Monthly Archives: September 2020

Bring cultural treasures into your home in AR through Google Search

I’m pleased to be playing a very small role in making very large things, well, rather small.

Today, Google Arts & Culture has brought together a new collection to help anyone choose their perfect virtual travel with thousands of museums and cultural destinations to explore. And with the help of our partner CyArk, we’ve launched on Google Search 37 cultural heritage sites from across the world in Augmented Reality (AR). Hop from your couch and search on your mobile phone to bring the Moai statues of Ahu Ature Huki, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), the Brandenburg Gate in Germany, or the Maya pyramid of Chichén Itzá, Mexico right into your living room.

Here’s a list of landmarks you can search & explore:

  • El Castillo – Chichen Itza, Mexico
  • Brandenburg Gate, Germany
  • Ayutthaya, Thailand
  • Eim ya kyaung Temple – Bagan, Myanmar
  • Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico
  • Chacmol statue – Templo Mayor, Mexico
  • Thomas Jefferson Memorial, US
  • Lanzón – Chavín de Huántar, Peru
  • War Canoe – Waitangi Treaty Grounds, New Zealand
  • Ahu Ature Huki, Easter Island
  • Tomb of Tu Duc (Complex of Hué Monuments), Vietnam
  • Nine Dome Mosque – Bagerhat, Bangladesh
  • Shait Gumbad Mosque – Bagerhat, Bangladesh
  • Chunakhola Masjid – Bagerhat, Bangladesh
  • Church of Sveta Sofia, North Macedonia
  • Jaulian, Pakistan
  • Flanders Field American Cemetery, Belgium
  • NASA Apollo 1 Mission Memorial, US
  • Rano Rarako, Easter Island
  • Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral, Mexico
  • Normandy American Cemetery, France
  • Ananias Chapel, Syrian Arab Republic
  • Ancient Corinth, Greece
  • Ahu Nau Nau, Easter Island
  • Lukang Longshan Temple, Taiwan
  • Temple of Apollo (Portara), Greece
  • Audiencia in Palacio Tschudi – Chan Chan, Peru
  • Palacio Tschudi – Chan Chan, Peru
  • Edinburgh Castle, UK
  • Mesa Verde, USA
  • Temple of Echmoun, Lebanon
  • Fort York National Historic Site, Canada
  • Great Mosque – Kilwa Kisiwani, Tanzania
  • Gateway of India
  • Martin Luther King Memorial
  • Lincoln Memorial

AR soups up the humble car manual

The new Ram comes with an augmented reality feature for exploring one’s 700hp whip:

Hovering the camera over the steering wheel will show customers how to use the steering wheel controls or paddle shifters, while pointing at the dashboard will show infotainment functionality.

The app was developed in just three months to roll out on the 2021 Ram TRX. The wild truck will be the first vehicle to use the Know & Go app, and it will be available on other FCA vehicles down the line.

Employee-Developed Know & Go Mobile App Debuts on 2021 Ram 1500 TRX

Give FX the finger in AR

The free new app Diorama pairs with the $99 finger-worn Litho device to let you create AR movies directly inside your phone, using a selection of props & tapping into the Google Poly library:

VR Focus writes,

“Diorama will democratize the creation of special effects in the same way the smartphone democratized photography. It will allow anyone to create beautiful visual effects the likes of which have previously only been accessible to Hollywood studios,” said Nat Martin, Founder at Litho in a statement.

When combined with the Litho controller users can animate objects simply by dragging them, fine tuning the path by grabbing specific points. Mood lighting can be added thanks to a selection of filters plus the app supports body tracking so creators can interact with a scene.

Facebook improves rights management for photographers

Seems like a win:

With the newly launched “Rights Manager for Images,” Facebook is offering creators and publishers access to content-matching technology similar to what it introduced in 2016 to combat stolen videos. The new feature, which is available in Facebook’s Creator Studio, will allow rights owners to assert control over their intellectual property across Facebook and Instagram, including when the image is embedded on an external website.

Sky-swapping tech is coming to Photoshop at last

I feel vaguely ungrateful marking the arrival of a welcome Photoshop feature by noting that Adobe first demoed it nearly four years ago—but hey, you come here, you know you’re gonna get a little salt. 😌

There’s often a lot of work to go from tech demo to robust, shipping feature (especially when targeting Photoshop’s rigorous level of quality & flexibility), and I’m sure the team has been working hard on that. In any event, I’m looking forward to trying it myself.

Check out PetaPixel’s coverage for other details & screenshots.

