Someone has put together what has to be the simplest version of a 3D CAD program ever seen.
Game developer Johan Peitz posted a tweet recently with an animation of a project he’s working on called “Pico CAD”. It’s a kind of 8-bit video system where one can develop very simple 3D objects.
We don’t yet know much about Pico CAD, as Peitz has posted only a single, tantalizing tweet about the project and answered a few questions, which turn out mostly to be “can I download this?” The answer, it turns out, is “Not yet”, according to Peitz.
The Pico CAD system uses a four-window scheme where you see top, front and side views of a 3D object, along with a perspective view. This is a great way to view 3D objects during development, and is also used by popular — and far more advanced — systems like Rhinoceros 3D.
If you watch the brief animation below, you’ll see how the user interface works. It seems you add simple objects like a cube, for example, and then modify it by stretching it in each of the different orthographic viewports.
It looks simple, but Peitz says he intends on adding more functionality in the future, perhaps before releasing it. One specific technology to be added is UV maps, which is a 3D method to apply a color texture to a 3D surface. It’s commonly used in game development 3D packages, and apparently will be so in Pico CAD, too.
The project seems to be related to “PICO-8”, a “Fantasy Console” for developing 8-bit online games. PICO-8 explains:
“PICO-8 is a fantasy console for making, sharing and playing tiny games and other computer programs. It feels like a regular console, but runs on Windows / Mac / Linux. When you turn it on, the machine greets you with a command line, a suite of cartridge creation tools, and an online cartridge browser called SPLORE.”
Peitz seems to be developing the Pico CAD system to work in conjunction with PICO-8, so it may be that PICO-8 will have a 3D editor for developing 8-bit 3D assets.
It’s not clear whether Pico CAD will ever be able to export a 3D model, but it sounds like Peitz may consider this.
Pico CAD would never be useful as a professional or industrial 3D print tool, but it certainly could be an excellent way to indoctrinate youngsters into 3D thinking. Peitz describes Pico CAD as the “Pixel Artist’s” CAD tool. Pico CAD could be a first step into 3D CAD for many, and that will increase the number of folks able to use 3D printing.