and the real world, I particularly like the reverse engineering of digital data into tangible real world art in pieces like NT 251732 (above).  I find the idea of mixing real and digital exciting (in all its forms) and this sort of reversal of the augmented reality paradigm is a fresh approach with some challenging perspectives on both.