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Distributed 3D Object Design

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - DISTRO (Distributed 3D Object Design)

Reporting period: 2017-01-01 to 2018-12-31

DISTRO brings together leading laboratories in Visual Computing and 3D Computer Graphics research across Europe, to train a new generation of scientists, technologists, and entrepreneurs that will move Europe into a leading role in the scientific and technological innovation in the area of casual, distributed 3D object design and customization.

Whilst digital content has certainly grown, the world’s economy is still dominated by manufacturing. A new class of “rapid prototyping” technologies, from 3D printers to laser cutters, are making the process of manufacturing physical objects look increasingly like that of creating digital content. Just as the Web democratised digital innovation, the next ten years will see the application of these lessons to the real world. This new industrial revolution can only occur if it is as simple for real world objects to be captured, and modified as it is for music, text, and images. This is not yet the case, with most professional design software requiring a significant amount of time and investment to master.

There is a real need for tools that are focused on making it simple for amateurs to create new products without experience or training – expediting the path from idea to entrepreneurship. Our network proposes a timely and innovative research training programme for the distributed capture, editing, and fabrication of objects – from the real world to digital and back again. We want to enable users to casually capture objects, which can then be easily shared on the Web and customised in simple yet powerful ways.

The research training programme is conducted by our network, consisting of a mix of academic and private partners. Through collaborative research, secondments, and training events, we educate a new generation of researchers that are able to solve complex research challenges and at the same time acquire transferrable skills.

At the conclusion of the project, the overarching training goals have been met, and the ESR’s research outputs are of highest quality, as evidenced by numerous publications at the highest-ranked, peer-reviewed venues and specialised workshops relating to the research areas of DISTRO. During the runtime of the project, the ESRs showed remarkable team spirit and pro-activity, to the point that they initiated, organised – and delivered – their own network-wide training units. ESRs are now moving into new, highly skilled positions, and their projects had lasting impact at their host institution. Moreover, the action created various new connections amongst the consortium members, likely to spawn further inter-sectoral and cross-disciplinary col¬lab¬o¬ra¬tions.

Overall, this invigorated research expertise at the intersection of visual computing, content creation, manufacturing and human-computer-interaction, and we look forward to further milestone contributions from DISTRO’s fellows that are bound to shape future pervasive applications where digital content and the real world interface.
Training was predominantly delivered through a combination of local training at the host institution, network-wide training workshop events, and last not least through collaborative research projects involving researchers from various institutions, catalysed through numerous secondments where ESRs visited each other’s institutions and consortium partners. Notably, we observed a real team spirit amongst the ESRs, who perceived themselves as one community, collaborating in research, but even suggesting, organising – and delivering – joint training components where ESRs taught other ESRs.

Across its runtime, DISTRO trained 26 ESRs over a total of 509 person months. ESRs went on 32 secondments of a combined duration of 87 months, leading to a thriving research programme resulting in 34 peer-reviewed publications, 11 publications under review by the time of this writing, and many more publication in preparation, with the majority of these outputs first-authored by ESRs.
As outlined above, our ESRs provided key contributions to the state of the art that overcome critical hurdles toward our vision of casual and distributed 3D authoring by non-expert users. Key contributions are at the intersection of visual computing, content creation, manufacturing and human-computer-interaction, and will help shaping future pervasive applications where digital content and the real world interface.

DISTRO is expected to fundamentally change current design workflows leading to far-reaching implications on a range of industries, not the least through democratisation of 3D authoring, opening up applications in entertainment, citizen science, “maker culture”, education, and other areas.

We foresee impact on policies regulating asset management for distributed storage, 3D design models, and version control, which we expect to play an increasingly important role in our emerging digital world.

Naturally, we expect lasting impact on the ESRs’ development through the training and networking opportunities provided. In addition, we already observe impact on other research groups and members of the participants, where DISTRO-initiated projects and collaborations influence researchers at all stages of their career, including undergraduates and future graduate students within participating institutions.

So far, two of our ESRs already created start-up companies in DISTRO-related fields; some are joining existing start-ups and SME. Other ESRs decided for a more research-oriented career, and we expect several ESRs to set up their own research teams both in academia and industry and thus maintain the collaboration for years beyond the project lifespan.
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