TECH
08/26/2013 03:24 pm ET | Updated Aug 27, 2013

Elon Musk Announces Latest Invention: Gesture-Based 3D Printing

Entrepreneur Elon Musk this week promised to deliver on the latest round of life imitating art, announcing that he would soon unveil a system that lets users make rocket parts with the wave of a hand.

What this mean in its particulars is not quite clear. Musk hasn't demonstrated the manufacture of a gesture-designed rocket part yet: so far the public only has his tweeted promise that next week he'll post a video of himself "designing a rocket part with hand gestures & then immediately printing it in titanium."

Musk says his newest invention was inspired by the design process in "Iron Man": "We saw it in the movie and made it real," he tweeted to the film's director, Jon Favreau. The homage is not out of place, as Musk has been compared to Iron Man's alter ego, Tony Stark.

To the chagrin of fanboys everywhere, Musk said he has no plans to make himself an Iron Man suit.

But if Musk's gesture-based design system pans out, it's more than rocket parts and body armor that could benefit from the interface. For all the hype about 3D printing, original design is still a chore, since most printer software is complex and nonintuitive -- "about as user-friendly as MS-DOS was back in 1987," says CBS' Dave Johnson.

Currently, 3D printing's complexity restricts additive manufacturing to the tech saavy and determined. Gesture-based design systems could open the process to a wider field.

Still no word on the progress of any "super soldier serum" to bring us the real-life Captain America.

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