SnotBot FTWhales! 🚁🐳

Hah—brilliant: SnotBot is a hexacopter drone covered in petri dishes that collects whale exhalations for science:

Popular Science explains:

Whale snot, it turns out, is packed with DNA, viruses, hormones, and microbes—all incredibly useful things to a variety of scientists.

Typically, marine biologists employ the same techniques that failed Kerr: A motorboat equipped with long sticks and modified crossbows to collect whale biopsies. But Kerr hopes these flying research robots will soon change that.


[YouTube 1 & 2]

Illustrator’s forthcoming Diffusion Gradients look dope

Wanna feel old? Illustrator’s gradient meshes debuted 20 f’ing years ago, and the challenge of using them effectively is attested to by the age of images made with them. Now, though, it seems Adobe’s putting a more accessible interface atop similar-looking tech:

Traditional linear or radial gradients can limit your flexibility, while gradient meshes can have a steep learning curve. The new gradient feature lets you create rich blends of colors that seemingly diffuse naturally into each other.

Check it out (as I hope we’ll all be able to do hands-on this fall):


Funky automated light-painting machine

Who doesn’t like a good Rube Goldberg contraption? Of his Josh Sheldon writes,

I made this robot to make light painting animations.

Each of the animations I made took between 4 and 12 hours to shoot, one frame at a time. Each frame is 1-3 long exposure photographs of the machine performing the light painting.

Check it out (and if you’re impatient like me, jump ahead ~3 minutes to start seeing the generated artwork):


[YouTube] [Via Marc Pawliger]

“This beautiful art installation looks like Photoshop. It’s not”

 What if your color palettes came alive, giant size & in 3D space? FastCo writes,

The installation is almost like three-dimensional graffiti. Set in the ruins of Les Baux, which date back to antiquity, the piece has a light footprint: The artists simply used metal rods to hang pieces of semitransparent textile patches of different sizes along the square. The resulting gradients of color are reminiscent of digital color palettes like RGB or CMYK.

See it in action:


VR creators: Apply for Google’s Creator Lab in London

Sounds pretty cool:

Today we’re announcing that VR Creator Lab is coming to London. Participants will receive between $30,000 and $40,000 USD in funding towards their VR project, attend a three day “boot camp” September 18-20, 2018, and receive three months of training from leading VR instructors and filmmakers.

Applications are open through 5pm British Summer Time on August 6, 2018. YouTube creators with a minimum of 10,000 subscribers and independent filmmakers are eligible.



Behind the scenes: How Assistant gets delightful

Every day some friends of mine toil (in the loosest sense of the word) to invest Google Assistant with personality that provides real moments of delight. David Pogue met with the team to find out how it works: 

“We actually have a team of writers from around the world to vet as much as we can the cultural appropriateness of the material that we put out,” Germick says. “Germans, we find, don’t particularly appreciate wordplay, in the pun sense. So our German writers need to work a different angle.” [Awkward!! —J.]

Fortunately for the Personality team, a principle they call “Fun in, fun out” is at play here. If you prefer an assistant without a helping of humor, you’ll never encounter it. If all you ever say to Assistant is “Set a timer for 15 minutes” and “Who was the third President?”, you won’t run into much of Assistant’s personality.


Amazing 240fps footage of a hummingbird… shot on an iPhone

Days of miracles & wonder, man. Jump ahead 30 seconds for the eye-popping stuff:

Per PetaPixel,

“I soon realized that the wide angle lens gives the iPhone and incredibly close focus point, allowing me to capture hard-to-pull-off wide-angle macro photos and videos,” Torres tells PetaPixel. “I set my iPhone to 240fps on 1080p (which my Canon 1DX Mark II can’t even handle), put on the wide angle lens, set it next to a hummingbird feeder in the cloud forests of Sumaco, and pressed record.”



Photography: Railroad men, young & old

Man, I sure love being a dad. Our resident railfan & little old man Henry (age 9) loves to get us out biking to watch the evening parade of trains (Cal, Amtrak, ACE, freight), and tonight we brought my drone. I’m fond of this shot, with accompaniment kindly provided by Eels:

And what can I say: our in-house editor (age 10) insisted on the closing title. 😌

And just for yuks, here’s the scene in 360º pano form: