09 December 2012

(Age 3-6) Holiday gift recommendations, 2012 edition–STEM

Our children are now 4 and 6. For reasons I’m not sure of (though I’m delighted by it!), some of our friends seek us out for holiday gift recommendations. Here are things that have really kept our family’s attention over the years, rather than gather dust.

(For 2-3 year olds: my blog post here.)

For 3 + 6 year olds:

These gifts probably resonate with kids are intrigued by projects, fiction, making / trying / imagining, etc. We only have the most basic sports-stuff, so I really don’t feel qualified to make any recommendations there. But our bicycles and soccer ball and hockey-things do get a lot of use too.

Reconfigurable marble rolling tracks
The most popular playtime activity during visits to the grandparents’ is getting out the big box of Imaginarium Marble Race Deluxe. Sure, some pieces are a little bendy the wrong way, and when you want to build exactly what’s pictured, you need to follow the directions carefully. But it’s super fun. Note: at least one Amazon reviewer prefers this competitor’s toy instead.

Setting up a kid project area, and making STUFF
Turn off the TV and make PVC marshmallow shooters or a terrarium with Howtoons: The Possibilities are Endless, a comic book about a brother-sister inventor duo by MIT alumni.

Any Bruder tonka-like trucks.

Reconfigurable well-made wooden toys. They have a hint of a snooty “heirloom” edge, and they’re pricey, but they’ve kept our interest for several years. The regular-sized ones.

Imaginative Play
The Fisher-Price Imaginext toys generate hours of pretend play. Big, durable, plastic, fun.

During the year, we visit hardware stores, electronics shops, Radio Shack, and MIT flea markets for stuff to tear apart or build from scratch. If you’re keen on that, why not get your kids a small project-box or toolkit, and pledge to build a few things with them in the new year?

Science kits in a box
In general, these are awful. Even when I go to high-end toy stores, the boxes of kits like “light!” or “electronics!” often disappoint. Fortunately they’re cheap enough that you don’t have much regret. For instance, this kit from Ein-O Science on light had enough stuff to make a very simple periscope but I don’t recommend it as more than a stocking stuffer.

We did have fun with the enduringly popular snap-together electronics set from Elenco: Snap Circuits. But, these are not ways to actually learn about electronics theory. For that, your kids either need to do projects from a Radio Shack book by Forrest Mims III, or take a ham radio test after reading an ARRL book, or something like that.

We haven’t gotten into robots yet. Families with big budgets and some pre-existing programming or electronics know-how consistently report enjoying stuff like Lego Mindstorms (really $$) or things hacked together with Arduino (but if you’re the right audience for that you probably already know about it).

Two (fiction) series our kids love
1: Jenny Linsky (an adventurous cat, books from decades ago)
2: Ivy & Bean

Checkers or Chess
In particular, this chess set – Quick Chess - has a neat “placemat” with cartoons showing legal piece movements.

A decently high-end magic set
I can’t find it online tonight, but good ones do exist, with instructional DVDs.

Plenty of art supplies
…and a dedicated “art table,” desk, right-sized chairs, little storage bins, etc.

USB Microscope
I’m cheating here because we don’t own one yet, but several friends have said this is one of the best gifts ever. Rather than peering into an eyepiece, today you can look at the computer screen to see life in a drop of water, or the detail in a dollar bill.

Subscriptions to nature magazines

There are several National Geographic kids magazines, for various age ranges. I think. Am I wrong? Anyhow, here.

Give them tickets to a great planetarium. Or, find a friend with a 6”+ telescope, to see the moon, or Saturn.

Magnetic reconfigurable cars, and tiled magnet shapes
Constructables are fun. And so are Magna-Tiles.

How many mornings have we spent watching these videos. Warning: you will soon feel like mere tenants in your home, paying rent to a landlord named Rokenbok.

Again – about science kits

Almost all science kits are AWFUL. ** Please ** post exceptions to this in the comments here. Seriously. There’s like this plague in the educational toy industry in which stuffing a bunch of paper and cardboard and plastic in a box and calling it “science!” is considered okay somehow.

I’ll add as I remember more!


10 October 2012

Yet more bite-sized STEM nuggets for 5-6 yr-olds (Part... III?)

Hi -

I have to admit, I ran out of ideas (or STEAM [hah hah hah]) on little 3-minute lessons here at Chez Favingham. We've been distracted by longer night-time stories, various construction toys, and life in general.

