24 May 2008

Why nearby things whoosh by quickly you when you drive, but distant ones don't

Hi -

Tonight J-Fav is out of the house, so I am left to my own devices here as T-Fav sleeps. In an idle moment I decided to submit an answer to New Scientist's weekly question in their "The Last Word" column. This week's question is:

Driving along in the car the other day, my four-year-old son asked why things that were closer to us were moving faster than those further away. What should I tell him? (Milton Inverdale, London, UK)

Here's my response, which is the real techie answer for the parent plus a little experiment for the 4 year-old:

We can answer this question and provide a simple manual "demonstration" that might appeal to Milton's 4 year-old. The complicated-sounding answer is that the type of optical system used by our eyes causes us to perceive a particular object as "smaller" the more distant it is; this is called foreshortening. Foreshortening causes nearby objects to appear to sweep past our vision much more rapidly than distant ones because it implicitly converts the angles subtended by the things you're looking at into distances on your retina. Therefore, nearby objects whoosh past your vision almost instantly because they have a high angular velocity with respect to the vertex of your pupil - but distant objects appear to creep along because they have a low angular velocity.

If our eyes were designed differently, with so-called "orthoscopic imaging," it would operate on the lengths of objects rather than their angles. That is, as you drove along in your car, everything would appear to move at the same rate. However, unless your eyes were very large, you wouldn't be able to see very far around the direction you're looking at!

You can demonstrate these things by placing your hand on a newspaper. Make a "V" with your index and middle finger and sweep it along the text. Your hand is the car, and the V is your field of view. You can see that the text near your fingernails takes a long time to move from one finger to the text, while the text closer to your hand transits more rapidly. In contrast, extend your index and ring fingers in parallel. When you sweep those along, every line of text takes the same amount of time to move from one finger to the other.


ps Fun diversion: check out NaturalMotion Euphoria, software for game developers that incorporates physics and AI to simulate really natural-looking motion of game characters. This is a big deal because it can replace "keyframing," a hard-coded approach. Anyway, take a look.

21 May 2008

Tenori-on... release?

Jane on Game Girl Advance mentioned an April, 2008 release party for Tenori-on, a new tablet / drum machine / sequencer-like instrument designed by Toshi Iwai for Yamaha:

J-Fav, can I have ten of these, to go with the DS that Iwai-san signed at SIGGRAPH? Hmm, it looks like it's only sold in shops in the UK. Over 600 Pounds? Yikes!

I think it would be fun if you could play "go" on something like this, too.


19 May 2008

DoD money for bio-inspired urban "insects" - and...

The Department of Defense SBIR program is now accepting grant applications for the current cycle.

One of the solicitation items, A08-056, grants Army money for "Bio-Inspired Battlefield Environmental Situation Awareness." That is, human engineers haven't been able to design something as tiny and versatile as a hummingbird or dragonfly yet - and it would be a useful wartime tool to have something like that under our control: "PHASE 1: Develop a conceptual bioinspired navigation system for micro-air vehicle situation awareness in complex urban terrain. The Phase I report should discuss the environmental awareness challenges for such a system and detail a conceptual design for coping with those challenges."

Anyway, you can learn more about how to apply to this or typically 100s of other DoD requests here, like A08-078, "Detection and location of home made electro-optical booby traps."


ps And... A new sci-fi book, Daemon, has been getting great reviews for realistically mixing computer science, private equity, and... well, hey, one Amazon comment is: "Buy it. Read it. Give it to a friend. I actually slapped myself on the forehead twice reading this thing."

14 May 2008

Call for Abstracts: Stereoscopic Displays & Applications... 20th Anniversary!

3-D displays, stereoscopic movies, perceptual science, and Hollywood

January 2009 will mark the 20th Anniversary of the annual Stereoscopic Displays and Applications (SD&A) conference. Submit an abstract for presentation at the conference to be a significant contributor to this important event. SD&A 2009 will be held as part of the IS&T-SPIE 21st Annual Symposium on Electronic Imaging, 18-22 January 2009, San Jose Convention Center, San Jose, California, USA. This is widely considered to be the key conference for stereoscopic technologies, drawing researchers and industry representatives from around the world.

Topics include:
  • Stereoscopic display and stereoscopic capture (including 3-D movies)
  • Autostereoscopy (volumetric, holographic, and multiview / lenticular)
  • Multiscopic image processing & rendering
  • Applications: medical, military, and entertainment
  • ...and a really great demonstration session where you can see current advances in 3-D display - this usually includes the latest breakthroughs in autostereoscopic cellphone technology.

Abstract (500 words) Due Date: 16 June 2008

Final Summary (200 words) Due Date: 17 November 2008

Manuscript Due Date: 22 December 2008

Conference Dates: 19-21** January 2009 (est.)

If you are interested, please take a moment to visit the conference website, at http://www.stereoscopic.org/. See photos of the 2007 event here.


p.s. We regret that the session regarding gin culture may be replaced by advances in lenticular display.

09 May 2008

Going for it

Do it already!
Designer Alexandra von Feldmann's "Birth Clock" looks like a glass dome with a digital clock inside - turned off. When you smash the glass, though, the clock becomes active, and starts ticking upwards. "...it is designed to help you come to a decision when you're stuck at a specific point in life." See it here. (Found it via Godin's blog.)

From the Quantitative Trading Blog
Regarding stock pricing and earnings announcements.

Physically pixelized art
Devorah Sperber's work is now at Mass MoCA - her arrangements of (for example) spools of thread become recognizable works when viewed through simple optics. Here's a photo, and here's her exhibit at Mass MoCA.

International Dialects of English Archive
Hear clips of people from different states and countries reading specially-designed texts. Here's one from Massachusetts. Here's the top-level menu, from which you can listen to Saskatchewan, Maine ("downeast farmer"), and a guy from the Bronx born in 1940.

I just returned from a business trip to Saskatchewan, actually, which was really great - everyone I met was so friendly, amplified by many sentences ending with "for sure - you bet!". (I don't know, Jenn, could I have been sensitized by our watching clips like this?) Also, I managed to bring a Japanese geocaching travel bug from Waltham, Mass. to Regina, SK!

For Douglas Coupland Fans
In the NYTimes (2006).