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Pereki

Project Darwin and LEGO's First Steps into the Digital World

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BobaFett2

This is awesome. All the possibilities...wow.

 

Thanks for posting this.

 

The Full Frame Studios article discusses what they did from 1995 to 1998 - did Darwin start in 1995 and end in 1998?

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le717

Good gracious alive. This is amazing. Good find!

 

 

The goal of project Darwin was to create a complete library of digital LEGO bricks, perfect in every detail. Then, to use these bricks to create a system for developing videos, games, and any number of computer-based paraphernalia LEGO could wish for.

 

Obviously they have since achieved that goal, though not in the original time frame. :P

 

In 1998, LEGO Media was established, and quickly replaced Darwin and all of LEGO's ambitions related to it with a new aim of outsourcing to other companies to produce games.

 

Wait, 1998? LEGO Island (this pages needs help badly) came out in 1997, so Project Darwin was going on during the development of LI. When you get access to the book again, can you check if he says when this video was first shown? Wes said work on LI started in 1995. and >he has spoken of management issues that caused the shutdown of the other Mindscape games. I wonder if Island was at all related to or a part of Darwin, and if these management issues with Mindscape and LEGO and the supposed special treatment of Darwin employees are the same thing or was based off each other.

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jamesster

I've been meaning to pick up Brick by Brick for a while now, mainly to read its chapter on the development of LU. Looks like I've got another reason to do so now. Very fascinating.

Edit:

http://www.linkedin.com/in/alexfurer

http://www.fullframestudios.ch/CV/Alex_Furer_CV2011_08.pdf

http://blog.fullframestudios.ch/?cat=24

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Pereki

Wait, 1998? LEGO Island (this pages needs help badly) came out in 1997, so Project Darwin was going on during the development of LI. When you get access to the book again, can you check if he says when this video was first shown? Wes said work on LI started in 1995. and >he has spoken of management issues that caused the shutdown of the other Mindscape games. I wonder if Island was at all related to or a part of Darwin, and if these management issues with Mindscape and LEGO and the supposed special treatment of Darwin employees are the same thing or was based off each other.

I probably won't be able to check the book anytime soon (I read it when I was at Barnes and Noble), I'm fairly certain it said the video was shown in 1994 - which correlates with the date of the blog post it is featured in.

 

I imagine LEGO Island must've been part of Darwin, seeing as it predated LEGO Media. If I had to guess, though, I would say the problems at Mindscape and LEGO were distinct from each other. Mindscape fired its employees to avoid paying them the bonuses, while the Darwin project just seems to have crashed of its own accord.

 

This is awesome. All the possibilities...wow.

 

Thanks for posting this.

 

The Full Frame Studios article discusses what they did from 1995 to 1998 - did Darwin start in 1995 and end in 1998?

1994-95 is the period when it started up, I think. I spent some time looking back through the book specifically because I couldn't find anything as to when Darwin ended, but didn't find anything. The book did seem to imply that it coexisted with LEGO Media for a short time, so I would guess it ended somewhere around 1998-1999.

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ProfessorBrickkeeper

http://books.google.com/books?id=OsyEX0nPkygC&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q=Practice%20Disruptive%20Innovation&f=false

On that pages that follow that are some excerpts from the book that describe Darwin. It happens that the author made excerpts the book freely available to read online via Google Books for research purposes, something which this fits into.

Among other things, this does provides one more info such as explaining how Darwin was designed to create a parts library that was known as L3-D and says that the lead designer was Bjarne Tveskov, someone who has designed many of our favorite old school space sets and someone who is still active and is able to be easily contacted ( https://twitter.com/tveskov ) Perhaps talking to him may also end up giving us more info we cannot get from the book.

It also mentions Darwin made the stage at SIG-GRAPH 1996 in New Orleans, after a bit of research using that info, I was able to find this http://www.siggraph.org/conferences/siggraph96/core/

A few pages later, it also says that LDD was dreamed up mid-2000 based on technology developed by Darwin. Just some interesting info illustrating the evolution of Darwin to LDD.

EDIT: On a later page, it explicitly says that Darwin helped to contribute to LEGO CyberMaster and LEGO Island. It also says that Darwin was shut down in 1999 due to impression that TLG was doting on Darwin and some of Darwin's failures including having to scrap their whole library after using the wrong data model at one point.