On the 0.002% chance that I have a readership, I present to you a giant backlog:

28: Number lines

Draw a number line of integers from -3 to 3. Something about it lets a bunch of concepts "click" at once.

29: Multiplication table

We did a table from 1x1 to 5x5. The parent fills in almost all of it, your child can do a couple too.
Extra: ever wonder what the curves are when you connect equal answers? They're solutions to xy = C. Yes, hyperbola. Or as my teacher used to say, degenerate hyperbola, which sounds vaguely naughty.

30: Computing miles from a map
(We had a road atlas with one of those giant tables in the back that kind of looks like a multiplication table but isn't.)

Anyhow, it's a good source for your kid's first word problems - connecting practical questions to arithmetic.

"How far is it from Portland to Boston to New York City?"

31: Drawing noses
Our 6-yr old took a turn and taught me a nice lesson in drawing noses on stick figures.

And also:

32: How to tell if a cheetah is 10 months old
I have no idea if this is true:

  1. Babies under 10 months have a white stripe
  2. Over 10 months, they have spots.
31 (back to my numbering): M C Escher
Kids like Escher.

Then we practiced drawing cubes again.

32: Logic
I honestly was reaching pretty deep here. I thought "it'd be a good idea for him to see what circuits and logical statements look like."

Reversed photo, I know, I know.

33: Area of a rectangle
This was a more abstract recap of Lesson 1, in which we constructed rectangles out of arrays of squares, and the area = the number of squares.

a = xy

(Draw a 3-by-10 rectangle. The area is:

area = 3 x 10 
   = 30

34: Quadrangles II
Hmm. All I drew were some parallel lines. Not sure where I was going with this.

35: 3-dimensional shapes
Draw a cube. Label: vertex, edge, face

36: Statistics
Teach: minimum, maximum, and range.

Pick a friend and write down, I don't know, how many glasses of water she drank each day.

Josie:  4  10  1  7  12
        M   T  W  Th  F

Min: 1
Max: 12
Range: 12 - 1 = 11

Then, let your child do one.

Then, we decided to graph something.

37: Parts of a Robot Arm
I mean, kids love robots, right?

38: Base
I thought that maybe if I showed him what "base 10" meant, I could somehow more easily explain how to tell time. Not sure I succeeded. But, realizing that we have 10 digits (that coincidentally map to our 10 fingers) might be a kind of a-ha! moment. Maybe there are number systems with 2 digits? Or 16 digits?

NUMBER:  7 2 6 0
(and then, "digit" with an arrow to each)

Base 10 has 10 digits: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9
I drew three cylinders, like your odometer wheels, with the numbers on them, to show how the one all the way on the right moves through every digit and then the wheel one step to the left advances by one, etc.

And then imagine: what if each odometer wheel only had THREE numbers on them? That's base three! It would only have: 0, 1, and 2.

Maybe three-fingered aliens would count like: 0, 1, 2, 10, 11, 12, 20, 21, 22, 100, 101, 102, 110, 111, 112, 120, 121, ...

What if aliens had 16 fingers? That's hexadecimal!

0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, A, B, C, D, E, F, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 1A, 1B, ...

39: Potential energy + kinetic energy

Explain what each is.
Draw fun looking ramps and hills. Imagine pushing a boulder all.. the way.. to the top... "filling it" with potential energy. If you let go, where does it roll? What's the highest point it could reach on the other side? Does it roll forever? Where does that energy go? Does it become heat?

I know you love the backwards photos.

40: Coordinates in the Cartesian plane

'nuff said

41: Review of carrying

We did a bunch of multi-digit addition exercises.

42: Compass rose

Draw a pirate treasure map with a compass rose.

43: Lift (i.e. of an airplane wing)

Draw a free-body diagram in which a down arrow (gravity) and an up arrow (lift) act on an airplane. What happens when the up arrow is longer? Where does the airplane go?

44: Electronics II

Draw an atom: nucleus & electrons.
Complain about Ben Franklin setting a counterintuitive standard for arrows depicting current flow in the "wrong" direction on circuit diagrams.
Draw a circuit with a battery and a light bulb.  Show which way the electrons run through it.  Show the way the absence of electrons (the "holes" kind of) go the opposite way. That's current.
Draw the "soda in a soda bottle with a little bubble in it" analogy. When you tilt the bottle, the soda follows gravity and the bubble goes the opposite way.


Take something apart, like a digital camera. Products are made out of subsystems that work together. People like us designed them, and other people made them, and then they were put together. A camera has:

  • small screws
  • magnets
  • viewfinder lenses
  • LCD
  • image sensor
  • gasket
  • capacitors
  • (etc.)
46: Pi

Draw a circle, label diameter and circumference. 

