Monthly Archives: November 2015

Kinetic sculpture: Lego Sisyphus

Because Monday. 🙂 And because it’s beautifully detailed, down to the bas relief panels that depict scenes from the doomed king’s life. Great work by Jason Allemann.

In other Sisyphean stylings:

In a 21st century take on the traditional Zen sand garden, artist Bruce Shapiro invented the Sisyphus Machine, an elaborate kinetic drawing machine that uses magnets to drag rolling steel marbles through a thin layer of sand to create complicated mandala-like patterns.

[YouTube] [Vimeo] [Via]

Demo: What your computer thinks it sees

Kyle McDonald walked around Amsterdam with his laptop & a webcam, recording what a neural network can identify in realtime:

All processing is done on my 2013 MacBook Pro with the NVIDIA 750M and only 2GB of GPU memory. I’m walking around with my laptop open pointing it at things, hence the shaky footage and people staring at themselves.

I’m somehow reminded of how, when our kids were very small, they’d run around simply blurting out the names of anything they could identify (“Living room! TV room! Lion!”). To wit (’cause why not?):

[Vimeo] [YouTube] [Via]

Get a free terabyte of storage by contributing to Google Maps

Review restaurants, tourist spots, etc. to get free cloud storage and more. The Verge writes,

Guides who reach level two will get early access to new Google products and features, while level three participants will get a badge next to their name, indicating when a review or piece of information has been contributed by a trusted guide. But it’s level four that offers the most appealing prize, gifting Local Guides who reach that rank with 1 TB of Drive storage for free, an amount that’s worth $9.99 a month. In the wake of Microsoft’s recent rollbacks on OneDrive storage, this is one of the few ways to get a terabyte of cloud space for free. Those who ascend all the way to level five, after accumulating 500 points in the program, will be able to apply to attend the first Local Guides summit in 2016.

[YouTube] [Via]

A 46-gigapixel image of the Milky Way

Cripes—I remember when we lifted the 30,000-pixel/2GB file size limit in Photoshop. Of this monster undertaking DP Review writes,

Researches from German university Ruhr-Universitat Bochum spent half a decade creating the largest astronomical image created to date, a 46-gigapixel image of the Milky Way, which is now available via an interactive online viewer. The image is made up of 46 billion pixels, and the file weighs in at a hefty 194GB in size… 22,000 Full HD TV screens would be required to display it at its full resolution.

Check out the not-so-easy-to-navigate interface here. [Via Steve Mansfield]

Free up your cloud storage with a new Google Photos option

Yesterday I talked about how you can now free up space on your phone via the latest Google Photos update. But what if you want to free up space in the cloud?

Now you can visit and click “Recover Storage” (screenshot below) in order to convert images & videos that you uploaded at original resolution to High Quality. This means that:

  • Images will be stored at 16 megapixels (or at original dimensions if those are smaller)
  • Videos will be stored at 1080p (or at original dimensions if those are smaller)
  • The compression applied is visually negligible (as tested by PetaPixel)
  • These photos & videos won’t count at all towards your cloud storage quota

Happy shooting (and storing)!


Photography: Jetmen + A380

“We will be mosquitoes, flying with an eagle or a condor,” said wingsuited weirdo Yves Rossy of his flight with Vince Reffet and an oh-my-God that’s actually an Airbus A380.

Fun details:

Airbus’ flagship aircraft producing 70,000lbs of thrust from each engine, versus a mere 88 lbs per Jetman engine. The total weight of the plane is 560,000 kg (1.2 million lbs), compared with 150kg ( 331 lbs) per human jet.

If that’s up your alley, check out jetmen going all foo fighter with a B-17:



The new, faster, simpler Google+ has arrived

Congrats to all my colleagues on this great new launch! The team writes,

There were two features they kept coming back to: Communities, which now average 1.2 million new joins per day, and Collections, which launched just five months ago and is growing even faster.

Today, we’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and center. Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler.

 For the more nerdily inclined, my boss Luke writes,

We moved to a mobile-first, responsive solution. Before home page weight: 22,600 KB After: 327 KB. And a much richer set of UI animations, transitions, & more. This is the same framework we launched on Google Photos earlier this year. Details here.

Feedback is of course welcome!

Free up space with the latest Google Photos update

Available now on Android & arriving soon on iOS, the latest Google Photos update makes it easy to reclaim space on your phone:

Just tap “Free up space” in Settings, and Google Photos will remove device copies of your backed up photos and videos.

Or Google Photos can keep track of your phone’s storage space for you. Get notified when your phone is running low on space, and easily remove the device copies of backed up photos older than 30 days right from the Assistant.

All your photos and videos will still be accessible when you’re connected, both in the app and on the web at

Photos tweet  free up space


Will iPad Pro finally enable pro photo workflows?

Back in 2010 photographers could not stop telling me how much they wanted to bring an iPad on trips, plug in a card, import raw images, pick the good ones, apply presets, and later have everything synced to the cloud. But I wrote last year of my sad disbelief at the “bizarre failure of our industry” to make this work well.

But now, maybe—maybe—the iPad Pro’s huge screen, crazy battery life, and MacBook Pro-class performance will change the equation. And here’s a very quiet but potentially critical change: The device supports 10x faster (theoretically) data import. Engadget writes,

[T]he iPad Pro is capable of transferring files at speeds that reach 5Gbps, whereas a USB 2.0 connection can only reach a max speed of 480Mbps. Apple had a good reason for not making a big deal out of it, though: you’ll need to get an extra USB 3.0 adapter to be able to take advantage of the capability, since the tablet only ships with a cable that can handle USB 2.0 speeds. Problem is, that adapter doesn’t exist yet, so you’ll have to deal with slower file transfers for a while longer.

