Monthly Archives: December 2018

Treat yourself to “Everything Is Alive”

The Nack fam is in the midst of a somewhat fraught roadtrip (busted Westfalia, freezing temperatures, etc.)—hence the light blogging—but this reminds me to recommend the brilliant podcast “Everything Is Alive.” This description doesn’t do it justice…

Everything is Alive is an unscripted interview show in which all the subjects are inanimate objects. In each episode, a different thing tells us its life story–and everything it says is true.

 …so please just trust me & try an episode (e.g. Louis the soda can or Sean the subway seat). Our kids are enthralled, as are we, and we end up learning a bunch of random facts (from radioactive beverages to ghost-attracting soda to Ukrainian rejection pumpkins) that are now firm parts of family banter.



Restored footage shows 19th century Parisian street life in motion

I find this kind of thing endlessly, eerily fascinating:

A collection of high quality remastered prints from the dawn of film taken in Belle Époque-era Paris, France from 1896-1900.  Slowed down footage to a natural rate and added in sound for ambiance.  These films were taken by the Lumière company.

0:08 – Notre-Dame Cathedral (1896)
0:58 – Alma Bridge (1900)
1:37 – Avenue des Champs-Élysées (1899)
2:33 – Place de la Concorde (1897)
3:24 – Passing of a fire brigade (1897)
3:58 – Tuileries Garden (1896)
4:48 – Moving walkway at the Paris Exposition (1900)
5:24 – The Eiffel Tower from the Rives de la Seine à Paris (1897)

If that’s up your horse-trodden alley, check out a similar piece from NYC that I posted earlier in the year:

[YouTube 1 & 2]

Google Photos raises album limit up to 20,000 pictures and videos

Here’s a nice little gift for my fellow shutter-happy parents (of human and/or furry children): You can now include up to 20,000 images (up from the previous limit of 10,000) in a live album (i.e. one that automatically includes pics/vids of selected people & pets.

This is a timely godsend for my family, as my brother & I just gave our folks a Google Home Hub for Christmas, set up to automatically show photos of our kids. Between our families we quickly swamped the 10k limit, so this headroom is very timely. Thanks, team!

The visual history of Blue Note Records

Here’s hoping you get a little downtime to chill this week, all the better to check out bits of graphic design history like this tour from Vox:

When asked to visualize what jazz looks like, you might picture bold typography, two tone photography, and minimal graphic design. If you did, you’re recalling the work of a jazz label that single-handedly defined the “look” of jazz music in the 1950s and1960s: Blue Note.

Inspired by the ever present Swiss lettering style that defined 20th century graphic design (think Paul Rand), Blue Note captured the refined sophistication of jazz during the early 60s, particularly during the hard bop era, and gave it a definitive visual identity through album covers.

[YouTube] [Via Stefan Bucher]

AR & AI help blind users navigate space & perceive emotions

I love assistive superpowers like this work from Caltech:

VR Scout shares numerous details:

[T]he team used the Microsoft HoloLens’s capability to create a digital mesh over a “scene” of the real-world. Using unique software called Cognitive Augmented Reality Assistant (CARA), they were able to convert information into audio messages, giving each object a “voice” that you would hear while wearing the headset. […]

If the object is at the left, the voice will come from the left side of the AR headset, while any object on the right will speak out to you from the right side of the headset. The pitch of the voice will change depending on how far you are from the object.


Meanwhile Huawei is using AI to help visually impaired users “hear” facial expressions:

Facing Emotions taps the Mate 20 Pro’s back cameras to scan the faces of conversation partners, identifying facial features like eyes, nose, brows, and mouth, and their positions in relation to each other. An offline, on-device machine learning algorithm interprets the detected emotions as sounds, which the app plays on the handset’s loudspeaker.


[YouTube] [Via Helen Papagiannis]

Google & MIT researchers create 3D sculptures from human motion

Around here there’s carpentry & there’s alchemy. I do the former; these folks, on the other hand…

Given an input video, the system first automatically detects 2-D key points on the subject’s body, such as the hip, knee, and ankle of a ballerina while she’s doing a complex dance sequence. Then, it takes the best possible poses from those points to be turned into 3-D “skeletons.”

After stitching these skeletons together, the system generates a motion sculpture that can be 3-D-printed, showing the smooth, continuous path of movement traced out by the subject. Users can customize their figures to focus on different body parts, assign different materials to distinguish among parts, and even customize lighting.




Watch Pixar’s “Bao,” now on YouTube

Bao chicka BAO bao!

This short film was easily my favorite thing about The Incredibles 2 (ahead of which it ran), and Pixar is now sharing it freely on YouTube. Dig in!