For some crazy reason, if you take any circle and multiply its diameter by a number that's a little more than 3, you get its circumference.

47: Area of a circle

Whew! I'll pause here. We're up to 60. Soon...


27 September 2012

What I’m (wishing I had time to be) reading: w/o 23 Sep 2012

Hey optics / displays people:

  1. SeeReal’s paper for ISDH 2012 (hosted at MIT)
    Stephan Reichelt and Norbert Leister, “Computational hologram synthesis and representation on spatial light modulators for real-time 3D holographic imaging,” (ISDH 2012).
  2. I hope to get time to read this:
    Martin S. Banks, Jenny R. Read, Robert S. Allison, and Simon J. Watt, “Stereoscopy and the Human Visual System” (SMPTE 2012?).
  3. There’s an open-source project by entrepreneurs in Australia – the HoloDome – to build a volumetric 3-D display using DMDs at 480 x 320 x 72. http://hackaday.com/2012/09/23/volumetric-display-projects-200-million-voxels-per-second/  (H/T Joseph “Jofish” Kaye)
  4. VERY LARGE DOWNLOAD  - A cool early reference on electronic volumetric display from BYTE (1978) with many details:
    Timothy Walters and William Harris, “Graphics in Depth,” BYTE (May 1978).


ps I updated my personal website; half “pretty” and half ASCII plaintext. Apologies on behalf of iWeb: it doesn’t deal properly with bold text.

15 August 2012

What I’m (wishing I had time to be) reading: w/o 13 Aug 2012

Hello -

Mostly optical stuff:

  1. Visible light CMOS image sensors (by Dr. Eric Fossum, Senior Fellow, Micron Technology) [pdf]
  2. The camera lens designs (no cement! no aspheres!) on the Mars Exploration Rovers – published 2006 – a book chapter excerpted on the Radiant Zemax site here.
  3. Fluorescent party drink? http://www.thecampuscompanion.com/party-lab/2011/10/21/aurora-drink/ 
  4. J.-H. Jung et al, “Integral imaging using a color filter pinhole array on a display panel,” Optics Express, Vol. 20, Issue 17, pp. 18744-18756 (2012). http://www.opticsinfobase.org/oe/abstract.cfm?uri=oe-20-17-18744 
  5. MUSCADE http://www.muscade.eu/ 
  6. 3-D Olympics broadcast rant from Display Central’s Pete Putman http://www.display-central.com/for-the-first-time-ever-the-olympics-in-3d-complete-with-pop-up-ads/ 
  7. Printing Reflectance Functions (SIGGRAPH 2012) http://graphics.soe.ucsc.edu/prf/


22 April 2012

(parenting) Bite-sized math/sci lessons for 6! yr-olds (12-27)

Hello -

More ideas on little 5-minute lessons after storytime. I received lots of great feedback and encouragement here and on Facebook - thanks! In continuation of the previous post, here goes!  (Toby turned 6, so now this is "for 6 yr olds.")

Lesson 12: Review of addition
Do some addition of 1-, 2-, and 3-digit numbers, with or without carrying.

Lesson 13: What's inside?
Draw a cross-section of some common mechanical device, like a ballpoint pen. Your child might want to draw it, too.

Lesson 14: Vectors
(I don't know what I was thinking here, but it worked out okay.) If you know what vectors are already this will be really simple:

  • A "vector" is an arrow that you draw. Its length and direction are important.
  • Length: draw a small vector and a long vector pointing in the same direction
  • Direction: draw two vectors of the same length, pointing in different directions
  • Show how to ADD vectors (put the tail of the second vector at the head of the first, and...)
Lesson 15: Some Angles
Show him or her what an angle is. I did it by drawing a series of increasing angles, e.g. 30, 50, 90, 95, 120, 175... And for fun, 1 degree.
  • 90 degrees has a special name
  • Draw a protractor and label some angles, make tick marks every 10 degrees
Lesson 16: Types of 4-sided shapes
I think this one might've been a bit much.
  • Make a table of 4 columns: {angle, lengths of sides, name, picture}
  • We had rows that ended up like this. I know, I know, I could have done this a lot better, but at sleepytime this was the best we could do:
  • 90 degrees; 2 short, 2 longer, or all the same, "rectangle," picture
  • 90 degrees; all the same; "square," picture
  • parallelogram (oh, my, what's parallel?)
  • ...trapezoid
I convinced myself that for a kindergartener maybe it's sufficient for them to realize that plenty of different shape-types have 4 straight sides.

