Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hyperlapsed Google Street View

Before I take a trip, I spend hours on Google Street View getting familiar with the destination, in the hopes that when I arrive I’ll have the familiarity of a native. This works out pretty well, so I love any tool that automates navigating GSV. The creative team of Geoff Teehan and Jon Lax have taken Street View automation to a whole new hyperlapse level (see examples in the above video).

Hyper-lapse photography—a technique combining time-lapse and sweeping camera movements typically focused on a point-of-interest—has been a growing trend on video sites. It’s not hard to find stunning examples on Vimeo. Creating them requires precision and many hours stitching together photos taken from carefully mapped locations. We aimed at making the process simpler by using Google Street View as an aid, but quickly discovered that it could be used as the source material. It worked so well, we decided to design a very usable UI around our engine and release Google Street View Hyperlapse.

You can use their tool to create your own hyperlapse of GSV. For example, here’s one I made in a few seconds that follows the path of a hike I took last summer over the Golden Gate Bridge while visiting San Francisco.

Experience the Apollo 11 lunar landing

Lunar Module

On July 20, 1969, the Apollo 11 mission successfully landed the first astronauts to ever step foot on the Moon. Many of us, myself included, are far too young to have experienced this incredible feat of science, technology, and human ingenuity as it happened. But now we can get pretty darn close. The First Men on the Moon is a carefully curated online experience that puts you in Mission Control as if it were happening in real-time, combining public domain source material from NASA and others to stitch together a minute-by-minute replay of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. From the project description:

By using simultaneous space and land based audio and video, transcripts, images, spacecraft telemetry, and biomedical data—this synchronized presentation reveals the Moon Shot as experienced by the astronauts and flight controllers.

Our goal is to capture a moment in history so that generations may now relive the events with this interactive educational resource. The world remembers the moon landing as a major historical event but often fails to recognize the scale of the mission. This interactive resource aims to educate visitors while engaging them with the excitement of manned-spaceflight to build a passion for scientific exploration.

Click here to start the experience.

Someone has stolen our tent!

I mentioned before that I’m enjoying BBC’s Sherlock on Netflix. The character of Sherlock Holmes is well known for his amazing skills of observation and his “powers of deduction”. However, contrary to Holmes’ assertion that he “deducing” when he solves cases, he doesn’t actually use deductive reasoning in his process. Rather, he arrives at his conclusions through inductive reasoning, where observations of previous instances are used to form generalizations about future instances.

If you watch enough apples fall to the ground, then you may form the general hypothesis that apples always fall down, instead of maybe sideways or up. Based on your observation of apples falling, you may make the general assumption that pears, too, fall to the ground because they share similar properties with apples. And so on. This is how science progresses and, likewise, how our favorite detective solves cases.

In their book Plato and Platypus Walk Into a Bar…, authors Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein use the following story as an illustration:

Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Homes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. “Watson,” he says, “look up in the sky and tell me what you see.”

“I see millions of stars, Holmes,” says Watson.

“And what do you conclude from that, Watson?”

Watson thinks for a moment. “Well,” he says, “astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I see that God is all-powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does it tell you, Holmes?”

“Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!”

Poor Watson. In any case, the authors go on to explain how the above conclusion is arrived at through inductive reasoning:

We don’t know exactly how Holmes arrived at his conclusion, but perhaps it was something like this:

  1. I went to sleep in a tent, but now I can see the stars.
  2. My intuitive working hypothesis, based on analogies to similar experiences I have had in the past, is that someone has stolen our tent.
  3. In testing that hypothesis, let’s rule out alternative hypotheses:
    a) Perhaps the tent is still here, but someone is projecting a picture of stars on the roof of the tent. This is unlikely, based on my past experiences of human behavior and the equipment that experience tells me would have to be present in the tent and obviously isn’t.
     b) Perhaps the tent blew away. This is unlikely, as my past experiences lead me to conclude that the amount of wind would have awakened me, though perhaps not Watson.
     c) Etc., etc., etc.
  4. No, I think my original hypothesis is probably correct. Someone has stolen our tent.

Visualizing wifi through light paintings

WiFiIt’s invisible and pervasive, filling the areas around us until those moments when we absolutely need it and it’s nowhere to be found. Sure, I just described air, but what my laptop needs to breathe is wifi. As a team from Olso who visualized wifi using a measuring rod with 80 LED light points on it said, “The city is filled with an invisible landscape of networks that is becoming an interwoven part of daily life.” Their project Immaterials: Light painting WiFi “explores the invisible terrain of WiFi networks in urban spaces”. The lights on the LED rod responds to measured Received Signal Strength (RSSI) of a various networks as they walk through the city, while they capture the light paintings on film through long-exposure photography.

See the full photo set