In Bao, an aging Chinese mom suffering from empty nest syndrome gets another chance at motherhood when one of her dumplings springs to life as a lively, giggly dumpling boy.

Mom excitedly welcomes this new bundle of joy into her life, but Dumpling starts growing up fast, and Mom must come to the bittersweet revelation that nothing stays cute and small forever.

This short film from Pixar Animation Studios and director Domee Shi explores the ups and downs of the parent-child relationship through the colorful, rich, and tasty lens of the Chinese immigrant community in Canada.



Nice improvements to Google Lens for iOS

My team makes tech that Lens uses to do things like track text in the screenshot below, so I’m pleased that Google Lens is getting integrated into Google search on iOS and upgraded in Google Photos:

It’s easier than ever to do more with your photos with a new, redesigned Google Lens experience on Android and iOS–now available in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Korean.



Want more friends? Build a clone army in PicsArt.

Heh—kinda fun & interesting:

This new camera feature, dubbed “Live Stickers,” allows users to produce multiple animated stickers of themselves or friends, and place them in “live” environments before sharing them with the world through social media platforms.

Is it useful? I’m not sure, but I’d welcome your thoughts. You can grab the app for iOS and take it for a spin.


[YouTube] [Via]

50 years ago today: “The Mother Of All Demos”

I’ve been hearing about this seminal presentation for ages, but until now I’d never actually seen it. It’s well worth a look at what must’ve been a jaw-dropping peek into so many breakthroughs that remain central to our lives today:

On December 9, 1968, Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart and the Augmentation Research Center (ARC) at Stanford Research Institute staged a 90-minute public multimedia demonstration… [F]or the first time, the public saw a computer mouse, which controlled a networked computer system to demonstrate hypertext linking, real-time text editing, multiple windows with flexible view control, cathode display tubes, and shared-screen teleconferencing. The 1968 demo presaged many of the technologies we use today, from personal computing to social networking.

[YouTube] [Via Peyman Milanfar]

Tutorial: The benefits of shooting 10-bit color

Illuminating stuff as always from Stewart & Drone Film Guide:

Of course, I’m reminded that before I even bother with this stuff, I need to move myself off the absolutely shite color tools in iMovie and onto… what, exactly? As I mentioned the other day, the new Adobe Rush’s tools are really anemic; learning Premiere Pro seems like no joke; and I don’t care to pay for Final Cut. Hmm—to be continued.



A 360º view from inside Chuck Yeager’s cockpit

History? Check.
Photography? Check.
Aerospace? Check.

I am there for this:

Smithsonian notes:

  • The distinct H-shaped yoke determined both roll and pitch. Airspeed was controlled by the number of rocket chambers—up to four—fired by the silver thumb-switch to the left of the yoke; there was no throttle.
  • The Mach indicator above goes to Mach 1.5; it was most likely installed after Yeager’s first transonic flight. It’s flanked by a conventional altimeter and airspeed indicator. The fastest Glamorous Glennis ever flew was Mach 1.45.
  • Yeager signed his name in the cockpit of Glamorous Glennis on many occasions over the decades. (He piloted 33 of the aircraft’s 78 career test flights, including its last, on May 12, 1950.) Can you find all his signatures?

[Via Bryan O’Neil Hughes]

Summon the Bots: “Waymo One,” for hailing self-driving cars, has arrived

Hola, future: Google’s (okay, Alphabet’s) self-driving unit Waymo has introduced Waymo One, an Uber-like service for requesting self-driving cars, in the Phoenix area. The intro vid about building “the world’s most experienced driver” is charming…

…but I’m more intrigued by some of the design & technical details touched on in this vid that celebrates Waymo’s 10,000,000th self-driving mile. (And side note: my team is now collaborating with these folks, so I hope to share other fascinating details down the line.)



Droning from a *van* down by the *river*

Just a quick bit of flying Thanksgiving weekend near Pismo Beach. A few thoughts:

  • Color grading in iMovie is for the birds, but somehow it’s no better in Adobe Rush (which lacks an Auto button (!), much less key framing), and learning Premiere Pro always seems like too big a hill to climb.
  • I likewise find it hard to cut on the beats—a problem compounded when I share the output to YouTube and Facebook (where, I swear to God, somehow the audio & video get differently out of sync).
  • I’ve gotta learn how to avoid (or later compensate for) the gross propeller shadows that appear in a few shots here.
  • No, the soundtrack doesn’t really fit (an assessment my 9-year-old Henry cheerfully volunteered 🙄), but, eh, I found the juxtaposition oddly fun. YMMV.