Lesson 17: Parallel
Two lines are parallel if they never touch if continued forever
I still like the "near-miss" method of teaching, so I drew a bunch of parallel lines and then a bunch of "not parallel" lines.

Lesson 18: Beginner's fractions
We draw a bunch of pies with 2, 3, 4, and 5 pieces. We colored in 1 or more pieces of each. We labelled them with words and numbers, e.g.:

  • half  1/2
  • third  1/3
  • two thirds  2/3
Lessons 19, 20, 21: Smart people telling us interesting things
I punted and relied on YouTube one evening:

Lesson 22: Math - Parentheses
Show them that putting parentheses around parts of an expression tell you to calculate the stuff in the parentheses first.

First, I showed that sometimes, the order of evaluation matters.

  • An example where it doesn't matter:
  • 1 + 2 + 3 = ?
  • 1 + 5 = 6
  • (or, 3 + 3 = 6)
  • An example where it does matter:
  • 1 + 2 x 3 = ?
  • If you do "1 + 2" first, you get: 3 x 3 = 6
  • If you do "2 x 3" first, you get: 1 + 6 = 7
Oh my goodness! Luckily, people agree that you should do things in this order: PEMDAS (etc etc).

So you don't need parentheses for: 1 + 2 x 3 if you mean 1 + (2 x 3)
But you do need them if you meant: (1 + 2) x 3

Lesson 23: "Topology"
I recall my father or grandfather teaching me this when I was about 5, sitting on the bed, wondering how on earth "a donut is the same as a coffee cup." I figured it was time to teach Toby.

  • Let's play a game with pretend Silly Putty. You can smoosh the Silly Putty all you want, but there are two rules: you can't make new holes, and you can't seal any holes up.
  • (0 holes) A blob "is" a snake "is" an egg
  • (1 hole) A donut is a coffee cup
  • (2 holes) Um.... I don't know. A pair of eyeglasses is... ummm... we gave up.
Lesson 24: Simple electrical circuit
Show them the schematic symbols for: wire, battery, light, and switch.
Draw the circuit that connects them together. Explain closed and open circuits.
Let them draw it too.
Consider showing them what series and parallel mean.

Lesson 25: Subtracting big numbers (without borrowing)
Y'know, 875 - 321, 9748 - 1211, etc. Then they do a couple.

Lesson 26: Subtracting big numbers (with borrowing)
E.g., 21 - 15, 46 - 37, 52 - 16, 32 - 15.
Some get weird, like 80-79, because they'll want to do 7-7 in the tens column and get 0 but you don't write that down.

Lesson 27: Drawing a cube
Show them how to draw a wireframe cube.
Show them how to draw a solid cube, and put the sun up in the background, and show them how to shade it. Let them try too.

Enjoy!  As always, your feedback is invited.


02 April 2012

(parenting) Bite-sized math/sci lessons for 5 yr olds: # 1-11


For the last few weeks, every other night, our 5 yr-old and I do a couple of bite-sized "lessons" about ideas in math or science. They take us about 3 minutes each, and are fun. He's come to ask, "is tonight lesson night?" Since he's getting a kick out of it, I'll post our first 11 lessons in case your'e looking for ideas of doing the same.

I hope our five year old won't mind that I'm putting this online, forever in Google's memory banks...

Preliminary: We reserve a special 6" x 9" spiral-bound notebook for these, and we dutifully label the top of each page with the lesson number and name. (Honest, this is part of the fun.) We assume you already are doing stuff like multiplication of single-digit numbers, and have watched some sciencey stuff like They Might Be Giants's DVDs about atoms and DNA and things.