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jamesster

A few pages later, it also says that LDD was dreamed up mid-2000 based on technology developed by Darwin. Just some interesting info illustrating the evolution of Darwin to LDD.

Interesting.

http://www.qubesoft.com/?main=consultancy.html

 

LEGO Digital Designer

Version 1.6 released May 2006 on Q 1.1 Technology for Windows and OS X

Created and developed by Qube, LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) is the portal to LEGO's online sales portal.

Qube's prototype Q Technology added realtime rendering and an editing UI to a complex LEGO connectivity simulation. The result is an easy to use application which fulfils the virtual building needs of over 2,000,000 LEGO fans.

LDD's innovative click-stick system allows virtual bricks to snap together in a way that enables both children and adults to intuitively build 3D models. There is an active LDD community, and users can share their models through LEGO's 3D Gallery.

LEGO Creator Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Released September 2002 on Q 1.0 Technology for Windows

Creator is targeted at the 6 - 8 age range. Its simple game experience conceals a complex LEGO connectivity simulation which became the core of LEGO Digital Designer.

The first three Creator games were made by Superscape, the fourth by Qube, which then got turned into LDD, but LDD also works with LEGO's internal software (forgot what it's called), and... Wow this is messy.

Edit: http://www.eurobricks.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=60531&#entry1082321

 

There is some info out on the plug-in/add-on out there and I don't wanna get in trouble with any of the mods in case this is sensitive information, so I am going to stick with what I can already find out on the internet. Its called the Easy Builder Tool (ebt) and uses the same file format as LDD. In fact lxf. stands for Lego Exchange Format and is primarily used between Maya and LDD. I have tried to get my hands on EBT but it appears to be a strictly internal tool. It does contain a complete piece library of all the pieces that Lego has produced in a higher level of detail than the ones in LDD. The reason that LDD does not have every single piece is because they have to be very low poly models for LDD to handle them. I wish that a select few of us fans would be allowed access to it since I think that it would be pretty cool to have the extra functionality but it doesn't look like that will happen.

Another edit:

http://www.creativeheads.net/job/3131/3d-software-engineer-in-billund

 

As 3D Software Engineer you will be part of a growing competence centre within the area of virtual building. The centre is dedicated to the development of LEGO Digital Designer as well as Easy Builder Tool, our internal 3D LEGO model design tool based on Maya. Currently, we are expanding and optimizing both applications. In this connection, you will be using a number of the following expertises: C++, Maya, XML, virtual physics engines, OpenGL and LEGO Group’s own cross-platform framework (PC/Mac).

http://sketchatoy.blogspot.com/2010/05/nicholas-groves-feature.html

Yes we do, its called 'Easy Builder Tool' or EBT as we call it in the office. It's an add-on to Maya that was made for us, and essentially, it has every LEGO element on file that we can import and build with. It also has extra features that only we would use, for example you can import all the 9 elements you need to make up one LEGO mini figure, then instead of assembling it yourself (which can time a lot of time) you can hit a button and EBT will piece it together for you. It's used mainly by our building instruction teams who can layout all the steps one by one and then have them rendered in hi-res. We as designers can also use it for costing and pricing of models as every element has a price, we can import all the parts and see how much it would cost. As far as I know, it's not out there for the public to use, but there is a program out there called LDraw that AFOL's (Adult Fans of LEGO) use to make renderings and do their own building instructions.

So how much of this is all connected, and how? It seems the whole thing has sort of gradually evolved.

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Pereki

All of this suddenly jogged my memory regarding some press releases on the old 1996-97 LEGO website. There's an announcement for the Darwin initiative and LEGO Media (so at some point there were definite plans for them to run alongside each other) and two job listings titled 'Generation LEGO.'

 


The first three Creator games were made by Superscape, the fourth by Qube, which then got turned into LDD, but LDD also works with LEGO's internal software (forgot what it's called), and... Wow this is messy.

 

I hadn't realized Qube developed LDD. It actually strikes me as rather funny, as LEGO Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (LCHPatCoS?) was easily the least impressive in the Creator series from a building perspective, at least at first glance.

 

Incredible that the Easy Builder Tool actually exists. From what I remember the book kept talking about how Darwin left a bad taste in the mouths of many people at LEGO, and that even something relatively unconnected like LEGO Universe put them on edge. But apparently one of the major goals of the project was continued and successfully completed?

 

Also, the David Legoman show... from the looks of Alex Furer's CV it isn't just a test for something, but a legitimate project they were working on. I think that brings the total number of canned LEGO television shows we know of up to three?

 

I wonder if the limited distribution of the Cybermaster sets had anything to do with the downward track Darwin would presumably have been on at that point?

 

It occurs to me that I've just composed three short paragraphs that all end in question marks. I could probably make a lot more, but suffice to say there are a lot of interesting questions surrounding all of this.

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Aokpisz

Holy cow.

TL;DR... :P But I'll definitely work on reading all this.

In the meantime, my local B&N may have that book, I'm heading there this weekend, so I'll definetly look into those chapters...

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JrMasterModelBuilder

Just throwing this out there, but LEGO actually has 2 internal tool, the Easy Builder Tool which is like LDD but obviously much better, and Brick Builder, another Maya plugin that is used for converting 3D geometries into layers of colored bricks, which is used for making the large, all-brick models you see at stores and such.

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Quisoves Potoo

I find it odd that the whole library of bricks had to be scrapped because of an inadequate data model. Surely the files extant at the time could have been translated into a more versatile data model. Am I failing to comprehend something important?

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Aokpisz

All of this suddenly jogged my memory regarding some press releases on the old 1996-97 LEGO website. There's an announcement for the Darwin initiative and LEGO Media (so at some point there were definite plans for them to run alongside each other) and two job listings titled 'Generation LEGO.'

 

The first three Creator games were made by Superscape, the fourth by Qube, which then got turned into LDD, but LDD also works with LEGO's internal software (forgot what it's called), and... Wow this is messy.

 

I hadn't realized Qube developed LDD. It actually strikes me as rather funny, as LEGO Creator: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (LCHPatCoS?) was easily the least impressive in the Creator series from a building perspective, at least at first glance.

 

Also, the David Legoman show... from the looks of Alex Furer's CV it isn't just a test for something, but a legitimate project they were working on. I think that brings the total number of canned LEGO television shows we know of up to three?

As for  Qube developing LDD, there was actually a super short interview with some of the designers of LDD in one of the LEGO Club Magazines, stating that they were from Qube.

 

Also, the David Legoman show? Is there any video footage?

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ProfessorBrickkeeper

Also, the David Legoman show? Is there any video footage?

Yes, they show some in the video you get from the second link provided in the original post.

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Aokpisz

 

Also, the David Legoman show? Is there any video footage?

Yes, they show some in the video you get from the second link provided in the original post.

 

Oh, sorry. I didn't see the title the first time I watched the video, and didn't realize the connection.

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ProfessorBrickkeeper

I'm apologize for re-awakening a dead topic, but I recently came across something which is very much relevant to this topic and which I thought you guys would be quite interested in. While doing some research on the Darwin project, I noticed that in the corner of one if the shots, there was a "SZM Studios" watermark. Following up on that, I was able to cone across this which was posted by one of the workers on the Darwin project. ;)

https://r2---sn-ab5l6n7k.googlevideo.com/videoplayback?requiressl=yes&shardbypass=yes&cmbypass=yes&id=b994e82fa85632d7&itag=18&source=picasa&ip=71.192.10.57&ipbits=0&expire=1412363194&sparams=cmbypass,expire,id,ip,ipbits,itag,mm,ms,mv,requiressl,shardbypass,source&signature=2C91F891810F381D7512BE91F016079FBC16DAFE.28B1B263EB2059A4A3888CC863511390EE4B50B9&key=cms1&cms_redirect=yes&mm=30&ms=nxu&mt=1409771164&mv=m

(Sorry for the long link)

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jamesster

While doing some research on the Darwin project, I noticed that in the corner of one if the shots, there was a "SZM Studios" watermark.

Uh...

 

But that isn't all. Here is a window into some of the work that went on during the days of the Darwin project.

