User Preferences: Tech Q&A With Google Earth Artist Peter Root

Each week we chat about the tools of the trade with one outstanding creative to find out exactly how they do what they do. The questions are always the same, the answers, not so much. This week: Peter Root. Click here for more User Preferences Tech Q&As.

The Creators Project: Who are you and what do you do?
Peter Root:
I make things that resemble architectural models. I also love to draw and to tinker around with Google Earth. At the moment I’m riding my bicycle around the world… so far I’ve made it from Guernsey, UK to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

What hardware do you use?
MacBook Pro, Zoom H1, Nikon D90, various printers and scanners, and a Thorn Raven Tour (my bike).

What software do you use?
Google Earth, Google SketchUp, TextEdit, Final Cut Studio. Although they both totally confuse me, I love playing around with PureData and reacTIVision.

Digital Detritus Dover – part of an on-going series of digital installations situated in Google Earth, created by building 3D digital models and locating and animating them in Google Earth using KML code.

If money were no object, how would you change your current setup?
I’d commission Apple and Google to collaborate on producing my fantasy piece of technology: the Google Globe. I’d also love a rapid prototype machine. Having seen various YouTube videos of printers creating furniture from CAD drawings, if not being done already, we shouldn’t have to wait too long until you can download the 3D CAD file for an IKEA kitchen and print the physical flat-pack components on your floor mounted plotter. As the prototype machines become more sophisticated, incorporating a wider range of materials, internet users unconcerned with honesty and ethics will be able to take their peer-to-peer based theft to the next level and download physical things from torrent sites. Watch out for the hardware, clothes, toys, and gadgets sections on the Pirate Bay!

Terminus – digital image exploring landscape

What fantasy piece of technology would you like to see invented?
A touchscreen spherical monitor that displays a live video feed of the entire globe. The sphere would be fully interactive, with near-infinite zoom capabilities. It would be called something like Google Globe or iBall. The second generation would probably be able to display surface holograms to depict 3D terrain, buildings and even atmosphere and weather layers, similar to the layers in Google Earth. I’m sure someone like Issac Asimov must have already written about something like this decades ago. Science-fiction writers seem pretty good at conceiving/predicting technological developments way before they happen.

Is there any piece of technology that inspired you to take the path you did?
Having worked as an architectural technician, I became infatuated with the creation of 3D environments (both virtual and physical) and CAD software. I’m really not that technically minded, especially when it comes to the high-end stuff like Cinema 4D or Maya. With enough exploration I’ve found plenty of scope for experimentation using the much easier to use Google SketchUp. Actually I think the humble printer is still an incredible invention—you can create something on a computer screen and a plastic box translates it into marks on a physical piece of paper… amazing!

Digital Detritus – Guernsey

What’s your favourite relic piece of technology from your childhood?
I’m not sure it’s my favorite, but I remember thinking it was pretty cool when I was 10. Way back in the 80s, Nintendo created the Deluxe version of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The NES Deluxe came with a fairly useless accessory named R.O.B the Robot. I can remember it only worked with one game Gyromite. Clutched in his plastic fists, R.O.B used weird disks to press the buttons on the NES control pads. I think all it did was make the game less user friendly.