Lesson 1: length, area, volume
  • Draw three short lines: 1 inch, 2 inches, 3 inches, ticking off the inches. Draw another line. How long is it?
  • Draw rectangles composed of many 1 x 1 squares. How many squares is each rectangle? What if you multiply the length of one side by the length of the other side?
  • Write "one-dimensional" by length, and "two-dimensional" by area. Write "three-dimensional." Can you guess what that is? Draw a cube of cubes, etc.
Lesson 2: adding bigger numbers
  • Add two two-digit numbers, in which carrying is never needed. (E.g., 23 + 34, added vertically.) Your child does some in their own handwriting.
Lesson 3: adding big numbers with carrying
  • E.g., 78+94 = ... (but do it vertically of course)
Lesson 4: "place value"
Lesson 5a: Perpendicular
  • Two lines that make a "T" shape are perpendicular. I like the near-miss form of learning: draw a couple of examples of perpendicular lines, and then provide counterexamples, saying "these are NOT perpendicular lines."
  • Draw a line, and put a dot along it, and ask your child, "draw the perpendicular line that starts here."
  • Try to teach the notion of angle. If the lines are perpendicular, the angles are the same on either side of the perpendicular line. The lines are not perpendicular, one angle will be larger than the other.
Lesson 5b: how to know where a laser beam would go if it hits a plane (flat) mirror
  • My son likes lasers, and kids hear about them in movies like Toy Story, so...
  • Draw a line segment, with hashmarks on one side to indicate it's the cross-section of a mirror. like this, but without the Thetas. ("normal" is just the physics word for "perpendicular, but in any number of dimensions")

(picture from this site)

  • Draw the laser beam coming in
  • Draw the dotted perpendicular line where the laser hits the mirror
  • Draw the reflected laser beam, such that its angle with respect to the perpendicular line is the same as the incoming beam's angle to the perpendicular line
  • Do a few examples, letting him or her draw the lines and arrows and neat stuff like that
Lesson 6: half
  • Draw a line. Where's half?
  • Write a number, like 10. What's half?
Lesson 7: Number patterns

This was kind of a long one, which I used just to let some words of math wash over him. I don't know how to do subscript in Blogger, so I'll use brackets.

  • "What numbers come next in the pattern?" 0, 0, 0, 0, ... ?
  • 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ... ?
  • 0, 2, 4, 6, ... ?
  • 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... (talk them through this) - and tell them about sunflowers, etc
  • 1, 3, 5, 7, ...?
  • Now explain that people who really like math have a secret key that lets them describe these patterns with just a few little special marks on their paper. First, let's give these numbers special names. Let's call the number we're interested in x[n] ("x sub n"). That's the number we're trying to figure out. Let's call the guy before it x[n-1] ("x sub n minus 1"). That's the guy right before it. And what might we call the number before THAT? (... x[n-2] )
  • Here's the magic way that we can re-write these
  • x[n] = 0 is shorthand for the pattern {0, 0, 0, ...}
  • x[n] = x[n-1] + 1 is shorthand for how we count! {1, 2, 3, 4, 5, ...} (I didn't bother saying that you also need a rule defining the starting point, I figured it's overkill.)
  • x[n] = x[n-1] +2 is the magic key for things like odd or even: {1, 3, 5, 7, ...}
  • And that weird last pattern, the Fibonacci guy, his pattern is: x[n] = x[n-1] + x[n-2]
BONUS: Vi Hart did a few YouTube videos doodling about Fibonacci numbers, e.g. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahXIMUkSXX0

Lesson 8: shape pattern

This is why we asked "What's half?"
  • Draw a Sierpinski triangle, or whatever the right name of it is. Draw a triangle. Put a dot at the halfway point of each side. Connect the sides to draw a new triangle inside. Put a dot at all 9 new halfway points. Draw 3 triangles. And so on. FOR-EV-ER!
Lesson 9: "Daddy's Square"

I don't know the name for this. Basically you draw an inward-spiraling square, in which the corners are a little less than 90 degrees. Like the last two figures here.

Lesson 10a: heat
  • (Assumes you've already chatted about atoms and molecules.)
  • Draw a little cartoon of ICE (ice cube) --> WATER (water in glass) --> STEAM (steamy lines) --> PLASMA (electrons and nuclei floating around)
  • Heat is a kind of energy. When stuff heats up, the atoms and molecules inside jiggle around more and more. So the ice melts, becomes water, becomes steam, eventually the electrons tear off, etc etc. I like presenting it this way, around 4:30 [YouTube, Feynman].
Lesson 10b: Important Temperatures

  • In America we have a weird way of telling the number of how hot or cold something is. It's called degrees Fahrenheit. Most of the rest of the world calls it something different. Like, here we use inches or miles, and over there they use centimeters and kilometers.
  • Draw a number line with two ticks on it. The first third is called "ice," the second is "water," and the rightmost third is called "steam." Tick one is 32 (deg) F, and then 212 (deg) F.
  • Talk about this. Have them recite, "ice becomes water at 32 degrees Fahrenheit." I know it might feel rote to rehearse it this way, but really, I think that is the most sensible thing.
  • Still awake? Then say, remember how the rest of the world has an easier way of thinking about it? They call their way degrees Celsius, and the numbers are 0 and 100.
  • There's actually a number way... over... there... (to the left) where if we ever got all the way over, those jiggling atoms would stop. But you can't ever get that far. You can get really close, very very close, but never all the way (etc). This is absolute zero.
Lesson 11: gears

  • Draw two enmeshed gears
  • If this one goes this way, which way does the other one spin?
  • Say this has 10 teeth and the other has 20 teeth. If you spin the big one once, how many times does the little one spin?
  • What if it's 10 and 30?
  • What if it's 5 and 10?
  • Why is this useful? Well, you know how your bike has gears here and here...?

