Friday, February 19, 2010

MIT scientists developing giant, hovering 3-D Animations

Remember the amazing human pixel performances at the Chinese Olympics? I was stunned at the beauty of thousands of people acting as one giant moving picture. Now, scientists at MIT are working on floating displays made up of individual controllable flying robots, each with adjustable colored lights.

I do hope these don't catch on as advertising, however. Can you imagine being accosted by a hovering, glowing face made up of artificial gnats nagging you to shop at Wal Mart or get your oil changed at Jiffy Lube? Greaaat.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

TEDx USC: Juan Enriquez

The folks in the TEDx booth fixed the audio glitch and played this TED 2009 video again. Ahh, much better.

It's a rare public speaker who can take an otherwise depressing topic (the collapse of Wall Street and the U.S. economy) and make it both humorous and hopeful.

I had no idea how far advanced organ regrowth technology has come, nor that Boston Dynamics (whom I've been following since the early 90s since hearing about them via Alan Alda on Scientific American Frontiers) now has a free-standing quadraped robot that walks freakishly close to a real animal. Wow!

Now if we can all get affordable health care and free robotic assistants, the future looks brighter indeed!

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

TEDx USC: Aimee Mullins on being "Superabled"

Reframing your situation can lead to opportunities and powers you never imagined. No legs? Build them. But why build them to be ordinary? They can jump higher, run faster, be beautiful sculpture, make you taller, shorter...

Great speech shown at TEDx by Aimee Mullin about not letting society's biases stop you.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Video Editor from the Future!

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Tablet Mac Now Available!

Are you an illustrator, photographer, animator, or DJ? This might be the Macbook for you. No, it's not sold by Apple, but it's licensed by them and is essentially a Macbook Pro made of stronger magnesium vs. aluminum, merged with a very strong 13" glass screen covering a Wacom® tablet. Unlike the Macbook Air, it has your choice of CDROM or Superdrive, and unlike the Wacom® Cintiq line of portable tablet screens, you don't need a Macbook or Mac Mini standing by with a cable.

Of course you writers and accountants can hook up keyboards to its USB port if you really want.

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posted by Brian at 11:30 PM 1 comments links to this post

Monday, March 03, 2008

Nanotechnology + Consumer Electronics = Magic

Nokia's R & D group seems to be interested in developing super-cool, shape-shifting consumer electronic devices.

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Monday, January 21, 2008

Simon & The Land of Chalk Drawings, Made Real!

Ok, maybe not chalk, but can you imagine a Physics class taught this way? Or any other kind of class, with the right software.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Cintiq 12WX Portable Pen Screen by Wacom

Oh my, how lovely! Although I don't draw very much at all, if I did I would certainly want the Cintiq 12WX, the smaller, less expensive sibling of Wacom's larger non-portable pen-sensitive screens, and cousin to their popular Intuos and Bamboo lines of pen tablets.

Wacom tablets are obviously designed for artists and photographers, but other uses include sound design and interactive lighting control. Interestingly, each pad is capable of tracking two pens although no software utilizes that feature yet.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Irwin Music: Drummer Brings Performance back to Electronic Music

Ableton Live and Irwin at SAE Institute of Music Los Angeles

I really enjoy live music and computer music, but a large portion of the "concerts" I've been to with both involve a bunch of people sitting down, not facing the audience, appearing to twiddle a few knobs. Yeah, the idea is probably to get lost in the sound (and/or the effects of drugs, if you're into that), and geek out at all the cool toys. And sure, there might be a cool projected screensaver going on in the background (possibly being performed by a VJ) but come on, don't you enjoy seeing people playing instruments?

A few months ago I went to an Ableton Live User's Group meeting in Hollywood, and was excitedly surprised to see the above performance. Of course a video can't really capture the energy of the room, but it gives you a good idea. (If you look very closely you can see fuzzy me in the audience).

Irwin is using some Roland V-Drums (professional versions of the electronic drums I blogged about earlier), a drum trigger pad, a theremin, a special box that converts the theremin's continuous tone into discrete MIDI events, and an Apple Black Macbook running Ableton Live. Things get very hectic on his second set -- he's playing high speed drum n' bass music LIVE. Nice!

There's just something about banging physical objects that beats knob-twiddling or fader-sliding any day.

If you're in Los Angeles and interested in making electronic music, check out the next Ableton Live User Group meeting on January 31st, 8 PM @ SAE on 6565 Sunset Blvd, Hollywood.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

Finally! A Futuristic Vehicle For Sale (soon)

The Aptera Typ-1 is the protoype of a three-wheel electric motorcycle-class vehicle being offered for sale in California at the end of this year. It will be offered as either a purely electric vehicle chargeable overnight by a standard electrical outlet and good for 120 miles (less than typical commute), or as a gasoline hybrid-electric capable of 300 mpg. Yes, 300 mpg, not the lousy 35mpg our government wants the auto industry to, uh, strive for in the next 10 years. (Hmm, doesn't the Toyota Yaris already get 35mpg? Way to set your goals high there, EPA.) Granted, this is not technically a car but just look at this baby! Panaramic view. Cage made of material 10 times stronger than steel. Video cameras instead of a rear-view mirror. Enough room for three people, groceries or golf clubs if you're so inclined. Your choice of white. Bragging rights and gawkers for years to come.

For a mere $500 you can reserve one. The final cost will put it up there somewhere with a Prius (around $26-30k).

