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November 2007 Archives

November 1, 2007

A Flash from the GigaPan

Our friend and world-class photographer Peter Menzel introduced everyone at Gadgetoff to "Hungry Planet", his book about what people around the world eat.  He also went and surreptitiously took a super-hi-res image of the covered outdoor area of our event using a robotic mount attached to small digital camera. The result is this fascinating GigaPan of Gadgetoff.Peter Menzel's photo of the Gigapan camera rig at Gadgetoff 2007

GigaPan, developed by NASA and Carnegie Mellon, is the mother of all panoramas. It uses many low or medium resolution photos to create one incredibly high resolution photo. This process is obviously useful on other planets and moons to create stunning pictures but it is also quite handy here on Earth.

The process doesn't work too well for motion since the photos are taken sequentially but it does produce some wonderfully artistic effects when someone's head floats in the ether sans their body.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

AH-64 Apache by HobbytronDuring the summer I learned to fly a number of cool radio controlled vehicles - from tiny helicopters to little indoor planes to the oh-so-fun Wowwee Dragonfly which flaps its wings; but the one I spend the most time with has to be the AH-64 Apache helicopter from Hobbytron.

I've flown RC helicopters in the past- everything from 2 channel (easy to take off and land yet difficult to direct) to 4 channel choppers with multiple gyros (versatile yet hard to control).  None of these experiences prepared me for the AH-64 - this heli is amazing, it can hover, it moves easily to where you point it and, best of all, it hasn't broken yet!

The AH-64 costs about $120 which is a quarter of the cost of my other 4 channel heli that I got from Japan a few years ago; it performs better, costs less and is substantially more fun.  Even though the Apache is the easiest 4 channel heli I've ever touched, 4 channels are not for everyone - balancing pitch, bank, yaw and power takes time and patience.  I recommend this bird to anyone who has tried the little 2 channel toys and yearns for something more.

November 6, 2007

Gathering Pennies From Heaven

Counting CrowsOne of the most inspired and dynamic presentations at Gadgetoff 2007 featured Josh Klein’s “Crow Vending Machine.”  Klein, a graduate student at NYU and long-time creative hacker,  is training crows to gather loose change  in exchange for peanuts. Crows, part of the family of Corvids (which include ravens, jays, and other highly-adaptable passerine birds) are largely reviled as flying rodents. But Klein envisions a new symbiotic relationship between these intelligent birds and the humans that encroach on their habitat.
Klein has designed a method of training crows to pick up found coins and exchange them in a box-like device for a peanut reward. The splendor of the concept unifies two facts: crows like shiny objects and more than $215 million dollars in coins are lost each year in the U.S. Why not turn a long-standing rivalry between man and crow into something that profits both species? Klein’s Crow Vending Machine device uses a four-step behavior modification training technique to get crows to ultimately find and deliver coins for a reward of peanuts.
It is entertaining to imagine a scene from Hitchcock in which swarms of ravens descend en masse aggressively wrestling coins from the hands of panic-stricken city-dwellers. But Klein has a more exquisite vision of inter-species cooperation: before coin-collecting, he envisioned having crows gather trash instead. Klein’s research and thought-process in creating the Crow Vending machine is wonderful. For more information, read his thesis and view his Gadgetoff presentation.

November 20, 2007

Snap at the Speed of Light

With his recent camera innovations,Steve Silverman is poised to inherit Doc Edgerton's mantle. Steve, at his company Advanced Scientific Concepts, has created a camera that is capable of taking pictures at the speed of light.

By using a single lens and a sophisticated array of photon detectors, signal processors and computers he is able to freeze a 6 nanosecond pulse of laser light (roughly 6 feet long) and do this feat 30 times a second. Steve takes individual photos or a complete sequence over a very short period of time to create a movie. The movie can be processed to create a 3 dimensional model of the scene - each picture is illuminated at a subsequently different time, and hence, a farther distance.

What can you do with such a camera? The camera, since it operates at the speed of light, provides blur and distortion free readings of distance from many sources simultaneously. So the first applications that comes to mind is for collision and obstacle avoidance for both manned and autonomous vehicles.

Another set of uses that Steve touches on is surveillance and battlefield or conflict area intelligence. He shows a series of images taken through a window with venetian blinds drawn. The light illuminates the window and the blinds first, then a person sitting in a chair behind the window and finally, the back wall.

Check out Advanced Scientific Concepts to see more of their work. You can view Steve talking about the system at Gadgetoff 2007.


About November 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Gadgetoff - Things We Like in November 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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