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December 20, 2008

Pranking Google Street View

Image of a giant chicken from streetwithaview.com

For more than a year Google has been photographing streets all across America and making the panaromas of the photos available on their maps as a feature called Google Street View.

To gather the photos, Google has a fleet of vehicles equipped with a ring of cameras that slowly drives the streets of urban areas.

As the Google cameras snap away, they occasionally capture random little slices of life... people bent over, someone caught jumping over a puddle, odd looking vehicles going past, all sorts of stuff.

But what if you knew exactly when the Google Street View vehicle was going to come down your street? And you got ready for it, lining the street with more weird and wonderful scenes than a Where's Waldo book?

That was the idea behind the Street With A View Project. Artists Robin Hewlett and Ben Kinsley filed a tiny street in Pittsburgh called Sampsonia Way with a marching band, sword fighters, marathon runners, people escaping from upper floor windows via bedsheets, a gigantic roast chicken, all sorts of wonderful things.

Check out the project site for all the details, and links to the images that made it onto Google Maps.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:54 AM | Comments (1)

December 09, 2008

Mona Lisa created via genetic programming

Computer generated Mona Lisa images

If you wrote a computer program that threw pixels on the screen in the hopes that it would create something that looked liked the Mona Lisa you'd have to wait for... well, forever.

But if you added a bit of natural selection to that process... take a bunch of copies of the program, compare their output to the real Mona Lisa, keep the ones that match the best, tweak 'em, check their output again, repeat about a million times, and voila!...the Mona Lisa, generated via genetic programming.

Swedish programmer Roger Alsing did just that, knocking out a program in C# that uses genetic programming to get closer and closer to an exact copy of DiVinci's masterpiece.

Interested? Check out the details of Alsing's project.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 11:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2008

Paper airplanes from space

origami space paper airplane

If all goes according to plan, early next year the wonderfully quirky world of hard-core paper airplane flyers will have set a new milestone. Next February an astronaut aboard the International Space Station will toss several paper airplanes out into the void, sending them on a multi-day journey through atmospheric re-entry and back down to the Earth's surface.

The origami-folded airplanes are made from sugar cane fiber paper that has been chemically treated to resist heat and water, and they've been tested in wind tunnels at hypersonic speeds. The planes measure about a foot long and are covered with instructions (in ten languages) of what to do if they are, against all probability, found back on the surface of the Earth.

Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata, who will be stationed aboard the ISS next year, will toss the pre-folded planes either by hand or via the Station's robotic arm.

Full coverage of the planned paper airplane flight is on Pink Tentacle.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 09:37 AM | Comments (1)

December 04, 2008

DIY Lenticular Printing

screenshot from snapily.com
Lenticular priniting is an odd little backwater of the graphics world. That technique that combines multiple images with a plastic lens overlay that makes the image appear to change as you move it has long been used primarily for cheezy stuff(*) like Cracker Jack prizes and creepy Catholic art of the Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

But not any more! Now anyone can make their own lenticular images. An online service called Snapily lets you upload your own images and have them turned into lenticular business cards, notecards, notebook covers, etc. (A typical price is about eight bucks for a pack of 20 business cards). In the near future they plan to add the ability to take a short video clip, strip out the frames and make a multi-image lenticular "movie" card.

(*)A big exception are the Panamaps by Urban Mapping. They use lenticular technology to combine transit, street, and neighborhood views of Manhattan and Chicago into the same map. My vote for the cleverest piece of cartography of the last decade.

Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

December 02, 2008

Meet the real Time Lord

atomic clock at the US Naval Observatory

A brief bit of geek porn for you, courtesy of the BBC. Recently the BBC paid a call on Dennis McCarthy, the Director of Time at the US Naval Observatory, and got a look-around at the facility that keeps the official time for the United States, and also supplies the time reference for the global GPS system.

Here's the BBC article, and accompanying video.

BTW, Director of Time has got to be one of the most bad-ass job titles ever.

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Posted by Chris Spurgeon at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)