The Castle demo you saw in the video was basically a real time movie making system. Long before Polar Express, Beowulf or the newest incarnation of this metaphor used to produce Avatar. The footage here was taken with the SZM (Sende Zentrum München) which was the production house for Pro7 a major TV station in Germany. It was filmed at the same time in Billund and Munich. The castle demo was projected to the kids in Munich and the mix of the kids and the virtual LEGO host was sent to Billund via satellite.

... And quite a bit more after that.

Anyway: https://plus.google.com/+VictorBonillaVisioneer/videos There's more than that one video you linked.

Edit: As with the others, I've re-uploaded these to YouTube in case the originals go down for whatever reason:

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Pereki

Wonderful new videos. I can't get over how unapologetically silly everything is in the presentation. That trailer for the virtual reality simulator is just flat-out ridiculous, in the best of ways. And David Legoman just signs off the show by singing "Go, go, go go lego" to himself like no one thinks its wierd when you sing to yourself on live television.

 

Also, it looks like the falling bricks intro we all know from the LEGO games was originally animated by the LEGO Wizards, as opposed to Mindscape or anyone else (as might have made sense considering its first official appearance was in LEGO Island).

 

And Kjeld doesn't seem to have a solid response in mind when he is asked why LEGO is bothering to do all of this in the first place. I guess that is a bit of a foreshadowing of the company's misdirection of their energies with this project in the years to follow (though of course everything came out well in the end).

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jamesster

https://www.talisman.org/~erlkonig/lego/lego-on-sgis/Main.html

And now for a goldmine:

http://www.spu-darwin.org/

http://www.spu-darwin.org/wordpress/

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/spu-darwin/info

Particularly this:

http://www.spu-darwin.org/galapagos/

Herein lie the archival issues of the Galapagos Times. The Galapagos Times is an email newsletter sent to everyone at SPU-Darwin approximately once per week. In it you can read about Darwin's projects, awards, internal operations, people, trials, and tribulations.

The newsletter is named after the sunny islands of Galapagos, where Charles Darwin's studies led to his Theory of Evolution. Because SPU-Darwin's mission supports the evolution of the LEGO product line into the digital domain, the virtual space we explore might well be called "Galapagos."

I haven't even read through everything in these archives yet - it's just staggering. Details on their work, info and progress reports on various projects, day to day life working in the group... Read it. Read it all. These guys were crazily ambitious.

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Pereki

tumblr_lpbcj4Aeq71qaj5jro4_250.gif

 

Thank you, jamesster.

 

EDIT: Read this edit because aaaaaaaa

 

LEGO Friends was originally being developed by Darwin for LEGO Media before it was handed over to Ivanoff, and was called Klik Chix. This means that other LEGO Media titles may have had their roots in Darwin projects.

 

EDIT part 2:

This year[1997], the K.I.D.S group is showing 10-12 different concepts for
software within many different product lines, including LEGO DUPLO,
Castle, LEGO SCALA, and more.

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jamesster

Yeah, that LEGO Friends stuff caught me by surprise. So far I've only read the first 15. What interests me the most so far is their plans for Dynasty/virtual world type stuff:

http://www.spu-darwin.org/galapagos/gtv1r08.html

 

SoL on the island

-----------------

Since moving to the LDK building, the WiZard Group has been busy working

on their largest project to date, code-named Dynasty. An overview of

this project is on WiZard's home page. In short, Dynasty is a virtual,

"living" LEGO world inhabited by bricks, characters, and people.

Dynasty will enable people to interact with LEGO characters that are

autonomous. Autonomous characters are controlled by software, with no

human intervention. Yet they are believable as characters, and they can

be entertaining, engaging and inspiring. The WiZards' goal is to create

LEGO characters that can talk, walk, and build with LEGO bricks in

cooperation with kids.

To do this, a computer model of human social and conversation skills is

needed. Dr. Kristinn R. Thorisson is working this model, which he calls

"Spark of Life" (SoL). It's based on Kris' thesis work at the M.I.T.

Media Lab, where he created the autonomous character Gandalf. Gandalf is

somewhat of a star, having been featured in various TV and radio

programs such as on CNN and BBC.

SoL is uses the state-of-the art in computer speech recognition (getting

a computer to understand human speech), speech synthesis (getting a

computer to talk like a person), and computer vision (getting a computer

to see the world). In keeping with the LEGO idea of plug-and-play, SoL

has a modular software architecture. That is, it is designed to

accomodate new advances in technologies.

