Monthly Archives: July 2017

A claustrophobic journey, achieved entirely in-camera

Inventive, detailed work from Oscar Hudson & team:

In the video, a single tracking shot moves through what appears to be the same room, over and over, as it becomes smaller and increasingly claustrophobic. According to Hudson, the video illustrates the Japanese concept of Hikikomori, an agoraphobic phenomenon in which young people who are overwhelmed with the outside world lock themselves in their apartments.

Come on in:


[Vimeo] [YouTube] [Via Simon Brown]

Google & Major League Baseball team up on VR

When Periscope debuted two years ago, I thought it would quickly usher in an era of live multi-camera feeds of clubhouse champagne parties, dugout conversations, and more. Maybe it still will, but for most uses, it became clear (as maybe it should have been at the start) that very little content demands or rewards live viewing. The Snapchat-pioneered stories format, by contrast, feels live but offers just enough curation & control for both creators & viewers that it’s dramatically more compelling for most occasions.

Anyway, the jury remains out on VR, but I’m glad to see more experiments getting underway. Now Google is using the compact Jump camera rig to partner with MLB in telling young players’ stories. Engadget writes,

[T]he NFL partnered with Google Daydream to produce an exclusive series called All or Nothing last year. Major League Baseball has also collaborated with Google Daydream on a video game and the At Bat app. Now, they’ve announced their latest partnership: “On the Verge,” which is a VR series that profiles up-and-coming baseball stars.

The first episodes are available now. They’ll also be available on MLB’s official YouTube account soon.



Google Trusted Contacts now available on iOS, Android

Seems smart; installing now for me & Margot:

Loved ones can request your location––even if your phone is offline or you can’t get to it. You can also proactively share your location in everyday or emergency situations.

In preparation for a situation where you might need help but can’t answer your phone—imagine you get lost while hiking and lose service—you can choose how long to wait before your location is automatically shared with a trusted contact who asks for your location.

Available now on iOS & Android alike. [Via]

Tour the International Space Station via Google Street View

European astronaut Thomas Pesquet returned to Earth last month after spending six months aboard the International Space Station, capturing the first Street View imagery captured beyond our planet:

[T]he Street View team worked with NASA at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas and Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama to design gravity-free method of collecting the imagery using DSLR cameras and equipment already on the ISS. Then I collected still photos in space, that were then sent down to Earth where they were stitched together to create panoramic 360 degree imagery of the ISS.

You can read about the mission on the Google Blog & check out the behind-the-scenes process here:




AI can remap speakers’ faces to put words in their mouths

There’s just no way this ends badly. No possible way.

Given audio of President Barack Obama, we synthesize a high quality video of him speaking with accurate lip sync, composited into a target video clip. Trained on many hours of his weekly address footage, a recurrent neural network learns the mapping from raw audio features to mouth shapes. Given the mouth shape at each time instant, we synthesize high quality mouth texture, and composite it with proper 3D pose matching to change what he appears to be saying in a target video to match the input audio track.



Amazing slow-mo footage of hummingbirds

Check out some wonderful work from National Geographic photographer Anand Varma. Interesting details:

A 2013 University of Toronto study concluded that if hummingbirds were the size of an average human, they’d need to drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda for every minute they’re hovering, because they burn sugar so fast.

Kottke adds,

some hummingbirds can beat their wings 100 times in a second and can sip nectar 15 times per second. I also like the locals’ name for the Cuban bee hummingbird, the world’s smallest bird: zunzuncito (little buzz buzz).


YouTube VR: 360º heatmaps, Creators Lab

Viewer: “Where the hell should I look?”
Creator: “Where the hell do people look?”

Making compelling 360º content—like both pimpin’ & impin’—ain’t easy. Fortunately YouTube is adding some new analytical tools:

Today we’re introducing heatmaps for 360-degree and VR videos with over 1,000 views, which will give you specific insight into how your viewers are engaging with your content. With heatmaps, you’ll be able to see exactly what parts of your video are catching a viewer’s attention and how long they’re looking at a specific part of the video.

 Meanwhile they’ve started a new VR Creator Lab bootcamp:

Take your VR video creation to the next level. YouTube is taking applications for a 3 month learning and production intensive for VR creators. Participants will receive advanced education from leading VR instructors, 1:1 mentoring, and $30K – $40K in funding toward the production of their dream projects.

The application window has now closed (sorry I didn’t the news ’til now), but hopefully this will go well & future openings will emerge.


