Category Archives: 2794

Meet the Robinsons in amazing 3D

Being a parent, I went to see the new Digital 3D movie Meet the Robinsons over the weekend. The film itself is a little predictable, and not much to really blog about, but the Digital 3D is really impressive. It uses Disney Digital 3D technology  (a rebranding of Real D) like Chicken Little and Monster House before it. Now I’m wishing I did though, because the 3D technology is really impressive!

In the olden days (read ‘1980s’), 3D meant wearing red and blue glasses, so that the stuff on the screen that was coloured red could only be seen by one eye, and similarly for blue. This meant that each eye would see something different, and hopefully you’d get the 3D effect happening. But of course, the colours were never done very well, and you’d see double images, have a hard time focussing, and generally get a sore head. But nevertheless it was a trend, and comic books, TV shows, and of course movies would all be shown in 3D. Even Hitchcock made a version of “Dial M for Murder” in 3D, which I had always hoped to see at Valhalla, when it wasn’t burning down.

Real D is done differently though and uses a similar technology to the the IMAX 3D experience. IMAX 3D was another thing that I had hoped to experience, but missed out on for one reason or another. The IMAX principle was that you would watch a higher-framerate movie, wearing special glasses which had LCD lenses. The lenses would blank over each eye at just the right time, so that your eyes only saw the frames they were meant to see. No funny colours here, your eye actually sees what the camera sees. Proper 3D.

Real D also works with a higher-framerate, but the LCD bit happens at the projector. It polarises the light in two directions, and then a cheap pair of glasses with polarised lenses will do the trick. The physics behind polarisation is that light which only has waves in a particular direction can be filtered out with a lense which is polarised in the opposite direction… ie, light-waves which only go up and down can be filtered out by a lense which only allows horizontal waves through. This is why polarised sunglasses reduce glare, because glare tends to be polarised light.

The effect is incredible. The whole movie is 3D, and I found myself noticing the distance in almost every scene. Some more than others, like when the hero is going through a tunnel. But of course, this is animation. I have read that U2’s recent tour was filmed in 3D as well, and I want to see how live-action goes in 3D.

So my next thought is… when will this become available on my PC? Surely a good quality monitor could be set up with a high-framerate, and whilst it would be hard to polarise the light coming off a screen, could I get some USB connected LCD glasses and have a 3D computing experience? It could be really good for visualising data.

Whooiz my Friendz?

Observant people will have noticed a friend-list appear on the side of my blog. Changing my blog around is way overdue for me. I need to take a few hours out some time and work on the CSS. I still don’t have all the useful stuff that I had at my old blog site. One of those is a friend-list. I’ve never actually been a fan of friend-lists. I hate the idea of missing people out. And I think that’s where Whooiz can come in.

Whooiz is a start-up by Clarke (I want to call him Monkey, but I won’t) and Cameron, and the idea about it is to be able to keep your profile information in one place, linking to it as you require. It’s a nice idea – I know that I keep a list of places who know my address, so that if I move I can make sure that I let them all know. Whooiz might help for keeping profile stuff up to date. Of course, it would be nice if it could do it behind the scenes, so that you go to LinkedIn or FriendsReunited and just see text there as if you had entered it, except that it’s actually populated by a call to whooiz. That would work really well for me, although I’m sure those other sites would need to tweak their systems to actually allow it. Perhaps Whooiz could partner with them, and sites could start to be ‘powered by whooiz’.

Another thing I want is to be able to have full control over the display of my profile, friends list, contact information, etc. I’ve got my friends list appearing over to the side, and I’ve set the heading colour and background to be the same colour as the background that I have there. But what I’d rather do is to tell the heading not to display. I’d also like to change the font of the text which says who the people are, even have the names removed, replacing them with alt and title text for the images, or put them underneath the images… have the images in two columns perhaps, that kind of thing. All feasible with CSS. Even have Whooiz give me the details in XML, and then let me use my own JavaScript to place them. The list shows a random <some number> friends (friendz?) from my list, and it could be neat to have a call to give me a new random friend that isn’t currently displayed (I don’t mean making new friends, I mean just grabbing one of my existing friends for displaying). Then I could have a bit of JavaScript (or have Whooiz provide it) so that my friend list could sit their cycling through them. I could put them into a live.com (or sidebar) gadget – kind of like a “how longz it been?” list, prompting me to catch up with friends I haven’t contacted for a while.

I like things like whooiz – the possibilities are cool. I just need to come with the starting ideas myself, instead of finding ways to help improve others’.