We’ve collectively been let down (and let ourselves down) so many times here—but hope springs eternal!

A stunning hyperlapse of Istanbul

Rob Whitworth & team take us on a thrilling high- (and low-) speed zoom through the ancient & iconic city:

PetaPixel notes,

Whitworth spent about 6 weeks shooting the project with his team, with a couple of those weeks spent waiting for the weather to improve. About 295 hours were spent on location for recon and shooting, and 278 were spent afterward in post-production — there were about 71,000 RAW files after shooting was complete, so Whitworth had 3.8 terabytes of data to work through.

Here’s a look behind the scenes at the setup of just one shot:



Google uses VR to help veterans march

Check this out:

We’re enabling veterans everywhere to virtually march alongside 20,000 of their fellow servicemen and women in New York City. Google veterans and volunteers are using Google Cardboard to host a virtual Veterans Day march online and in VA hospitals across the country—so that every veteran has the chance to be celebrated and experience the country’s gratitude for their service.

I can’t wait to see the results.

Thank you, veterans, for your service.

Lytro unveils a spherical light field capture rig for VR

After wisely (IMHO) pivoting away from consumer imaging (where the only time most people want to refocus an image is if they’ve screwed up), Lytro is breaking out the big guns with a multi-$100k capture device, the Immerge:

Lytro Immerge is the world’s first professional Light Field solution for cinematic VR, providing lifelike presence for live action VR through Six Degrees of Freedom. It is built from the ground up to seamlessly blend live action and computer graphics (CG) using Light Field data. With configurable capture and playback solutions, it supports a range of new immersive storytelling needs.

Engadget explains,

Basically, think of this giant sphere as a large VR sensor. There are five different layers, and each layer is packed with a ring of 360-degree cameras and sensors. “One of the layers represents somewhere between three and four times the data and resolution of any VR camera that exists today”… [This] allows for accurate horizontal and vertical parallax, which is needed to realistically incorporate CGI elements in the video and have them appear as part of the natural environment.

I can’t wait to see & navigate what it captures.


Animation: Bloopy weirdness, with tanks

The Mill teamed up with Parisian electronic artist Azel Phara to create this rather eye-popping animation. The directors write,

We wanted to create visuals that were full of contrasts; Minimal to complex, pastel to vivid, earth to air, silent to loud, light to heavy, green to RGB. Taking inspiration from classic action films, we aimed to generate camera moves in CG that had a realistic live action element, bringing together some rich and intense action sequences.


Snapseed for iOS gets a faster image picker, more

It’s a small thing, but I can’t tell you how much more I enjoy using the image picker in Snapseed for iOS than its predecessor. Grab the latest update (2.1) and check out the enhancements. From the team post:

  • A new image picker provides much quicker access to photos
  • Editing session is preserved when switching to another app
  • Style menus in filters are opened by default
  • Filter names are displayed in the title bar 
  • Tap to hide controls on main screen to see the image without distractions
  • When zoomed in, the image can be moved so that the navigator doesn’t obscure any part of the image
  • Filter selector displays 3 columns in landscape orientation on iPhones
  • Bug fixes and stability improvements


Demo: Building 3D timelapses from Internet photos

Google’s Steve Seitz & UW researchers first clustered 86 million photos into landmarks. Then, according to the project site,

We sort the photos by date and warp each photo onto a common viewpoint. Finally, we stabilize the appearance of the sequence to compensate for lighting effects and minimize flicker. Our resulting time-lapses show diverse changes in the world’s most popular sites, like glaciers shrinking, skyscrapers being constructed, and waterfalls changing course.

And now they’re able to give the results some 3D movement:

[YouTube 1 & 2] [Via Aaron Hertzmann]

Disney demos amazing new facial capture tech

My envious friend in the business says, “Their landmark tracking is to die for.”

Writing about Real-Time High-Fidelity Facial Performance Capture, DesignTaxi notes,

Recognizing that viewers are used to looking at faces and identifying subtle changes in expression, Disney states that their new software will be useful for their animation process as it can be used by anyone at any time. The software is also able to convert head-on face shots to side shots. The graphics capture every tiny wrinkle or expression that can eventually become an animated feature. 

Check it out:


Animation: Hand-drawn maps of the Sun’s weather

I had no idea that since 1956 astronomers have been hand-drawing “solar synoptic maps” to track sunspots, solar flares, and other phenomena. Now, Kottke writes,

Artist and programmer Jeff Thompson has compiled 15,000 hand-drawn maps of the Sun made by astronomers into a single video, creating a mesmerizing and delightfully makeshift stop-motion animation of the Sun’s activity over the last 43 years.


Happy Dia de los Muertos

Fun, touching student animation:

On the Day of the Dead in a small village, bright balloons fly and firecrackers pop. Unfortunately for one little girl, there is only sadness at her recently deceased mother’s grave. But as she wipes away tears, she is suddenly dragged to the land of the dead! Surrounded by partying skeletons and papel picado, she learns that Dìa de los Muertos is not about fear, but about celebrating the end, which in many ways is just the beginning.

[YouTube] [Via]