Nov 11, 2015 | By Benedict

British startup Sensible Object has unveiled Fabulous Beasts, a 3D printed board game which combines the physical stacking of unique 3D printed objects with a virtual world played out on a tablet screen.

Although the memories are somewhat blurred, there is a definite schism between my family’s Christmas day activities before and after our introduction to computer games. Until a certain age, after-dinner activities consisted of Christmas crackers, jokes and—more often than not—an extremely competitive board game. But in our late childhood and early teenage years, my brother and I started receiving computer games as presents. Naturally then, when the turkey had been tackled and the Christmas pudding polished off, we would spend the evening playing computer games, leaving Monopoly, Jenga and Scrabble to gather dust.

Although we adored the computer games at the time, it’s clear now that those Christmas evenings spent playing board games were important family moments—they gave us a sense of unity that technology, in spite of its common insistence on “sharing”, could rarely provide. Of course, there’s no use becoming sentimental luddites about it: computers have been around forever, and they’re only going to become more ubiquitous. So what if there was a way to combine the past and the future in a positive way, to fuse a physical board game with the limitless potential of modern technology?

Fabulous Beasts, a 3D printed physical/virtual board game, attempts to do just that. "We're a design studio making games that combine physical and digital play," explained Sensible Object founder Alex Fleetwood. "I think it is a really exciting time to be investigating this relationship between games and hardware.”

The intriguing game consists of a set of 3D printed plastic blocks, each with a unique animal appearance and character. Players take turns to build a precarious tower by stacking these blocks on top of one another above an electronic platform, testing their sense of balance and encouraging creative combinations of the pieces. "The tower rests on a smart sensing platform, which translates every piece into an equivalent in the connected digital world," Fleetwood explained. "As players build the tower it becomes more elaborate and complex and consequently the digital world they are creating becomes higher scoring. The aim of the game is to get the highest score before the tower falls down.”

That’s right, just like Jenga, players cannot be too careful: one wrong move and the tower will come crashing down, losing the game for the offending player. You might be wondering how manipulation of the physical pieces affects the connected virtual world, and the explanation is as clever as it is simple. Each 3D printed animal, created by product designer Tim Burrell-Saward using a combination of Autodesk 3ds Max and Fusion 360 software, is identified with a unique RFID chip, which can be read by the game’s electronic base. When two or more pieces are placed on top of one another, the virtual world produced a hybrid creature made up of the physical pieces! "A bear and an eagle might be combined into a hybrid called a 'beagle'," Fleetwood enthused. "Or an octopus might migrate onto land and become a ‘rocktopus’."

The quick and easy development of the game has been facilitated by the flexible techniques used in its design. "We now have a set of tools at our disposal that allow us to design, prototype and scale very rapidly," said Fleetwood. "On the one had we have electronics prototyping tools like Arduino, on the other we can create and test pieces using a 3D printer and then of course there is a linking software layer that hinges the rest of that together. Tim uses 3ds Max to do the surface modelling and then he's translating that into Fusion 360 to do the solid modelling. We come up with an idea for the piece, we print it out, we can then integrate it into the game and play with it very quickly.”

Fabulous Beasts is still being perfected, but keen customers can subscribe to the game’s dedicated newletter for early bird discounts, news, and more at the Fabulous Beasts website. We look forward to seeing what becomes of the project, and can’t think of a more wholesome activity for those Christmas evenings with the family.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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