Flipboard’s work on upscaling images

May 8th, 2015 § 1 comment § permalink

If you have ever rolled your eyes when a TV show or movie enhances a blurry image to bring out more details then you will certainly want to take a look at image scaling using deep convolutional neural networks that the engineers at Flipboard are working on.

The math is pretty dense but the article also has a great primer on the use of neural networks to create algorithms that learn how to reduce their own error rate.

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Ride in Mercedes’s F 015 Driverless Car

March 23rd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

One ride in a car like this and people will stop saying “but I like driving” when confronted with driverless cars.

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Continious Liquid 3D Printing

March 17th, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

Not only is this new printing technology anywhere from 25 to 100 times faster than current 3D Printing methods but the process manages to be simultaneously beautiful and grotesque. Like something H.R. Giger would dream up.

(Via Devour.com)

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Explore the world’s largest cave by both land and drone

March 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

Amazing footage overall but the drone footage is particularly amazing. Ten years ago it would have been simply impossible to get footage like this as there is no way you could fly a helicopter into this cave even if it is the world’s biggest. It’s a shame that drones are synonymous with CIA assassinations and efficient delivery of materialism as they can be used to create some amazing art as well.

(Source and Title via devour.com)

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Box from Bot & Dolly

March 2nd, 2015 § 2 comments § permalink

This incredible art installation was created using a couple of industrial robots, high quality projectors and very clever 3D modeling. What is perhaps more interesting is what they did not use however. There is no green screen and no special effects were added after it was filmed; it was captured entirely in camera. The creators would prefer that people see it in person but in the interest of allowing a greater number of people to experience their art they created this short film.

From the video description:

Box explores the synthesis of real and digital space through projection-mapping on moving surfaces. The short film documents a live performance, captured entirely in camera.

If you were as intrigued by this as me then you should certainly check out the behind-the-scenes video where they show off some of the technology they used.

The modeling software, Maya, even allowed them to control the movement of the robots that control the canvases. Like tool paths in a CNC milling machine but instead of milling aluminum they are creating art.

(via Alexis Madrigal’s excellent Real Future newsletter)

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Video Games and Companion Apps

February 26th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

I ran across some interesting news over at Polygon about a recent update to the Destiny companion app. I don’t own a console that can play Destiny so I can’t testify to the usefulness of this particular App but there are a couple of games that I’m playing where I’ve often wished for something just like this.

Borderlands 2

I’ve logged almost 140 hours since I first discovered this game last year and there are many things I really love about the game. It certainly did not win “Game of the year” for its inventory management though. I played the game on my Mac and every time I pulled up the inventory menu I felt like I was trapped in a UI hampered by its need to work for console controllers and crowded out by pointless eye candy. Going through my loot and figuring out what I wanted to keep and what I wanted to sell was a chore that ate into my quite limited game time (father of two over here). An app that would allow me to evaluate the quality of the various items in my inventory and flag them as sell or keep would allow me to take care of such chores while I’m in line at the deli. Who knows, it might even have a superior user interface though I wouldn’t hold my breath when it comes to game developers.1

Dragon Quest: Origins

I’m only 20 hours into this game and I’m not sure how much longer I will go but I feel this game would benefit even more from a companion app. Not only is the inventory manager even worse than the one in Borderlands 2, no small feat to be sure, but the game has a deep well of written material that not only provides background but can help you complete missions. It also seems as if reading the material can change the gameplay in subtle ways. Having to load up a full 3D gaming engine just to spend 20 minutes reading text seems pretty silly to me. It’s actually one of the things holding me back from playing the game more and it’s a real shame because I want to encourage game developers to add more back story and dynamic plot lines where the choices you make have consequences but I don’t really want to have my CPU fan cranked up full blast just to read about the characters in my game.

Wii U GamePad

The Wii U GamePad controller has its own screen that can display different content from what’s on the TV. While I don’t own one I’m very intrigued by the gameplay options that having a second screen can open up. Whether it be something simple like cleaning up the in-game HUD by moving less critical elements to the second screen or something more complex like displaying information that can be seen by one player but not others using the same TV. It could be anything from a map in a first person shooter to more complex dungeon master details you might find in a D&D type game.

Beyond the controller

It’s a great idea but it’s not one that necessarily requires an expensive controller. At this point most gamers have, sitting in their pockets, a fantastic, high-resolution screen with more processing power than a dumpster full of Wii U Gamepads. Games could take advantage of notifications both on and offline. Perhaps your phone will buzz when you pass by a hidden treasure or you could get notified when a certain friend starts playing. There could be time locked instances that open up at different times for different players and you must have the app setup to find out about them. There might even be mini games or plot lines that could be accessed to further your progress in the game.

