Four short links: 6 Mar 2009

Eye candy, kid brain candy, game code, and some hero worship. If that’s a smooth segue to your weekend, you’ve got a heck of life!

  1. GE’s awesome Flash/Computer Vision hack. Has to be seen to be believed (I’ve embedded the demo video below). (via, via Roger Magoulas)
  2. Eduwear“The objective is to develop an educational low-cost construction kit for wearable and tangible interfaces.”
  3. GameJS — A 2D flexible game programming environment in JavaScript, based on Microsoft’s XNA Game Network. (via Tom Carden’s delicious stream)
  4. Brewster Kahle in The Economist — he’s a saint, behind The Internet Archive, WAIS (the first full-text index engine on the web), and The Internet Bookmobile which was doing print-on-demand before it was mainstream. Brewster FTW!
  • Alex Tolley

    RE: GE’s awesome Flash/Computer Vision hack.

    Clever hack, but what is the purpose of this. This seems as far from “stuff that matters” as I can think of. Great eye candy, but that is all.

  • Seems to be an application of FLARToolKit – the 3D sensing part of the hack is open source.

  • Blazej Wieliczko

    Alex, it’s not eye candy, this can be the future of user interface.

  • You hosers. (earlier commenters).

    No… you’re all wrong. It’s a lot simpler than that:

    The FLARToolKit represents an incremental step on a Moore’s law explosion in means of expression and conceptualization available to individuals. Some concepts are easier to explain by holding up a 3d model, pointing to aspects of it, and giving it to the audience to turn over in their hands and think about it. And it’s getting cheaper.

    O’Reilly likes to stake out territory in short-hand names for vague trends. We could dub this thing “New literacy” – new means of appreciation and reading, incrementally but significantly democratized.

    GE is, in that sense, simply boasting that they employ some early scribes.


  • The GE thing is brilliant in that it caused me to print out a piece of paper with their logo on it, which is now laying around my desk. Any time I want to show someone else the eye candy, they see the GE branding. It’s both a great piece of eye candy and a great viral marketing move.

    @jknauer on Twitter.

  • Alex Tolley

    I still don’t get why this is so useful. If you want to have users control a 3D model of anything, we’ve had that for a long time with several different technologies. Remote control via the web? – still been done.

    What is so great about the system recognizing the pattern on the paper and responding to its orientation as a medium? What advantages does it confer over controls on the screen, e.g. Google Earth controls?

  • Alex:

    You asked “What advantages does it confer…”

    Two things are going on.

    First, the user interface for consumers of such 3d models is about as good as any could possibly be with today’s commodity tech. It takes about 3 seconds of training to use and the gestures the user has to make to move the model around in space are not only obvious and intuitive – they’re natural. It’s a direct mapping of spacial gestures to spacial interpretation. Darn near anyone can use that UI right off the bat with very little explanation and it’s hard for any other UI to be more useful.

    Second, this thing helps lower the barrier to publication for would-be authors of simple 3d models. For a “new literacy” you need authoring technologies, and publication technologies, and consumption tech. This little hack has the consumption part nailed – perfectish UI. It demonstrates publication as a very reducible problem – you can imagine browsers having this hack built-in client-side on sufficiently beefy machines and, anyway, a pretty simple, generic server can do it over the net (as GE has demonstrated). There’s no advance here in authoring tools other than (and this isn’t to be overlooked) an increased level of excuses to work on widely accessible 3d-model authoring tools.

    You can see a similar pattern with YouTube et al. (but, honestly, mainly thanks to YouTube in whom I have no commercial interest). Publication of video with a pretty decent (albeit quite basic) UI got much, much cheaper. Video started to become a newly more democratized means of public-square expression. Authoring tools for video lagged very badly at first and are now scrambling and making great strides. A new form of literacy is born.

    The “wish I thought of it” spirit of the video presentation is a different thing: that’s just about the forehead slap of realization that the field of computer vision/image-recognition has spun off a lot of low-hanging fruit cool hacks like this one. Well, yeah. People would be amazed at how much low-hanging but ultimately very winning fruit is out there, spun off from mainstream R&D — stuff “too simple minded” for most academics and yet still “wrong horizon” for the financiers. It’s nice when some hack like this slips through into some semblance of mainstream.


  • Falafulu Fisi

    A very cool local company here in New Zealand, Compac Sorting, have developed state-of-the-art industrial computer-vision-based equipments for automated sorting of fruits, using an array of fast processing digital cameras.

  • eld maschi

    Raivo Pommer

    Deutschland in der Krise

    Es brennt an allen Ecken. Längst sind es nicht mehr nur die Banken und Autohersteller, die in Schwierigkeiten sind. Es hat die ganze deutsche Wirtschaft erwischt und mit ihr den Kern unseres Erfolgs: den Export. Schon rechnet die Ausfuhrwirtschaft mit dem schlimmsten Jahr in der deutschen Geschichte. Die Krise trifft nicht nur einzelne Länder. Sie verändert das gesamte Gefüge der miteinander verwobenen Weltwirtschaft. Die liebgewordene Rollenaufteilung unter den Staaten funktioniert nicht mehr. Und eine neue ist nicht in Sicht.

    Jahrelang war es gutgegangen. Die Welt hatte mit gewaltigen Ungleichgewichten gelebt. Es hat Staaten gegeben wie Deutschland. Die wirtschafteten sehr sparsam und verkauften für mehr Geld Maschinen, Autos und Anlagen ins Ausland, als sie Fernseher, Nahrungsmittel und Öl einführten. Der Export war größer als der Import. “Leistungsbilanzüberschuss” nennen das die Fachleute.

  • Alex Tolley

    My german is a bit rusty, but that last comment seems to be posted in the wrong blog.

    Thomas, thank you for your expanded view on the value of this technology. It just feels very similar to the VR excitement in the mid 1990’s, a technology that has its uses, but never became consumer mainstream. If the trick is more about the use of paper as an orientation device, then I can see that it has some benefits over a Wii-like device in terms of cost and ubiquity, but otherwise?

    Call me still skeptical, or just very blinkered, on this one.