The WiZards are busy determining the technical requirements for the

world of Dynasty, including the design of its software and hardware

architecture. Initially, SoL will be mostly a research tool. Work on SoL

will tell us about the limitations of technology and the possibilities

that exist today for creating social software characters and interactive

robots. But in the not-too-distant future, SoL could find its way into

software products, in production (e.g. animation control), park rides

(e.g. interactive park guides), and even as a kid's friend on the home

computer.

http://www.spu-darwin.org/galapagos/gtv1r12.html

Where to get A-life

-------------------

Part of the Wizards' work is surveying emerging technologies and

examining which tools and research ideas may have application in the

Wizards’ projects. Like the Research, Tools, and Development group, the

Wizards hunt for concepts and tools to implement Darwin projects

now--and to open horiizons for “LEGO Digital†in the future. Sometimes

we invite researchers or inventors to come talk with us so we can get a

closer look at what they are doing.

Last week the Wizards hosted a show-and-tell visit from Anthrobotics, a

company based in the Phoenix, Arizona. Anthrobotics boasts a new tool

for creating autonomous characters. With this tool, they say, it is

possible to create characters on the computer that not only perceive and

react to their virtual environment, but that understand natural language

(like English and Danish), make decisions, and even have an imagination.

Anthrobotics’ claims are bold, but they were partially substantiated

before the visit in a evaluation by Kris Thorisson with Paul Mc Kevitt

of Aalborg University.

Imagine a computer world in which the snake knows to slink under a rock

when the sun comes up, and humanoids know to run away from the snake but

to be friend with other humaniods, and allt he creatures can tell you

stories about what is happening to them. Imagine a computer world in

which the characters, such as from the LEGO Western theme, change the

own surroundings you built for them, and then tell you the amazing

things that happened to them while you were sleeping.

The Anthrobotics tool might help build such a world. The tool’s

architecture is highly modular, and it combines ideas from the fields of

artificial life, artificial intelligence, and robotics. It is in fact a

general system for modelling animals and humanoids. Using tools like

this might help reduce the programming or integration time to build the

Wizards’ Dynasty project. In pursuit of this goal, the Wizards will

continue to look at this and other tools that might help LEGO characters

someday “get A-life.â€

Also:

http://www.fullframestudios.ch/CV/Alex_Furer_CV2011_08.pdf

 

The WiZard group was the research department within SPU-DARWIN. It's job was to mix science and toys to create and evaluate future digital LEGO products. The applied research created a real time movie making set, a haptic digital assembly tool and basic research was conducted into creating an autonomous digital LEGO universe.

Hoping for more on that when I read the other issues.

Edit:

http://www.spu-darwin.org/galapagos/gtv1r17.html

It's been a while since I've played with the LEGO Technic Turbo Command CD, but I don't recall the backstory with the evil doctor ever being mentioned in the final product...

http://www.spu-darwin.org/galapagos/gtv1r26.html

More info on Dynasty's TV feature.

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Pereki

It's Darwin's most significant project, and it is ready for you to start

playing with. The L3D database, while not content-complete, was released

at the "beta" level this week. Details on the database status can be

found at URL: http://webserver/ATG/shamans/databasegroup/index.html.

This release marks a major milestone for Darwin: at last, we can see the

crown jewels of L3D.

Looking through L3D is easy. The fun begins when you click on the link

in the team's Web site. That brings up the L3D client that runs inside

the your Web browser. Then you can poke around and search for different

LEGO elements. Unfolding before your eyes, in 3-D and in color, are

thousands of LEGO elements, in high or low resolution, and sorted anyway

you like. Try different search criteria and narrow or widen the list of

elements to precisely define your collection. This L3D browser is a

great way to learn about the LEGO core products, not to mention the

capabilities of the database itself. Check it out!

Crazy to think that there was a fully functioning LDD prototype in 1998. (except that I guess you couldn't build anything, but you know)

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jamesster
Pereki

Really wish we could see more of the Virtual Village than just those two small images. Although, it does remind me disconcertingly of Taku's rendition of LEGO City in LI3...

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JrMasterModelBuilder

And in a web browser...

I almost don't believe it. I wonder what technology it was based on or if it was a custom ActiveX and/or NSAPI plugin.

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