With all the art imitating life out there, it’s sometimes notable when the pendulum swings back around the other way, especially when SpaceX founder and resident genius Elon Musk is involved. Musk’s innovative lifestyle served as the inspiration for the tech-savvy Tony Stark in Marvel’s Iron Man films, and Musk has in turn brought Stark’s hand-gestured immersive 3D visualizations to life in a big way. (Or a small way, if you choose to zoom really far out.) While I’m over here wondering how this could be used for the greatest “Create a Player” customization in video game history, Musk and his team are improving rocket engine design. I guess that’s why I’m writing this article instead of designing rocket engines.
Musk recently posted to Twitter that he will release a video of the tech design, which could be immediately printed in titanium. And then he released a video that did exactly that. I’m a little skeptical about the precision of some of these techniques, though I’m wowed by them regardless. They use computer peripherals like the gesture-based Leap Motion unit, and the soon-to-be-released Oculus Rift virtual reality helmet, to create the digital image, which they then print out on a 3D laser metal printer. All anyone needs to do is be able to afford these devices and have an imagination, and any object your mind creates could become a physical object. It’s always great when science doesn’t need an exclusive contraption like the Large Hadron Collider in order to wow us. By next year, we could all feasibly be designing our own rocket engine parts. Of course, Musk is the one that actually gets to put them to use.
Now, I own the Leap Motion and have been meaning to get a review of it on here. To capsule that review here, I’d say it’s pretty tough to get used to controlling objects while your hand hovers around, and I can’t really grasp how fine-tuned these designs can be without the use of a stylus or some other tool that is better suited for details than your hands and fingers. But if Musk says it is so, then I believe him.
Will this “revolutionize design and manufacturing in the 21st century,” as the entrepreneur says at the video’s end? Almost definitely. We just have to make sure supervillains like the Mandarin don’t get a hold of it.
Incidentally, if you wanted to be even more like Tony Stark, Marvel plans to release a JARVIS app, which will serve as your own personal assistant and second screen for your home entertainment system. Paul Bettany voices JARVIS, and he recorded a monstrous 20 hours of audio to be used on the app.