3D printing is a mechanical process that creates tangible objects from digital models. It has been cited as a game-changer for aerospace and medical industries, and 3D modeling has been a subject of interest for local artists like Stephanie Syjuco, who created an installation of handmade sculptures based on Google SketchUp users' public designs. Although 3D printing has been around for decades, 2013 seems to be the year it will become more widely accessible, and The Creators Project is leading the way by offering an affordable opportunity to create 3D prints of your Facebook data -- sculptures that are generated using your internet friends and their interests. My initial reaction to this news was, "Whaaaat?" so I messaged the folks at SOFTlab design studio to learn more.
There are three choices for the type of object you can generate, and the most abstract and artsy is the "Crystallized" geode format, designed by SOFTlab. During the design process, SOFTlab was looking for shapes that were similar but nuanced. They "gravitated toward the pet rocks of the '70s that were actually marketed as each being different." Geodes seemed to be the perfect fit for representations of unique groups of online friends, and SOFTLab "saw them much like friendships -- a little rough around the edges, but way more intricate, faceted, and beautiful on the inside."
Essentially, the sculptures are Facebook data visualized in a three-dimensional way. I created the 3D model of my geode by selecting 20 Facebook friends to include as source data, and was required to share the image on FB. According to SOFTlab, "The spikes on the outside of the geode are generated by your friends. A larger spike means you have more friends in common with that person." When they first started testing the 3D interactive model, one developer noticed that his ex-girlfriend appeared as a huge spike. The geode's clustered interior spikes represent the "likes" of each friend. What you see in the final product is a representation of how many friends you selected, how much you have in common with those friends, and how active they are on Facebook. And isn't that exactly what you've always wanted? Some art inspired by your carefully curated Facebook profile?
Even if 3D printing still seems new and mysterious, its populist application is revolutionary and exciting as it moves beyond the world of design and engineering and is applied to the more playful aspects of life. The geodes are fascinating objects on their own, even without knowing how they were created -- they feel like big rocks made of melted crayons. And SOFTLab puts it best, "It's one thing to be able to move around a data visualization browser on a flat screen, but it's a totally different game being able to hold it in your hands."
For more information, visit create.thecreatorsproject.com.