Building Legos is one of the most primitive forms of teaching children spatial intelligence, all while allowing them to dream and create. Steven Schkolne, a computer science PhD from Caltech, is taking that simple concept to revolutionize how people master such skills through 3D Sunshine, a transdisciplinary computer program that reimagines Minecraft through virtual reality.
Schkolne s sophisticated and innovative technology creates and manipulates objects in 3D, essentially giving creators in the digital motion graphics and compositing software sphere a new cutting-edge augmented reality tool to toil with in the platform.
People go absolutely nuts when they see it. The reception has been really positive, Schkolne tells [a]listdaily from his no-frills loft in downtown Los Angeles as he duplicates blocks, drags out walls and creates expansive models on his computer. When kids and adults try it, they re taken aback and excited about the possibilities for building holograms in new ways.
The idea for 3D Sunshine manifested while Schkolne was taking a 3D modeling class at the Art Center in the late 90s. It was here that the artist realized the black-and-white world of what he was able to accomplish with a pencil as opposed to a computer. Drawing digitally should be much easier, he thought.
Enter his years-in-the-making idea for Minecraft, where gamers spend hundreds of hours building complex fortresses with unforgiving digital tools. Now, in short order, users can construct using their TV, laptop or Oculus Touch and export straight into the game.
You have to see Schkolne s creation for yourself to appreciate his patent-pending idea; words don t do it much justice. That s exactly why he s built a YouTube channel for newbies to easily understand that all you do to build these structures is push a button, grab a block and move it.
Where virtual reality is about presence, depth and expansiveness, Schkolne s 3D user-interface incorporates hands and imagination. He believes the handheld-controller experience proposes a compelling opportunity for a crème de le crème brand like HoloLens and their internal developers to connect with third-party minds like him to enhance their products.
3D Sunshine challenges you to think, and has the potential to teach people how to navigate in space to build and construct. Educators love its fluid and fast potential. he says. We believe its going to educate our next generation of architects and designers and help them to express themselves creatively. We re trying to take that and add a layer to it by amplifying with the already-existing physical building process. It s very complementary to hardware that s coming out for VR.
The sensory technology is getting better and more accessible. We have a broad ability outside of VR. There s no one that s developed the algorithms and data structures that allow free building.
Schkolne, 39, who looks like a hybrid between Russell Brand and Pau Gasol he s that tall, too has a background that s just as unique as his idea. His parents were born in South Africa and moved from Cape Town to North Carolina when he was only 2 years-old. Although his father and grandfather were both anesthesiologists, Steven had the freedom to pursue other interests. He gravitated toward art and music, but eventually settled on a computer science bachelor s degree at Pittsburgh s Carnegie Mellon University.
While earning both his masters and PhD at Caltech, he says he developed a system that blended computation with art, building a machine that allowed him to draw digital light sculptures by tracing shapes in free air with his hands.
As wired as Schkolne s PhD brain is for computer science s creative and complex constructs, as a startup, he wears the business man hat, too.
Minecraft is just the beginning of our vision, he says. I have quite an ambitious plan for our growth, but the details will have to be played out in the future. Minecraft is a proof of concept, and not a final destination. We don t want to make this an art project. This is a serious business.”