Monthly Archives: October 2018

Animation: Trippy photography plays with time in Ireland

Time, they say, has the nice property of keeping everything from happening at once. But what would it look like if everything did happen at once?

Photographer Páraic McGloughlin hung out on a bridge in Sligo, Ireland for 19 hours, to create a single, day-long shot that he then manipulated. Colossal writes,

“Using a fundamental image (a time lapse) to mask and cut into, I tried to show the variable possibilities within a limited time span, maintaining the integrity of each individual photograph while dissecting and rearranging the overall image.” The visual content was matched with each layer of audio created by Cooper to form the song, which stacks up to over one hundred layers. 

Check it out:

New open-source Google AI experiments help people make art

One’s differing physical abilities shouldn’t stand in the way of drawing & making music. Body-tracking tech from my teammates George & Tyler (see previous) is just one of the new Web-based experiments in Creatability. Check it out:

Creatability is a set of experiments made in collaboration with creators and allies in the accessibility community. They explore how creative tools – drawing, music, and more – can be made more accessible using web and AI technology. They’re just a start. We’re sharing open-source code and tutorials for others to make their own projects.



BumpTop is back… now in AR!

I wish I could find the joke video someone made when Google acquired the beloved email client Sparrow back in 2012. The vid presented itself as a cheerful tutorial on “How to prepare for the Sparrow Google migration” that basically went like this: 

  1. Open your Applications folder.
  2. Locate the Sparrow app icon.
  3. Now, carefully just drag it to the trash.
  4. Empty the trash.
  5. And voila, now you’re ready for Google’s ownership of this great app!

I’ve thought of it countless times over the years, and I think of it now recalling BumpTop, a 3D desktop GUI that I first wrote about 13 years ago (!):

Google acquired the tech & team back in 2010, and then… nothing, as far as I know. (All this predated my time at the company, so I have zero inside info.) Empty the trash, and voila!

But evidently not content to let things die, the BumpTop team has reemerged with Spatial, a new approach to team collaboration done via virtual & augmented reality. Check it out:

Will Spatial have more lasting impact than BumpTop? I have no idea! But I look forward to trying it out, and I’m sure glad that teams like this are busy trying to make the world more delightful.


[YouTube 1 & 2]

Power to the people: Voice UI helps a kid find autonomy

This is pretty rad:

Robbie has duchenne muscular dystrophy, which has left him able to control only his eyes, head and right thumb joint. […] Bill Weis, a retired tech worker […] set up Robbie’s bed to be controlled by voice activation. While working on the bed, Bill had an epiphany: if he can control the bed this way, why not everything else in Robbie’s bedroom universe?

Check out the story of tech + kindness + grit:


Eye-popping racing drone footage of mountain bike action

Man, apparently some of the biker scouts from Endor lived on & now thread drones through forrest gaps over crazy mountain biking trails, as seen in this bonkers project from Cinematic Flow:

“We designed and refined FPV drones since 5 years now. When Kilian spoke about his idea of putting a GoPro Fusion on one of our drones, we were intrigued but thrilled about this new challenge. The design and the flying of this set up are so different than what we are used to, there were loads of crashes but the end result is so refreshing and pushes the drone shot to the next level.” Pierre, engineer at Cinematic Flow

Now, how about a look behind the scenes?

We trust the cam, we ensure a light flying and tighten the buttocks to export!



[YouTube 12] [Via Luke Wroblewski]

Seriously cool parallax-generation tech from Adobe

Wow—check out this amazing sneak peek from Adobe’s Long Mai (see paper):

Enables any photograph to be turned into a live photo; animating the image in 3D, simulating the realistic effect of flying through the scene.

This is especially dear to my heart.

As a brand new Photoshop PM (in 2002—gah!), one of my first trips was back to NYC to visit motion graphics artists. Touring one shop I was amazed to glimpse a technique I’d never seen, using Photoshop to break 2D photos into layers, fill in gaps, and then animate the results in After Effects. Later that year the work came to the big screen in The Kid Stays in the Picture, the documentary that now lends its name to this ubiquitous parallax effect.

Here Yorgo Alexopoulos talks about how he developed the technique & how he’s leveraged it in later works:

So, while we wait for Adobe’s new tech to ship, how could one do this by hand? Below, artist Joe Fellows gives a brief, highly watchable demo of how it’s done (although it physically pains me to see him using the Pen tool to make selections & no Content-Aware Fill to at least block in the gaps):

[YouTube 1, 2, and 3]

Content-Aware Fueled: After Effects

Man, I used to hate demoing alongside After Effects during internal Adobe events: We had Photoshop, sure—but they were Photoshop on wheels. You could just pencil them in for the Top Gun trophy nearly every time.

