Monthly Archives: November 2017

Build your own AI-powered camera for $45 (!) from Google

Days of miracles & wonder, part 6,392

Today, we’re excited to announce our latest AIY Project, the Vision Kit. It’s our first project that features on-device neural network acceleration, providing powerful computer vision without a cloud connection. […]

The provided software includes three TensorFlow-based neural network models for different vision applications. One based on MobileNets can recognize a thousand common objects, a second can recognize faces and their expressions and the third is a person, cat and dog detector. We’ve also included a tool to compile models for Vision Kit, so you can train and retrain models with TensorFlow on your workstation or any cloud service.

You can pre-order it here


Explore Maya culture through Google & the British Museum

I’m eager to show the Micronaxx, who are studying Native American cultures in school:

Dr Jago Cooper, Curator, Head of the Americas at the British Museum, introduces Google Arts & Culture’s new collection on the preservation of the Maya Heritage.

The video showcases pioneering and cutting edge technologies that enable to preserve some unique traces of this Guatemalan civilization, inherited by British explorer Alfred Maudslay.



A cool demo of Google’s pose estimation tech

“Teaching Google Photoshop” has been my working mantra here—i.e. getting computers to see like artists & wield their tools. A lot of that hinges upon understanding the shape & movements of the human body. Along those lines, my Google Research teammates Tyler Zhu, George Papandreou, and co. are doing cool work to estimate human poses in video. Check out the demo below, and see their poster and paper for more details.



Photography: A ridiculously cool “layer lapse” of NYC

Julian Tryba scripts After Effects to produce carefully segmented, meticulously choreographed “layer lapses” that produce a “visual time dilation” that juxtaposes the same scene shot at different times of day. Here, just check it out:

You can read more about the project on PetaPixel:

Tryba visited NYC 22 times, drove 9988 miles, spent 352 hours shooting 232,000 photos with 6 cameras (5 Canon DSLRs and a Sony a7R II) and 11 different lenses, and paid $1,430 in parking fees.


Try Google’s “Mystery Animal” game (and why silly stuff like this matters)

Through your browser or Google Home, you can play a “20 Questions”-style game to guess the name of an animal.

Silly, right? But in “Voice Technology is an Opportunity to Make Weird Stuff,” creative technologist Nicole He explains yhy it’s time to experiment with voice, and she offers some technical tips on how to do it.

We’re in what I’m going to call The 1996 Web Design Era of voice technology. The web was created for something practical (sharing information between scientists), but it didn’t take very long for people to come up with strange and creative things to do with it.


[YouTube] [Via]

Orbital science: Drone spins me right ’round

Get vertigo a go-go as this drone pilot goes spinning in infinity:

Orbital drone movements are the ones with power to convert two-dimensional images into dancing focal layers escaping out of the frame. We wanted to further explore the technique, with high altitude long orbits, along with ones very close to the ground, we call them “Orbital drone-lapses”. These shots are a mix of automatic and manual flights. 

“The shots were done using both automatic and manual flights over the Folegandros island in Greece,” notes PetaPixel.



Photography: The beautifully dramatic microstructures of “Chemical Garden II”

I see echoes of The Upside Down in these beautiful macro videos (and still images) showing chemical processes unfolding:

When a piece of metal salt is dropped in the solution of sodium silicate, a membrane of insoluble metal silicate is formed. Due to the osmotic pressure, water enters the membrane and breaks it, generating more insoluble membranes. This cycle repeats and the salt grows into all kinds of interesting forms. This film recorded the osmotic growth of 6 salts inside sodium silicate solution. The growth is so life-like, no wonder Stéphane Leduc thought it might have something to do with the mechanism life over 100 years ago.


[Vimeo 1 and 2]

Google researchers unveil better panorama stitching

Mike Krainin & Ce Liu go into detail about how optical flow techniques are helping Google Street View produce panoramas that are not only freer of artifacts, but easier for machines to read (producing a better understanding of business names, hours, etc.):

I wonder whether these techniques might be useful to pano-stitching in apps like Photoshop & Lightroom. I’ve passed the info their way.