At last! We can soon buy a vehicle that looks like what EPCOT and other science museum exhibits predicted cars might look like back in the 80s. This is the iPod of vehicles.

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posted by Brian at 11:53 AM 3 comments links to this post

Monday, December 03, 2007

KÀ in Las Vegas: Videogame as Theatre?

I just got back from Vegas this weekend, my first time there. Naturally I'd heard all about some amazing Cirque du Soleil shows there, like "O", "Mystere", and "Zumanity," but when I got there, my native Las Vegan friends told me they loved a newer show called "KĄ".

Well, they couldn't have picked a better show for me to see.

Imagine if you will a multi-story tall auditorium stage that appears to have no bottom, out of which a myriad of theatrical environments emerge. A ship atop a stormy sea. A sandy beach. A monstrously high cliff. A wall for shadow puppets. Battlefields. A forest. Or, during the pre-show, intermittent bursts of flame. To the left and right are illuminated copper cage towers. Think H.G. Wells meets Ewok tree condos on Endor.

Of course there are the Cirque trademarks -- dancers, acrobats, twirlers, and people flying through the air. (If you have not seen a Cirque show, go rent Mystere, Quidam, or Dralion and come back. Or better yet, go see Varekai or whatever tour is out there now live) There is the fantastic music. Though in KÀ, the music is blended with extravagant sound effects, playing through speakers in everyone's seats. But this is the first of their Vegas shows to have a plot*, albeit a relatively simple one. Two twins are kidnapped and must be rescued across varied landscapes full of strange creatures and peoples.

Hmm. Sound videogame-esque? We'll touch on that shortly.

Unbeknownst to me while I was watching it, the Cirque du Soleil troupe brought in two of my theatrical heroes, Robert Le Page and Michael Curry to work on it, as director and puppet fabricator respectively. I wrote a review of Robert's amazing earlier work "The Far Side of the Moon" back in 2001 and got to talk with him a little about how he was experimenting with moving set technology and puppets. Of course, Michael Curry is the genius behind the Lion King Musical puppets, masks, and its morphing cliff stage.

The fusion of all these talents adds up to an unbelievable, jaw-dropping, almost indescribable experience. However, I think I've stumbled upon the right analogy here, although please don't assume I mean to undermine its theatricality in any way: KÀ is part live-action, ultra-high production value videogame sequence, part Cirque du soleil show, part martial arts.

To make my point, here is the state-of-the-art in camera-oriented videogames Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii™:

Now picture something along these lines, right in front of you, live with human beings, scaled to the size of a good-sized hotel. (Ok, not a giant orb spinning but I wouldn't put it past these guys to do something like that next time.) A giant spinning rectangular plane. Two, actually, both acting as stages so capable of transforming they might as well be virtual.

In a sense, KÀ really is part videogame with its use of real-time, tracked projected animations. The larger of the two stages in KÀ is not limited to physical texture, thanks to a clever use of computer vision and projection techniques. It becomes a cliff, or the dark sea with bubbles following a diving actor. Through the combination of this and flying rigs, the stage becomes more like the eye of the camera, with moves previously reserved for Film and now videogames.

Will this make good theatre? Or just another technological exercise like the motion captured, virtual camera move-fests of recent Zemeckis films like The Polar Express and Beowulf? We will see.

Coming soon, I'll try to go into more detail about how this technology works and how it will change live theatre.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Is Your Neighborhood Walkable?

Here's a neat website where you can find out whether your current neighborhood or one you're thinking of moving to is a good place for walking. Interestingly, my previous apartment in San Francisco is ranked 97. My current place is 91, which isn't bad for L.A. My parents house in Texas is a mere 27, because although the neighborhood itself is very lovely to walk around, there are no reachable businesses or restaurants nearby.

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posted by Brian at 6:03 PM 0 comments links to this post

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Medieval Helpdesk Session

A monk learns how to use the new-fangled text storage technology, the "book" that is making his earlier parchment scroll obsolete.

From BoingBoing

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Thoughts on Television

Isn't it funny that while regular Analog TVs are being forcefully phased out in the United States (by industry-paid-for government mandates) to make way for high resolution giant screen Digital Televisions, the largest demographic of content watchers in our country is NOT watching the major TV networks or cable; it's watching YouTube videos with a picture worse than a 1970s TV?

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posted by Brian at 10:12 AM 0 comments links to this post

Monday, October 25, 2004

HBO vs. Consumers

HBO has decided to take copyright law into its own hands by locking its content and allowing only one copy to be made of its programs.

Problem is, let's say you have a Tivo. That counts as one copy. Now you want to archive it. Nope. If your DVD recorder or computer complies (as it will soon be required to), you won't be able to.

Now they justify this on their website by saying "You have no need to time shift (i.e. use Tivo) because we provide our OWN tivo-like functionality with our premium (i.e. more expensive) on-demand satellite content, and therefore we comply with the law."

Oh come on, HBO. We, the consumers, can choose to buy Tivo. Why are you entitled by Law to force on us your own proprietary system of Tivo-like functionality? This is akin to Microsoft preventing people from using different browsers.

Actually, the answer is that the Law makes an exception for non-broadcast content (it lets them do whatever rights management they want). That means, Tivo-ing your cable/satellite content may be severely restricted in the near Future.

Lovely. Who wrote this part of the Law, I wonder?

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posted by Brian at 6:55 PM 0 comments links to this post