Obviously there are a slew of other use cases, some good, some bad, as I’m just scratching the surface of what can be done. When the iPhone was first released in 2007 there would not be an App store until the iPhone 3G was released the following year. To many it was clear, even before the app store, that the multi-touch all screen phone was going to usher in a slew of new applications but it was very hard to imagine the possibilities that lay beyond the limited number of services that our dumb phones provided. To me it seems like we are in the same place with companion apps for games. There is the potential to completely transform how we play games it’s just hard to see what the possibilities are in 2015.

  1. If we wanted to take this one step further the App could even have more access to information than the game. Players of the game will know that certain weapons have “mystery” stats that can be figured out through either trial and error or a google search. Once I figured out that wiki has all of the weapons and their stats laid out I would often find myself using my phone while playing the game to look up gun stats like this as it would determine whether I would keep the weapon. If this information was baked into the companion app it would encourage more adoption of the app and ultimately more engagement with the game. []
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Apple Car or Apple Street View?

February 13th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

An Apple rumor tornado tour through the tech press a couple weeks ago when a camera laden minivan spotted driving around Silicon Valley was determined to be registered in the company’s name. This tornado sucked up all kinds of stupid ideas one of which was the theory that Apple was secretly designing its own electric car to compete with Tesla. The Internet loves to assume that Apple is going to jump into totally unfamiliar product categories and I assumed that the much more tame, if boring, explanation was that Apple is actually trying to collect their own Street View data; it’s one area where their Maps App remains woefully inadequate in comparison to Google’s.

Fast forward two weeks and the Wall Street Journal is claiming that Apple is indeed working on an electric car and when it comes to the Journal and Apple leaks it’s a good idea to listen.

Apple has several hundred employees working secretly toward creating an Apple-branded electric vehicle, according to people familiar with the matter. They said the project, code-named “Titan,” has an initial design of a vehicle that resembles a minivan, one of these people said.

Couple this with the news that Apple has hired the former president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz Research & Development, Johann Jungwirth, and these crazy ideas are starting to sound a little less crazy.

(via Jordan Kahn at 9to5Mac)

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Porsche 918 Spyder Assembly Line on Devour.com

January 16th, 2015 § 0 comments § permalink

No music. No interviews. No narration. Just pure assembly line porn.

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Docker and the search for the Holy Grail

December 9th, 2014 § 0 comments § permalink

Ben Thompson has an interesting article about the open source project Docker.

The implications of this are far-reaching: not only do containers make it easier to manage the lifecycle of an application, they also (theoretically) commoditize cloud services through the age-old hope of “write once run anywhere.” More importantly, at least for now, docker containers offer the potential of being far more efficient than virtual machines.

I’ve always considered “write once run anywhere” to be the holy grail of software development. Yeah, it would be pretty awesome to live forever, the only problem is that it’s a myth. There is something different about Docker though that I can’t quite put my finger on. Perhaps it’s the use of one my favorite inventions of the 20th century, the shipping container.

It doesn’t matter what is inside of a shipping container; the container itself will fit on any ship, truck, or crane in the world. Similarly, it doesn’t matter what app (and associated files, frameworks, dependencies, etc.) is inside of a docker container; the container will run on any Linux distribution and, more importantly, just about every cloud provider including AWS, Azure, Google Apps, Rackspace, etc.

I also like the logo.

But perhaps it’s the business model that intrigues me the most .

Docker takes the GitHub model a step further: the company controls everything from the open source project itself to the value-added software (DockerHub) built on top of that, and, just last week, announced a monetization model that is very similar to GitHub’s enterprise offering. Presuming Docker continues its present momentum and finds success with this enterprise offering, they have the potential to be a fully integrated open source software company: project, value-added software, and monetization all rolled into one.

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The Next Space Race

December 2nd, 2014 § 2 comments § permalink

I have very high hopes for humanity and look forward to witnessing the steady march of progress on everything from racism and gender equality to health care and economic opportunities. While these advances are of the utmost importance to our individual day-to-day lives the call of the stars holds a special place in my heart. I’ve long been a sucker for Science Fiction and the nerd in me really hopes that I will bear witness to the next space race.

This is why I’m so bullish on private companies like SpaceX and Planetary Resources taking up the mantel of near earth exploration. If we can find direct ways to profit from traveling outside of our atmosphere not only will the rate of innovation be vastly as increased, but so to will the imagination of those still bound to this pale blue dot.

Do not expect organizations like NASA and the ESA to be marginalized however. Unshackled from the burden of launching satellites and supplying the space station I expect those organizations to continue to take humanity to places that private companies can only dream. Space Agencies are able to look beyond a fiduciary responsibility to stockholders and focus on exploration and the advancement of science for the betterment of humanity. A race to the stars fueled by a symbiotic relationship between private and public entities sounds like a pretty potent cocktail.

After all if the history of human civilization is to span more than a few millennia surely it must take root beyond this precious and fragile world that gave us life. I just hope I live to see it.

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