I'd love to hear your informal bedtime lessons if you got 'em. Share! (And if you want a next installment of this, encourage me in the comments.)


ps BONUS: Cosmos is available on Netflix Instant. I've been really shocked at how much of Sagan's teachings stick with our kids. There's evidently a lot of "see that snow? it's from the STARS!" talk, lately.

23 March 2012

360-degree above-table (or “Deathstar”) displays

Group discussion and collaboration would be enhanced by 3-D displays that produce imagery appearing to hover above, say, a tabletop. Visible 360° around the device, the imagery would occupy the volume straddling the flat surface of the table – appearing just slightly above, and quite a bit beneath.

At Actuality, we jokingly called these contraptions “Deathstar Displays,” after the Star Wars movies depicting hologram-ish imagery of the Deathstar for battle planning. More seriously, I dubbed them Theta Parallax Only (TPO) displays, as opposed to horizontal parallax only (HPO) displays, because the perspective changes as your angle (theta) to some vertical reference plane changes.

(New to 3-D? Mike Halle’s “Autostereoscopic Displays and Computer Graphics” wonderfully explains the physical limitations of where the imagery can appear to be before incurring window violations.)

Who’s working on this stuff?

An early patent from Actuality

Well, yours truly and my former co-worker Ollie Cossairt invented a few schemes in which a high-frame-rate image source directs imagery to an optical element, spinning like a turntable, that redirects the frames in an angular sweep around the audience. The optical element could take various forms: an off-axis lens, a diffuser-louver “sandwich,” etc.
G. E. Favalora and O. S. Cossairt, “Theta-parallax-only (TPO) displays,” US Pat 7,364,300 (Provisional: Jan. 12, 2004), (Filing: Jan. 12, 2005), (Issue: Apr 29, 2008). [Google Patents]
Conceptual animation of US 7,364,300 (no longer owned by Optics for Hire)
One of the cross-sections shown in the patent is:

A number of researchers have been building TPO displays, primarily (to my knowledge) in Asia.

[Edit (2015): In retrospect, I wonder if we should have used the term, "peristrophic" display rather than "theta-parallax-only."]

Takaki Lab (Tokyo Univ. of Agriculture and Technology)

The Takaki Lab has a heritage of producing many interesting 3-D displays. Recently, they demonstrated a multi-projector system that illuminates a rotating surface. I am having a little trouble determining when their research began. But a recent paper is:
Shigeki Uchida and Yasuhiro Takaki, “360-degree three-dimensional table-screen display using small array of high-speed projectors,” in Stereoscopic Displays and Applications XXIII, edited by Andrew J. Woods, Nicolas S. Holliman, Gregg E. Favalora, Proceedings of SPIE-IS&T Electronic Imaging, SPIE Vol. 8288, 82880D (2012); http://dx.doi.org/10.1117/12.909603
Regrettably I cannot find videos or images of their work on their fascinating Takaki Laboratory web page.
By the way, I recommend Dr. Takaki’s excellent presentation, “Next-generation and ultimate 3D display” (IMID 2010) [pdf].

HolyMine “Holo Table”

I don’t remember how I stumbled across this company:
HolyMine “Holo Table”–start at 1:16

NICT – Conical diffuser: “fVisiOn”

Here is a different approach, using a conical diffuser. This is Shunsuke Yoshida of NICT’s Universal Media Research Center. Here is a link to the English page, which links to a more frequently updated Japanese page.
Video of fVisiOn (technical explanation towards end)
The project page has a list of related publications toward the end.