Making Content-Aware Fill work at all is hard—but making it effective over multiple frames (“temporally coherent,” in our nerdy parlance)? Well, that requires FM technology—F’ing Magic. Here’s a naive implementation (not from Adobe):

Cool, artsy—but generally not so useful. And here (at 1:50:44) it is as the After Effects team intends to ship it next year (first sneak-peeked last year as Project Cloak):

Special props to Jason Levine for vamping through the calculation phase & then going full “When Harry Met Sally deli scene” at the conclusion. As a friend noted, “I’ll have what he’s having.” 😝


Integrate voice commands into visual prototypes with Adobe XD

“Even as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri and other voice assistants have taken off like wildfire,” writes Khoi Vinh, “designers working in voice have been stymied by the nearly complete lack of voice tools oriented around the design process. All that changes today.”

Check out this 50-second demo, and see Khoi’s post for the backstory on how this tech came to Adobe & its tools.


See your Portrait images in 3D via Facebook

Very cool:


FB writes,

[Y]ou just take a photo in Portrait mode using your compatible dual-lens smartphone, then share as a 3D photo on Facebook where you can scroll, pan and tilt to see the photo in realistic 3D… Everyone will be able to see 3D photos in News Feed and VR today, while the ability to create and share 3D photos begins to roll out today and will be available to everyone in the coming weeks.

Check out their post for tips on composing a 3D-friendly image (e.g. include lots of foreground/background separation; avoid transparent objects like drinking glasses).

Automatically share kid & pet pics with Google Photos Live Albums

“Been waiting to build this since the beginning of Google Photos :)” tweeted Dave Lieb, product lead for Google Photos. As TechCrunch writes,

[U]sing A.I. technologies and facial recognition is a next step, and one that makes Google Photos an even more compelling app. In practice, it means that you wouldn’t have to manually share photos with certain people ever again – you can just set up a Live Album once, and then allow the automation to take over.

Oh, and with the newly announced Google Home Hub, people (e.g. my folks) can have an auto-updating picture frame showing specific people (e.g. our kids).

Try Live Albums right now on Web, iOS, or Android. It works like this:


Pixel 3 Playground is here!

I’m so pleased to reveal what we’ve been working on for quite some time—the new Playground augmented reality mode on Google Pixel devices!

Playground brings you more powerful AR experiences and uses AI to recommend content for expressing yourself in the moment. You can make your photos and videos come to life with Playmoji—characters that react to each other and to you—and tell a richer story by adding fun captions or animated stickers.

Playground makes real-time suggestions to recommend content based on the scene you’re in. Are you walking your dog? Cooking in the kitchen? Gardening in the backyard? Playground uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to recommend relevant Playmoji, stickers and captions to populate the scene.

My team contributed tech that enables selfie stickers (using realtime segmentation to let characters stand behind you), reactive stickers (those that respond to humans in the frame), object tracking (so that you can attach stickers to moving elements like pets & hands), and glue that helps the pieces communicate. Happily, too, we’re just getting warmed up.

Oh, and stay tuned for Gambeezy!



The why behind the how: 5 Classic Hollywood Aerial Shots

One of my favorite creative-learning experiences of the last several years was the Art of Visual Storytelling seminar from SNL director of photography Alex Buono. He pointed out that sure, tech & gear matter—but they’re all in service of more timeless storytelling principles & techniques. Learning those (“the ‘why’ behind the ‘how’”) is far more important and rewarding, at least for me, than any passing piece of kit.

In a similar vein, Stewart from Drone Film Guide covers reviews film history to cover five classic Hollywood aerial shots that drone flyers can incorporate into their work (well, modulo having numerous police cars at your disposal :-)):


Exploring Indian railways through Google Arts & Culture

Oh man—my little railfan Henry is gonna flip his lid for this immersive project.

The team writes,

Anyone can now explore India’s railways in unprecedented detail with over 100 exhibitions that bring together more than 3,000 images, 150 videos and 150 iconic locations across India. Zoom into ultra-high resolution images made with our Art Camera, like maps of the East Indian Railways that the British used to connect Calcutta with the North West Provinces; get a 360 degree look around the workshops of cardboard rail model enthusiasts; or take a behind the scenes peek at Darjeeling loco shed.


Lego + kids = a design for autonomous construction vehicles

What started out as a fun, informal team-building event has evolved into both a Lego Technic kit and a full-fledged autonomous concept wheel loader design:

The Volvo team writes,

Together with LEGO® Technic designers and a bunch of amazing kids, we’ve developed the Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX packed with some truly spectacular features.

The result is not only a sneak peak into the future of electro mobility, but also the introduction of a brand new LEGO Technic building kit (available in stores in August).