I’m giggling over Xometry’s April Fool’s joke, but then had a thought.
Xometry is a rapidly growing service bureau that provides a number of manufacturing services to the public, including a great deal of 3D printing capability.
To use their service, one would typically upload a 3D CAD file of the desired design to their site and await a quote on their ability to produce the part or parts. Xometry in particular is quite proud of their efficient and quick quoting system.
But on April Fool’s day, they, like many others including us, launched a funny concept.
Their parody concept was a proposed voice-activated quoting system, in which a client could simply talk to “Xoe” (pronounced “Zoe”, a play on their company name), to request service.
In the video, the hapless client attempts to order an aluminum part, CNC’d with three holes and bead blasted. Of course, Xoe is quite confused and thinks the fellow “needs acid finish” instead of “bead blasted”. Funny, but there’s more to this.
Let’s look at what the pretend customer attempted to ask for:
- Three holes
- One threaded
- Bead blasted
Ok, if that is the information provided, could you develop the correct object for that description? I have many questions, like:
- Where are the holes in relation to each other?
- What are the dimensions of the aluminum part?
- What shape is the aluminum part?
- Is the entire thing to be bead blasted, or just a portion?
- What kind of aluminum alloy is required?
- Which hole is to be threaded?
And so on.
What I’m trying to say is that there is literally an infinite number of possible geometries that could meet this wholly inadequate verbal part description.
Could you actually make a proper and complete description of a part verbally? This is a difficult question.
Imagine describing a simple aluminum block with the three holes as imagined above, except doing so with sufficient detail to actually produce the correct part. How many sentences would you require? What aspects require formal description? How many measurements would need to be related? How many coordinates are required?
I think it might be possible to properly describe such an aluminum block, but it would take perhaps dozens of precise statements. The hapless client has no chance of doing this, however, as he seems to be rather agitated and entirely unaware of the complex pit he’s stepped into.
But now imagine if you had a much more complex object to describe by voice. An object with sweeping curves, hundreds of delicate elements and varying materials throughout.
Describing an object of that complexity is entirely impractical. It would be much like reading an STL file aloud, which, for some 3D models, would take a rather long time.
Until someone invents some kind of highly efficient magic shorthand for verbally describing 3D geometry, voice will never be an interface for describing 3D objects. If you think about it, when you move your cursor slightly in a CAD program to adjust an object, you are reworking dozens or even hundreds of descriptive elements - at the touch of your finger. That’s an incredible informational power that simply does not translate to voice.
Mind reading, however, could be another option. Someday.