[Edit (2015): Another YouTube clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=10J_Q3QBfdg ]

Microsoft Research Cambridge – Vermeer

The Vermeer system is a bit different; it incorporates re-imaging optics, and can also behave in an interesting dual mode of image-capture:
Microsoft “Vermeer” 3-D display

Zhejiang University (China)

Several people at Zhejiang Univ. are pursuing 360-degree displays, including Xu Liu and Zheng Zhenrong.
Xinxing Xia, Caijie Yan, Zhenrong Zheng, Haifeng Li, and Xu Liu, “48.3: A Novel Touchable Floating Color Omnidirectional-view Three-dimensional Display,” SID Symposium Digest of Technical Papers, 42(1) 699-701 (June 2011). http://dx.doi.org/10.1889/1.3621420
They have also built systems with “optics above the table,” i.e. similar in spirit to those from Actuality or USC:
Xinxing Xia, Zhenrong Zheng, Xu Liu, Haifeng Li, and Caijie Yan, “Omnidirectional-view three-dimensional display system based on cylindrical selective-diffusing screen,” Appl. Opt. 49, 4915-4920 (2010). http://mypage.zju.edu.cn/0099150/592595.html


18 March 2012

What I’d Like to Be Reading: w/o Mar 12, 2012

Reader -

From time to time, I’ll post “WILTBR” – sharing the things which I’ve either studied or marked as something valuable to read when I have the chance. “What I’d like to be reading".

I’ve followed various branches of computational photography and the light field literature for several years, but there are some fundamentals I hadn’t gotten into. There’s a bit of that this week, amongst:

M Grosse, G Wetzstein, A Grundhoefer, and O Bimber, “Coded Aperture Projection,” Transactions on Graphics 29:3 (June 2010) SIGGRAPH 2010. [pdf]

R Horstmeyer, S B Oh, and R Raskar, “View-dependent displays and the space of light fields,” arXiv:1008.0034v1 (“…how light propagates from thin elements into a volume for viewing…” I.e. parallax displays vs holographic displays)

and presumably relatedly:

S B Oh, G Barbastathis, and R Raskar, “Augmenting light field to model wave optics effects,” a work in progress (Apr 6, 2009) [pdf]

T Bishop, S Zanetti, and P Favaro, “Light field superresolution,” ICCP 2009. (can Lytro-like cameras produce imagery of higher resolution than they ought to?) [project]

The publications of Matthias Zwicker [list]

YouTube: “Adobe demos plenoptic lens tech with GPU power” [YouTube]

Doug Lanman suggested that I look at these, when I asked him which papers do a good job of explaining the mechanics of considering light transport in the light field math framework (e.g. "shear, propagate, shear…”)

F Durand, N Holzschuch, C Soler, E Chan, and F Sillion, “A frequency analysis of light transport,” SIGGRAPH 2005. [project]

C-K Liang, Y-C Shih, and H H Chen, “Light field analysis for modeling image formation,” IEEE Trans Image Proc 20(2) (Feb 2011) [pdf]

D Lanman – Ph.D. thesis, “Mask-based light field capture and display,” (2010) [pdf]