Demo: Adobe XD looks slick & powerful

Adobe’s ambitious XD app has recently added a raft of new features, and here Khoi Vinh shows a compelling demo of instantly-updating artwork & on-device prototypes. (If for some reason the demo isn’t already queued to the right spot, jump to 8:21.)

A hardware glitch forced Khoi to (figuratively) tap dance during the first portion, and he offered a detailed peek behind the curtain, describing the demo team’s relentless pre-game preparation—and its limits. It’s so nice to see people really giving a damn.


Photography: Beautiful timelapse of Grand Canyon clouds

Happy Thursday.

On extremely rare days cold air is trapped in the canyon and topped by a layer of warm air, which in combination with moisture and condensation, form the phenomenon referred to as the full cloud inversion. In what resembles something between ocean waves and fast clouds, Grand Canyon is completely obscured by fog, making the visitors feel as if they are walking on clouds.


[Via Bryan Lamkin]

Cool Google Maps news: Mapping pollution, seeing restaurant wait times, and more


  • On Google search (and soon Maps) you can see wait times for nearly a million sit-down restaurants around the world. Search for the restaurant on Google, open the business listing, and scroll down to the Popular Times section. “You can even scroll left and right to see a summary of each day’s wait times below the hour bars–so you can plan ahead to beat the crowds.”
  • Google mapped air quality across California, with Street View cars spending 4,000 hours driving 100,000 miles in SF, LA, and the Central Valley. Check out the preliminary results.
  • Did you know that your timeline on Maps makes it easy to revisit the places you’ve been, filter by activity (e.g. horseback riding), and more?


Illustrator gets Puppet Warp

I was really pleased to incorporate this After Effects-originated technology into Photoshop years ago, and now that it’s gone through a couple more generations of refinement (thanks in part to Character Animator), I’m excited to see that it’s now in Illustrator:

With Puppet Warp, you can now transform your vector graphics while maintaining an organic and natural look. You can reposition a character’s limbs or reshape an object. Puppet Warp is not limited to just animate objects, though—it works great on lettering and icons as well.



At last, Illustrator adds a Properties panel

On today’s episode of Old Man Nack’s Software Woulda-Shoulda, I’d note the inordinate amount of time I spent lobbying fruitlessly for Illustrator & Photoshop to add properties panels of the sort you’d see in Macromedia apps—but who the hell cares, it’s here now:

The new Properties Panel shows you the controls you need, when you need them. It organizes all of your panels into one location so you can access them quickly and easily, resulting in a clean, clutter-free workspace.


3D: Meet Google Poly

“With Poly,” says Google AR/VR lead Clay Bavor, “our mission is to organize the world’s 3D information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

Poly lets you quickly find 3D objects and scenes for use in your apps, and it was built from the ground up with AR and VR development in mind. It’s fully integrated with Tilt Brush and Blocks, and it also allows direct OBJ file upload, so there’s lots to discover and use.

Check it out:  

You’re frequently allowed to modify the models in case they don’t quite fit your needs, and you can share them as GIFs or explore them in VR viewers.



A trio of interesting 360º cameras

Remember Instagram hyperlapses—or if you’re nerdier, stabilization app Luma (acquired by Instagram)? Creator Alex Karpenko is back with Rylo, a $499 360º camera that promises great built-in stabilization & innovative software features. PetaPixel notes,

The second feature is called Follow, and that lets you track action with just a single tap on the app. The software will then adjust the orientation of the camera and keep the action in the frame.

Next up is Points, a feature which controls the camera’s perspective. Tapping on specific points of interest, Rylo will produce a smooth shot that “connects each of your points.”


Meanwhile Motorola has introduced the $299 moto 360 camera, a small pop-on addition to its phones that promises “360° photos and 4K video with 3D sound.” The size, immediacy of the phone connection, & ability to switch to the device’s regular cameras on the fly look pretty appealing.


Not to be left out, GoPro is introducing the Fusion, a $699 (relative) behemoth:

Its six onboard cameras can capture VR and non-VR in 5.2K resolution, with 360-degree audio. It also has an OverCapture feature that “punches out” a regular image from a spherical photo and onboard stabilization features allow for smooth capture. The Fusion works with the GoPro app and the camera is waterproof up to 16 feet.


Game on!

[YouTube 1 & 2]