Second Life residents will soon be able to order up physical versions of their avatars, their builds or their favorite Second Life objects in full 3D, and in a variety of materials, thanks to a pair of students at the Art Institute of Chicago. Simon Spartalian (aka Simon Jezebel in SL) and Mike Beradino (a recent graduate of the Art Institute) will launch the service on June 1, offering to mill SL objects up to 9″X 5″X 5″ out of anything from foam to wax to stainless steel. The pair are already documenting their milling efforts at their Recursive Instruments blog.
A cost model has yet to be determined, Spartalian tells me, but it sounds like a typical avatar, milled in foam or wax, would run something between $30 and $60. (Stainless steel milling would probably be “prohibitively expensive,” says Spartalian, though it is available.) Contact him at spartalian AT gmail DOT com for details.
Part of the goal of the project is to bridge the virtual and the real “by developing a cultural authority in the virtual that till now has been reserved for the physical,” Spartialian says. The service will allow residents to create physical objects that can take on personal importance or perhaps even come to have financial weight around the edges of SL’s in-world markets.
The service will work by exporting object data using OGLE, the Open GL Extractor from Eyebeam OpenLab. That .obj file is then imported into Blender, an open-source 3D mesh editor, where it is cleaned up and isolated for milling. Blender exports a stereo lithograph file for use by DeskProto, which calculates the tool path of the mill, which fits on a desktop. A lot of this process is documented on the blog linked above.
But will SL resident really pay 50 bucks to get a wee copy of their avatar to hang from their rear-view mirror? Odds are that at least a few will come up with the extra cash. It’s possible, too, that milling services could be offered to companies and individuals doing prototyping in Second Life. If Spartalian and Beradino’s service catches on, they could soon have more business than they could handle.
One interesting thought: Paying for a copy of your avatar will likely cause people to put even more thought into their SL appearance than they already do. Few residents are likely to shell out for more than one 3D avatar in any span of time, which means they’ll have to think extra carefully about just which av they want milled, and will take extra time to get it just right. Once their service gets off the ground, what Spartalian and Beradino should do is find someone to offer painting services as well. A 3D physical avatar model in full color? That’s pretty cool.