01 March 2012

What I’m reading: 3-D, optics

Hello from Optics for Hire, where the topic of 3-D display has been coming up even more than usual. At the moment, the clouds over Arlington are trying to figure out how much snow to deposit on Mass Ave. Feels like the right mood to share a few of the things crossing my desk:
Good LinkedIn Groups for 3-D display:
  • Non-Glasses 3D Display Technology is moderated by Thomas Edwards, the VP Engineering & Development at FOX Networks Group. It seems to have a higher % of technical “meat” than some of the other autostereo groups which tend to be more self-promotional (about spatially multiplexed displays).
  • Stereoscopic Displays and Applications is affiliated with the SPIE-IS&T conference of the same name. But: discussions about more than the conference itself.
Recent obsession: I wonder to what extent autostereoscopic cinema is feasible in 2012. Will the technological enabler be a many-projector system like Holografika’s, a variant of a “specular” display [refs here], or the rebirth of mid-century techniques (doubt it)? My interest in this was recently rekindled by the movie Hugo’s depiction of Georges Melies building optical systems, filming entertaining content (movies!), and exhibiting them. Then again growing up in West Orange, NJ sort of primes one for that interest (T. A. Edison).
Speaking of autostereo cinema, I recommend the SD&A 2012 proceedings paper by Walter Funk. It’s available now through the SPIE Digital Library and has 80+ references. He discusses very early work, such as Maxwell’s real-image stereoscope, the Swan “Crystal Cube Miniatures,” and the development of parallax barrier and fly’s-eye lens arrays (Berthier, Jacobson, Ives, …). And that’s not all, page after page of references regarding the early days of autostereo cinema (1920s?), Noaillon’s work, theaters in France and the USSR.
Walter Funk, “History of autostereoscopic cinema,” Proc. SPIE 8288, 82880R (2012) – link.
New conference. The OSA is experimenting with a new conference format, called “incubators.” They hope to encourage frank and less-guarded discussion amongst peers and competitors in these meetings with an interesting format: several expert panel discussions followed by lengthy discussion periods (each attendee table has a high-quality microphone). Last week, in DC, was the 3D Display Technology, Perception and Application Incubator Meeting, chaired by Nasser Peyghambarain, Mike Bove, and Hong Hua. This was a lot of fun – heck, it was the first optics meeting witness to a brief shouting match. About holo-pixels!
What new things did I learn there?
  • Henry Fuchs’s group made several random-hole autostereo displays (links, discussion)
  • His group also determined that you can reduce inter-Kinect interference for multi-Kinect systems by placing mechanical vibrators on each. That way, the only in-focus pattern seen by a Kinect is its own. The others are blurred.
  • Several folks are pursuing 360-degree tabletop displays. At Actuality we called these “theta-parallax-only” displays, or more jokingly, “Death Star displays.” E.g., Zheng Zhenrong of Zhejiang University (P.R. China) built a system reminiscent of this.
  • The MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture Group, led by Ramesh Raskar, continues to innovate “computational displays,” such as their HR3D, Layered 3D, and Polarization Field displays that push attenuation-based systems to their limits. What’s next? Tensor displays. Ramesh was a panelist, summarizing the group’s work, and Doug and Gordon each presented the advances they’re creating.
  • Jannick Rolland (Univ. Ariz.), Kevin Thompson (Synopsys / ORA), and Hong Hua continue the effort to design less-obtrusive head-worn displays. Free-form optics!
  • What do we do about the seemingly stalled improvement in the space-bandwidth product of SLMs? Paraphrasing Darrel Hopper (USAF, Wright Pat), “We need holo-pixels!”. Paraphrasing Fuchs, “Make do with what we have, by putting more smart software in the loop, like the Camera Culture displays!” Two panelists actually offered plots of pixel-count versus year, to enable us to guess when holo-TV might be feasible: Masahiro Yamaguchi supposed that we’ll have 10” 30-degree viewing in 2023, and 40” 90-degree viewing in 2037.
  • Mike Bove (MIT Media Lab) mentioned that his group continues work on a desktop holographic video display using a custom lithium niobate waveguide component. Ready to be demonstrated this summer, perhaps? At ISDH, I wonder (25-29 Jun 2012)?
  • What cues cause one’s eyes to focus? And what’s up with jumping spiders and their 4-layer retinas?
  • It is indeed possible to consume a post-conference 14-course Turkish dinner.
Speaking of MIT’s contributions to holographic display, Mark Lucente and Mike Klug showed enticing videos of Zebra Imaging’s ZScape displays. Also, some footage from (1980s?) Media Lab. Digging through YouTube, I found them – and also some wonderful clips of the late Stephen Benton.
  1. (1992) BBC documentary re: holovideo (YouTube)
  2. (1985) Synthetic Holography, a Media Lab videodisc (YouTube) Check out 3:04 for Benton’s description of their alcove hologram.
French autostereoscopic cinema
Interview and frankly amazing footage of le cyclo-stereoscope (1940s? 1950s?). No, really, check it out. Giant spinning rods! Popcorn! What could go wrong?
Surveys of the field
I am considering adding a page to my personal website with suggested readings for new researchers in autostereo. Until then, here are a few:
  • M. Halle, “Autostereoscopic displays and computer graphics,” Computer Graphics, ACM SIGGRAPH, 31(2), May 1997. LINK
Surveys of recent advances: These two have different emphases:
  1. N. S. Holliman, N. A. Dodgson, G. E. Favalora, and L. Pockett, “Three-Dimensional Displays: A Review and Applications Analysis (invited),” IEEE Trans Broadcasting, 57(2), 362-371 (June 2011). Available via IEEE, or here.
  2. J. Hong, Y. Kim, H.-J. Choi, J. Hahn, J.-H. Park, H. Kim, S.-W. Min, N. Chen, and B. Lee, “Three-dimensional display technologies of recent interest: principles, status, and issues (invited),” Appl. Opt. 50, H87-H115 (2011). (Optics InfoBase)
And… workshop on computational displays!
Hear-ye, hear-ye! The CVPR 2012 Workshop for Computational Cameras and Displays has issued a call for papers. See here.
ps Look into the eyes of the Bokode Owl (Wait for it…) Click “show more” if you’re not up on bokodes.