From the Department of the Future (okay, actually, from Cornell University) comes Endless Forms, a new site created by Cornell engineers that lets any and all laypeople design 3D objects, from lamps to faces. Users need not have any computer design technical know-how. Instead, they start the design by selecting “parent” objects offered by the site, and mating them. Like in nature, their offspring are created from a random mutation of the parent objects’ pre-programmed genomes. Each refinement equals a new “generation” of object.
As one keeps breeding, the objects keep evolving. Users can work with objects that have already “evolved” from others’ mating choices, so, say, two pre-made lamps can be combined to create an entirely new lamp. But the site also lets one work from scratch, picking any number of basic objects (that don’t look like anything more than imperfect, chipped blocks) to slowly combine and evolve into new forms.
To actually get any of these objects made, creators would need to send their designs to a third-party 3D printing company. What Endless Forms provides is the platform, encouraging the creative end of the process. Most notably, it completely circumvents Computer-Aided Design (CAD) programs — which might just be the most important first step for making online 3D design mainstream.