Foldinator 2.0

July 2009

I have begun development on Foldinator 2.0, to try and move it toward a release version.

I first conceptualized Foldinator as an application to author origami diagrams, since there is no such purpose-built software out there. As I thought about it I realized it would in fact have to be something of an origami simulation, with the steps of the diagrams working an actual animated simulation of the paper.

I started with the application design, concentrating particularly on the user interface and authoring tools. I wrote a paper on the subject with I delivered at 3OSME a few years back. I was writing it in Flash, which in those days meant ActionScript 1, which is a bit of a kludgey language without proper objects or data types. Around this time I was out of work for a while after the dotcom crash and made a good start on a prototype since I was able to give it some serious focus for a few months. The prototype could record and playback steps, and execute several operations including Rotate, Turn Over, (Valley) Fold and Fold, and Valley Fold.

When I got to the point where I had to teach the computer to grok a sequence of valley folds, I knew I had gotten to the heart of the problem. I had to figure out how to model this algorithmically to proceed, how to break the paper into a bunch of inter-related parts with hinged and/or joined edges. This made harder by the limitations of ActionScript as a language, which was not really designed for serious application development. I considered rewriting the whole thing in Java, but that would have meant a completely new approach and implementation of the drawing engine. A related problem was how to represent the data that comprised a sequence of steps. At the time I was using generic objects with properties, again due to AS1 limitations.

Around this time I got a new job and the amount of time and energy I was able to put into the project waned. After long days of writing software, it was hard to come home and work on a whole 'nuther project at night, and besides, I wanted to put more of my origami time into actually designing and folding models. Things have changed since then and I figure it's time to give it another shot. For a while I was trying to get some kind of R&D funding so I could work on this full time. But that does not look like it's likely to happen, so I might as well get on with it.

One important thing that that's changed is ActionScript has grown up into a full-fledged Java-style object oriented language, and Flex into a professional grade authoring platform for web applications, built on Eclipse. Flex is a superset of Flash and includes the Flash vector drawing and animation engine. So the platform for Foldinator 2.0 is Flex.

The first thing I did was create a new Flex project and set up the basic framework, and import my old Flash code to pick over and see what can be ported and what should be scrapped.

The other thing I did was to start to work out the data representation side. The first prototype focused on the authoring and interface side of things. This comes at it from the opposite end. Naturally, the logical choice is to use XML, so I thought coming up with an XML schema to represent an origami model would be an important step. I'm calling it Origami XML.