The group behind PointLightLab started as a research group and is now moving towards a commercial company.
2003 - Dr. Rick from the School of Psychology starts a project requiring animated starfield stimuli. He needs a programmer. Seek and ye shall find in the School of Multimedia and Information Technology. Found, one casual Lecturer with a passion for Software Development and 3D Animation. Duncan gets a short term project. The first stimuli pattern is a starfield generator with an origin that moves across the horizontal axis to test perception of origin. The technology under the bonnet is a 2d graphics engine with some major limitations.
2004 - 2 new stimuli tools created.A symetrical dot pattern generator and a new more impressive starfield generator utilising a full 3D engine. Dr. Anna gets involved. These make great screen savers when not being used for research. So pretty...
The symetrical dot pattern generator produces dot patterns which are symetrical around the origin but across an axis of symmetry that can be rotated as deisred.
This also represents the first major recycling of the code base. With three development projects running in parallel all hell breaks loose trying to support researchers using different versions of the generators. A major effort is now underway to being the code bases together and share as many of the bug fixes as possible. The fundamental technology of the old starfield generator is discarded in favor of a full 3d graphics engine that removes the limits of the previous graphics engine. The system architecture is re built to provide a more general approch to running the tests.
The system is still limited, primarily by the fact that there is only a single developer trying to turn out working systems in a number of flavours for a number of clients in parallel. All while desiging, coding and testing the software himself. This is still a part time job.
Late 2004 - The birth of the Biomotion Project. Examining biological motion with point light displays. The direct ancestor of the PointLightLab toolkit. Its a raw player at this stage. All data files are hand edited and cause all maner of errors. Its a nightmare to diagnose and support. Duncan plans to save his sanity and some time by hacking together a simple editor that can limit the amount of errors being fed to the system by inexperienced students. The editor goes through a number of incarnations. Model files are hand generated at this stage and involve typing 1300 - 1600 numbers into a file by hand; without mistakes. This madness must end.
Another editor is built for working on Model files. Animation packages are roped in to generate model data sets. Custom export scripts are written to glue these into the system. The madness goes from three days to generate a model file by hand, to a few minutes. Duncan gets to sleep regular hours again.
Thankfully work on the previous generation of dot pattern generators has stopped as the research has moved on. So back to only having to maintain a single code base at a time( for now) many architecture improvments are made.
2005 - Incremental improvments and new features. More students and more experiments. Things get a bit out of hand with trying to support multiple versions, with similar feature sets in different code bases at the same time. Code bases are upgraded and merged until finally there is only one set of tools being developed. Chaos retreats again, but keeps our name in its little black book; just for old times sake.
2006 - A planned major upgrade to the Biomotion tool set is transformed into a plan for a self funding commerical product. The idea seems solid, everyone is enthused. Eventually that product is named PointLightLab. The upgrade is huge. A rebuild of all the file formats, hugely expanded new features and capacity, new tools and lots of late nights. Duncans suspicious that this is no short term project.
Christmas 2006 - The milestone for the delivery of a worthy software package.
2007-The new PointLightLab has undergone a number of incrmental updates over the past few months. There have been quite a few releases, bug patches and redesigns. The release at the end of 2006 was planned as the final release for a commercial product, but the wish list has grown again and another is being developed. This one will see another major update to the script file format with the addition of a host of new features and new styles of script. Up till now the main experiment methodologies have been the method of limits and the method of constant limits. This new edition will see that expanded to encompas three new experimental methods. There will be a swarm of tool updates to the editor to improve the usability and ease of script development. Additional models will expand the range availible. These will be supported with an expansion of the external tools for model development in 3dsmax.