Chrome gets tab groups

“Can I get that icon in cornflower blue…?”

Being a middle-aged man getting excited about tab management in a Web browser makes me a little queasy—but hey, I live in this stuff all day, so 🎉.

You can now group tabs in Chrome:

You can collapse the tab groups, and you can make the titles small:

 My pro tip is that you can use an emoji as a group name such as ❤️ for inspiration or 📖 for articles to read.

Hey, find joy where you can, amirite? 😌

TensorFlow.js brings faster ML to your browser

Speaking of making machine learning-powered experiences fast & ubiquitous via the Web, check out the latest work from our friends on TensorFlow.js:

In March we introduced a new WebAssembly (Wasm) accelerated backend for TensorFlow.js (scroll further down to learn more about Wasm and why this is important). Today we are excited to announce a major performance update: as of TensorFlow.js version 2.3.0, our Wasm backend has become up to 10X faster by leveraging SIMD (vector) instructions and multithreading via XNNPACK, a highly optimized library of neural network operators.

You can see the performance improvements for yourself:

Check out this demo of our BlazeFace model, which has been updated to use the new Wasm backend: To compare against the unoptimized binary, try this version of the demo, which manually turns off SIMD and multithreading support.

Google Meet adds background blur—with a twist

“But what about the Web??”

I’d endlessly ask this of my old teammates, and I kept pushing to bring Google’s ML infrastructure (TensorFlow Lite, MediaPipe, etc.) and ML models (e.g. background segmentation) to everyone via browsers. Happily that work continues to bear fruit, and now the tech has come to the Web in Google Meet. This is something I haven’t seen from competitors (which rely on native apps for segmentation).

Background blur works directly within your browser and does not require an extension or any additional software. At launch, it will work on the Chrome browser on Windows and Mac desktop devices. Support for ChromeOS and Meet mobile apps will be coming soon, we’ll announce on the G Suite Updates blog when it’s available on those devices. 

Zen & the ARt of Motorcycle Customization

I have to admit, as eager as I am to see augmented reality thrive, I was a little skeptical about the value of this AR bike-modding application, but my neighbor Chris (who rides when he’s not designing motorsports gear) is enthusiastic and offered some good perspective:

Over the winter I will build my Suzuki into a pure track bike, but there are things I won’t know if they will fit until I get them all together. I know they all fit an otherwise stock bike, but won’t know if they fit together. 

Check it out for yourself:

Photography: Insects lift off at 3,200fps

Hats off—and wings up—to Prof. Adrian Smith & team from NC State:

[They] utilized a black light to attract unusual insects, like a plume moth, eastern firefly, and a rosy maple moth that, as Smith notes, resembles “a flying muppet.” He then recorded the creatures’ flight maneuvers at 3,200 fps to capture their unique wing movements, which he explains during each step. 

Let your freaky proboscises fly:


Ikea + Lego = BYGGLEK!

“Man, I thought this was gonna feature some Swedish Meatball-printed bricks, but it’s just boxes? Hmm.” — Finn Nack, who at age 12 is now deeply hard to impress 😌

Skepticism of tweens notwithstanding, this seems like a fun, simple way to upgrade storage for kids, and who doesn’t want to yell “BYGGLEK!” (a la Vonnegut’s “Gilgongo!”) from time to time?

The BYGGLEK collection will hit stores worldwide with a variety of sizes, from a three-box set priced at US$10 to a US$15 huge box, from October 2020. There will also be a LEGO brick set with 201 pieces sold along with the boxes.

VFX: Kaleidoscopic highways

Hey, remember highways?
Remember places?

They still exist, quarantine notwithstanding, and Worldgrapher + Visual Suspect have made some trippy, beautiful footage showing some:

Made by simply cropping and duplicating real footage, the dizzying video twists and turns through complex interchanges that are repeated in patterns and emblazoned with headlights and the city’s glow. Many of the shots descend into the center of the transportation systems, glimpsing the moving cars and traffic lights.


This Photoshop panel is a joke. (Seriously!)

Years ago we laughed about creating an in-app Photoshop assistant called Brushy the Talking Airbrush who would, in a slack-jawed Gomer Pyle voice, intone things like “Hey, it look like yer tryin’ to retouch a photo!”

Along somewhat similarly cheeky lines comes Infinite Jokes:

“What if Photoshop could verbally judge your decisions while you were working, or tell you the best photo related puns and jokes? Infinite Jokes is just that!” reads the description. “The free light hearted panel is the perfect retouching buddy that will provide humor for hours on end.”

Yuk it up: