Monthly Archives: February 2016

A fun animation for a good cause

(Not-so-) Poor Leo! Check out the caption for the charitable aspect.

I don’t want you to call me “passionate”

I want instead to make people take action.

In 1983, advertising pioneer David Ogilvy summarized his mission as follows: “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product. When Aeschines spoke, they said, ‘How well he speaks.’ But when Demosthenes spoke, they said, ‘Let us march against Philip’.”

Product management is often an art in creating impact without much formal authority. Back to it I go.


Demo: Dual cameras = great zoom

Better stabilization & zooming would be hugely useful to almost any mobile photographer, though I’m more intrigued by possibilities of better depth sensing & segmentation:

PetaPixel writes,

Instead of the mechanical optical zoom found in traditional zoom systems, Corephotonics’ technology zooms using just the two cameras and no moving parts. One of the cameras has a telephoto lens and the other has a wide angle one. By combining the images from the two cameras together, Corephotonics is able to achieve both optical zoom and better image quality.


Samsung intros a 360º eyeball for photo & VR capture

This little beast looks pretty interesting, though pricing is TBD:

I find the 360º video captures (example) moderately interesting, but I experience FOMO (fear of missing out, i.e. worrying that I’m looking in the wrong direction) and slight motion sickness. I’m much more interested capturing sequential spherical photos a la Street View, letting me navigate my travels via hyperlapse & pause to re-explore any spot.

I wonder—could someone craft a wearable rig (hat?) for this kind of camera that would let me set it & forget it during hikes, etc.? Or would that kind of contraption be so dorktastic as to make Google Glass & selfie sticks look like portraits in elegance?

Maybe with all the 360º cams now coming onto the market, we’ll find out soon enough.


Ballerina Misty Copeland recreates Degas paintings

Photographers Ken Browar and Deborah Ory have teamed up with Misty Copeland to recreate some of the painter’s most famous works:

Gallery 1455116868 hbz 1 misty

The print edition is well worth a look if you get a chance.

PetaPixel notes,

“It was interesting to be on a shoot and to not have the freedom to just create like I normally do with my body,” Copeland tells Harper’s Bazaar. “Trying to re-create what Degas did was really difficult. It was amazing just to notice all of the small details but also how he still allows you to feel like there’s movement.”


Help me help Nepal!

I have some exciting, crazy news: Next month I’m heading to Nepal

I’m aiming to learn from earthquake relief staff on the ground, assist in their work, and then work with a team of Googlers in a 54-hour hackathon to build technology that’ll help alleviate this and future crises.

This is a team effort, and I’d love to have you as part of the team. You can help in a couple of ways:

  • I’ve just set up a GoFundMe page to collect donations to, the organization arranging the trip. All funds go directly to their efforts (not to my travel expenses, etc.), and Google will match your contribution.
  • This Thursday in SF, the team is hosting a happy hour fundraiser (6-9pm). It’s $10 for entry, $20 for 2 free drinks, and $50 for open bar.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you know that I’ve long been searching for ways to make a more meaningful contribution to the world. Well, it’s time I put more skin in the game. I’m excited that this trip combines learning, hands-on helping, and building lasting solutions. I hope you can join me in whatever way feels right—even if that’s just in trying to open ourselves to the needs and perspectives of others.



Snapchat makes people happy; Facebook makes them sad

For years we’ve known that browsing friends’ highlight reels on Facebook makes people sad. The interesting corollary, however, is that Snapchat—by emulating in-person interactions—makes people happier, at least relatively speaking. My takeaways from a new University of Michigan study:

  • Ephemeral = intimate, chill, satisfying.
  • This produces more happiness than curated worlds (highlight reels) like Facebook & Instagram.
  • It’s second only to face-to-face interactions (which feel similar—spontaneous, mundane).
  • You pay more attention to what’s fleeting because you can’t see it again.
  • Snapchat’s “less supportive” (and thus more genuine?) than other media (“OMG ur so hot!!”).

No wonder this thing fulfills our primate needs, getting them sending dozens or even hundreds of images per day. “That app is my life.”

Watch a smartphone flex like a paper book

Hmm—I’m not sure I get the real-world importance or appeal, but the short demo is neat:

Researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed the world’s first full-colour, high-resolution and wireless flexible smartphone to combine multitouch with bend input. The phone, which they have named ReFlex, allows users to experience physical tactile feedback when interacting with their apps through bend gestures.

[YouTube] [Via]

Put Google Photos vision magic into your app or bot

Rad: You can plug the new Google Cloud Vision API into your app or drone to start detecting object, moods, text, and more in real time:

Business Insider notes

Google previously announced that Aerosense, a drone company owned by Sony Mobile Communications, is already using Cloud Vision. So it’s not all photo-tagging and cute robots — it’s also going to be used in serious autonomous vehicles. 


Google Photos: You can now edit time zone info on the Web

Let me guess: Like me, you seldom remember to adjust your DSLR’s internal clock while traveling, resulting in lots of shots that don’t align with what you capture via your phone. Good news: You can now select an image on, click the date, and then change the time zone. Here’s a screenshot:


And yes, before you ask, it would be nice to do this on multiple images at once. 🙂

A tiny Snapseed tweak that makes me very happy

TL;DR: Press & hold to compare (iOS only for the moment).

Snapseed’s unique interface for selecting parameters (dragging up & down on screen) & adjusting them (dragging left right) long seemed to dictate that the app couldn’t use what’s become the standard gesture for toggling adjustment preview. Instead you had to press & hold the little preview icon in the upper right of the screen.

Now, though, you can simply press & hold on the app main screen (to compare the original image to the current state) or within individual filters (to compare just that filter’s adjustments to the previous state). The exception here is with brush-based filters (Healing, Brush): in those pressing on the screen obviously applies a brushstroke, so you still need to rely on the preview icon there. For its part the icon remains visible everywhere it was already.

A throwable drone that live-streams video

Days Of Miracles & Wonder, Episode #932:

Fatherly writes,

The PowerUp FPV is a collaboration with Parrot, leaders in smartphone-connected devices and consumer drones, to deliver “the first ever paper airplane drone with a live streaming camera.” Setup is as simple as folding your plane and snapping on the lightweight, microchip-powered carbon fiber propeller, rudder, and camera and setting it free. 


MixColors Photoshop panel gets upgraded

I’ve long appreciated & admired developer Anastasiy Safari’s efforts to help artists by improving Photoshop’s color-selecting & -mixing tools. The latest update of his MixColors panel is compatible with the latest Photoshop updates & promises a variety of enhancements:

  • Color groups: the most simple and intuitive color group management with drag’n’drop support
  • Sync colors and color groups with the Cloud: safe 256-bit encryption on the server side!
  • Color mixing improved: next-gen color mixing formula for faster and more accurate results


“Google Is Killing Picasa Because Google Photos Is Way Better”

I couldn’t say it better than Gizmodo does:

But honestly, the fancier Google Photos is far superior anyway with its unlimited photo and video storage and image recognition tech that makes searching your photo library a cinch. If you’re someone who’s pumped Picasa full of pics and videos, you can access that content in Google Photos.

Picasa isn’t going to stop working, but it isn’t going to get any more updates. Check out the team blog if you’d like more details.

Can machine learning automatically colorize B&W photos?

Let’s say the TRON laser had digitized Ted Turner (film colorization nut in the 80’s) instead of Jeff Bridges. His roving AI might now show up as Ryan Dahl’s automatic colorization process:

The input to the model is the left-side grayscale image. The output is the middle image. The right image is the true color—which the model never gets to see. (These are images are from the validation set.)

Interesting results below.

For a simpler (and freakier) colorization demo, stare at this image for 15 seconds.

[Via Pete Warden]

Space jams: NASA artwork & artifacts

Days of future past:

  • Mothballed Launch Sites Stand as Monuments to the US Space Program “Roland Miller spent 25 years photographing aging NASA sites. Now, his images of the historic structures have been brought together in a new book.”
  • “These 3 commissioned pieces,” writes Invisible Creature, “are part of JPL’s Visions Of The Future 2016 Calendar – an internal gift to JPL and NASA staff, as well as scientists, engineers, government and university staff. The artwork for each month will also be released as a free downloadable poster at the NASA JPL site soon.” Meanwhile, check out some on their site & below.
  • Ariel Waldman’s Space Probes beautifully “catalogs the active human-made machines that freckle our solar system and dot our galaxy.”

Of Snapchat, primate needs, and taking out steps

If you want to be successful, says Twitter founder  Evan Williams, “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.”

I’m reminded of this reading about teens’ hyperactive, nonstop use of Snapchat (40 selfies per minute!) Jason Kottke makes some interesting sociological observations:

Wheels, domesticated crops & animals, industrialization, cars, and airplanes made it so that people could live farther and farther apart from each other, which is weird for social animals like humans and particularly difficult for teenagers for whom that social connection is the most important thing in their lives… Interacting with 190 friends dozens or even hundreds of times a day probably feels a lot like being back in a hunter/gatherer band, socially speaking.

As I asked the other day, We’re all just a bunch of apes lekking around the water hole, aren’t we?

Photography: An epic single-take mountain bike ride

This—just… all of this:

Popular Photography writes,

The footage may look like something that was shot with a drone, but it was actually done with the GSS C520 camera stabilization system, which is typically used for helicopters. The whole thing was mounted to a pickup truck and the trail crew built a special road on which the truck could drive to get the shots.

Check out more info on the filmmakers’ blog. [YouTube]

Craft design plug-in for Photoshop & Sketch looks amazing

This free plug-in set appears to fulfill many of the hopes I had when pushing hard to enable panel extensibility in Photoshop (succeeded) and to enable intelligent on-canvas artwork (failed). Check it out:

  • Craft is 100% free.
  • It includes 3 masterful plugins with interfaces inside Sketch or Photoshop, a first-of-its-kind tool.
  • Craft automatically pulls live data, text, and images from real sources (like websites or file drives) in real time. No uploading, downloading, copy and pasting, alt+tab-ing.
  • Craft helps designers solve the challenges of working on dynamic products in static formats, like Photoshop, by pulling in real contextual information.


Centriphone: Swing yer iPhone ’round & ’round…

“No iPhones were harmed during the making of this video,” says pro skier Nicolas Vuignier—but man, they sure could be. Epic results, though.

PetaPixel writes,

He swings his iPhone 6 camera around using a long rope… Vuignier says he spent the past 2 years tinkering and tweaking his creation, which appears to be a special mount that keeps the camera pointed directly at the swinger. It’s “100% shot with the iPhone 6,” he says.


Immediate success: What can we learn from game design?

Within 10 seconds of launching your app, can your user be doing something cool, becoming an awesome person who can do rad shit?

Instead of filling out a sign-up form (which must die), get them winning—learning by doing, making the app better. Watch this talk by Plants vs. Zombies creator George Fan on how he got his mom to learn & play through the app. In case you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here are the notes I took:

  1. Blend the tutorial into the game.
    • Instead of a button that says “Tutorial,” just put “Kill myself.”
    • Learning is inherently fun.
    • Games stop being fun when you stop learning.
    • No indication of where the tutorial ends & where the game begins. (Compliment: “That game had a tutorial?”)
    • Teach people without them realizing they’re being taught.
  2. Better to do than read.
    • Simply play & observe.
    • Don’t say, “Did you know that X…?”
    • Mini-games should be fun as well as informative.
  3. Spread out the teaching.
    • You don’t have to each everything right off the bat.
    • Does the player really need to know this right now?
    • Let players enjoy their toys before introducing new ones.
  4. User fewer words.
  5. Use adaptive messaging to display the correct prompts.
    • Stuff that’s too basic may insult more experienced users.
    • Notice when people are lagging on collecting power-ups, etc. (“Hint: Carnivores won’t eat fish food!”)
    • People who figure out stuff on their own feel good about it.
  6. Be frugal. Don’t create noise.
    • Don’t let achievement announcements distract from key text.
    • Showing relevant messages builds user trust.
  7. Use visuals to teach.
    • Ideally you know what something does just by looking at it. Pea shooters look like they shoot; Shield zombies look defended; etc.
    • If you can’t do that, you should understand it after seeing what it does.
    • Consistent visuals: Super Mario enemies that feature spikes can’t be jumped on; ones with wings can’t be hammered.
  8. Leverage what people already know.

“I’m Feeling Curious,” now with 3D touch

I’ve always loved weird, Googley bits like this: Type “I’m feeling curious” into Google search to get a random, fun fact. (Go ahead, try it; I’ll wait.) And now on iPhone 6s, when you hard-press the Google app icon, you’ll get an “I’m Feeling Curious” menu, shown below.

Incidentally, my single favorite 3D Touch gesture is voice search in Google Chrome. For some reason I’ve never used it from within the app, but now that I can hard-press the Chrome app icon, I use it all. the. time.


A tribute to LA’s iconic 6th Street Bridge

Shame that it’s being torn down, but cool to see this supercut of some of the bridge’s innumerable cinematic moments:

The 6th Street Bridge was built in 1932 and is currently the longest bridge (3500 feet) in Los Angeles. On January 27, 2016 it closed down and will be demolished in the upcoming weeks. The concrete has become unstable and for safety’s sake it must be rebuilt. The 6th Street Bridge has been an iconic staple in Los Angeles motion picture history and has been used in hundreds of productions.