Google AI roams Street View to create & polish beautiful panos

“Our virtual photographer ‘travelled’ ~40,000 panoramas in areas like the Alps, Banff and Jasper National Parks in Canada, Big Sur in California and Yellowstone National Park,” hunting for the best compositions, writes Hui Fang of the Google Research team.

Per PetaPixel, “Once it finds a nice-looking photo, it uses post-processing techniques to improve the look of the shot like photographers do in Photoshop or Lightroom. Edits include cropping, tweaking saturation, applying HDR effects, adding dramatic lighting with ‘content-aware brightness adjustments.’”

Potentially interesting sidenote: In 2013, before Google Photos became a standalone product, Google+ was backing up & applying semantic Auto Enhance to more than half a billion photos per day. The process mimicked the edits a skilled human would apply (e.g. treating skin differently from skies, sharpening & brightening). This all happened automatically, so almost no one noticed, and when we turned it off, almost no one cared (cf. bad wine). ¯\_(ツ)_/¯


Check out the new Backup and Sync for Google Photos and Google Drive

“Simpler, speedier and more reliable”—I can get behind that:

This new tool replaces the existing Google Photos desktop uploader and Drive for Mac/PC.

Backup and Sync is an app for Mac and PC that backs up files and photos safely in Google Drive and Google Photos, so they’re no longer trapped on your computer and other devices. Just choose the folders you want to back up, and we’ll take care of the rest.

Check out the help center if you need details—but generally it should be set it, forget it, get (optionally) free unlimited photo storage.



A brilliantly projection-painted car looks Photoshopped out

“Dude, you’re so transparent,” I once told a girl-chasing Photoshop engineer, “I can see a little checkerboard right through you.”

That came to mind seeing this project, which I find just unreasonably charming:


As part of the Stenograffia street art and graffiti festival in Russia, a collaborative of artists worked to create this phenomenal illusion that appears to “erase” a collection of graffiti from a small car and trash dumpster. With the help of a projector, the team painted the familiar grey and white checker grid found in most graphics applications that denotes a deleted or transparent area. The piece is titled “CTRL+X” in reference to the keyboard command in Photoshop for deleting a selection. You can see nearly 100 behind-the-scenes photos of their process here.


[Via some Facebook friend of whose original post I’ve lost track]

Lightform promises to bring AR into physical spaces

The makers of Lightform call it “the first computer made for projected augmented reality.”

Lightform scans complex scenes in under a minute, letting you seamlessly mix real objects with projected light. It’s augmented reality without the headset.

Check out a demo made with it & read more on Wired:

The small box contains a processor and a high-res camera. Hook it up to any projector through an HDMI cable, and the projector will cast a series of grids onto the room, which Lightform’s onboard camera uses to assess, in fine detail, the location and dimensions of objects in the space. (Lightform can also scan the room periodically, allowing it to create a new map if anything moves.) The processor converts that information into a 3-D map of surfaces onto which the projector can cast light. […]

In other words: Lightform helps you quickly transform almost anything in a room into a screen


Google introduces Blocks, a VR model creation app

Check out Blocks for Vive & Oculus Rift:

You can browse example content and read Fast Company’s coverage, “Google Is Becoming The Adobe Of VR”:

Google is essentially modeling Adobe to fill some of Adobe’s own gaps. First, it acquired Tiltbrush for VR sketching. Now, it built Blocks for VR-based, 3D object creation…

Google is laying the foundation for a massive play in VR and AR, because Blocks will be the cornerstone of an Adobe-like suite of VR creation apps from Google, which will pave the way for a new wave of user-created 3D movies and interactive experiences to come.




“Muscle-Up”: An “impossible” drone-shot tour de force

Robert McIntosh masterfully pilots his tiny homebrew drone over—and through—the landscape of Muscle Beach, resulting in this eye-popping video: 

Before you join me in saying, “Damn it, why does my drone footage always look like comparatively shite,” notice that he heavily stabilized his images using ReelSteady for Adobe After Effects, and that he was willing to endure quite a few crashes along the way. You can see the unstabilized footage & some mishaps here:

According to Cinema 5D,

Mcintosh claims to have used the “world’s smallest HD drone” which he describes as follows: The drone weighs in at an astonishing 94.7 grams WITH the stripped down Gopro! (120 grams takeoff weight with lipo flight battery and foam roll cage)For reference, a stock Gopro Hero 5 black weighs 118 grams!It’s less that 5″ wide and 3″ tall, Sporting 2″ propellers.


As Jim might say, “This is the strangest life I’ve ever known…”