Wacom Tablet on multiple screens

I got a Wacom Tablet recently. One of those USB devices which lets you use a pen instead of a mouse. It’s really cool in all kinds of ways, but I typically use it in mouse-mode, not in pen-mode. In mouse-mode, I have to drag the cursor around with the pen, just like I would with a mouse. In pen-mode, each point of the tablet corresponds to a point on the screen, so you go straight to the right area of the screen. But there are issues with this.

For starters, I’m part of the crowd that sees massive value in using multiple screens for development. I only have two, but I have colleagues who use three. In pen-mode, the tablet tries to make its panel correspond to all of those screens. So if I’m using a 1600×2400 workspace, or my colleague is using 4800×1200, then this elongated rectangle gets squeezed into the squarish area, and any writing I do is stretched in the opposite way. That’s a major pain!

So what I’m hoping Wacom can do is to make a utility which allows you to switch between areas of the screen. This could also help for the times when you have a larger resolution and want to spend time only in a quarter of it. I know there are zoom functions available, but on the screen thing, it would be nice to have a button on the pen (or on the tablet, I don’t care) to be able to switch between screens. Have some little visible indicator to tell me which screen the pen corresponds to at the time, and a nice fast response to switching. Then I’ll feel much more comfortable in pen-mode! If you let me define where ‘virtual screens’ actually are (so that in areas where I frequently want more detail I can really easily switch into them), then that would be even better.

I do have to say that I love my tablet. It’s great for drawing anything. In Vista I can use it with full inking capability, as if it were a Tablet PC. I’m not about to throw out my keyboard, but it’s still good. I just need my handwriting to get more visible!

Evaluation forms

Evaluation forms are great. There’s something really nice about mulling through a pile of them after a meeting, having a look at what people wrote. It’s also good to have audio-only copies of your presentations, so you can listen back to them to see where you went wrong. And you can get friends to listen back to them as well to give you feedback. (I figure that if you can’t listen to the audio of a presentation and still get a lot out of it, then there are probably ways you could improve your presentation)

But Mitch Denny recently blogged about his frustration at them, and I know why too! The Ready Summit event went around Australia this month, coming to Adelaide a couple of days ago. We weren’t the last venue, that was Canberra. And the way they did evaluation forms was kinda strange. Towards the end of each presentation, the presenter would say “Please fill out your evaluation forms” (which were given out to people as they arrived by conference centre staff), and then people would go around collecting them. They’d go into an envelope, and the presenter would pick one out to win a prize. Later, presumably someone goes through them all (and this is quite a lot… several sessions in the day, and a large conference-room full of people) and enters them into a database.

Wouldn’t it be easier to use Dave Glover’s SMS voting application? Then people could send in their eval form info in a particular format, with extra information as required. This goes into a database which replicates back to the main server… everyone wins.

Talking to Mitch on MSN Msgr, he’s thinking that a thumbs up/down idea would work. People press one of two buttons on their way out, to say if it was good or bad. I think perhaps this wouldn’t give enough detail, and lots of people just wouldn’t bother. Giving the prize out helps with that, but if people are SMSing their votes in throughout the session, then it’s very easy to have a random mobile number picked out of the database.

Actually, the key is to have something different as often as possible. That way, you catch the attendees imagination. 

An A2-sized rugged Tablet PC in the shower

I have lots of ideas in the shower. Perhaps it’s because I’m just waking up from sleeping on stuff, perhaps it’s because the water cleans impurities out of the air, meaning that my brain gets fed a better quality of oxygen (I’ve seriously heard this theory before). But whatever the reason, I often find myself having ideas when I’m in the shower.

The most annoying thing is when that idea is the repeat of a shower that I had a few days earlier. Then I’m kicking myself for not remembering it once the day was underway properly.

And that’s where I got an idea for having a whiteboard in the shower.

I used to scuba-dive. It’s lots of fun – but you try communicating with a fellow diver when you’re underwater… it can be a pain to say the least. To get around this, divers carry slates and pencils. Pencils can write underwater you know. Not on paper of course, but on slate it’s just fine.

So I figure that I should keep a few of these slates and a pencil in the shower, so that I can make a note of ideas.

But better still would be a whole whiteboard. Thinking standing up is good for all kinds of reasons – lots of people agree with me that when you’re thinking through a problem, standing next to a whiteboard really helps. But of course, a whiteboard marker doesn’t work in the shower, and besides, you’ve got the age-old problem of not being able to transfer your ideas off the whiteboard easily.

So that’s where a large Tablet PC would be great. It would have to be a rugged one (I saw a video ages ago about a Tablet PC that you could use underwater), and it would have to be firmly attached to the wall, and connected (wirelessly?) so that I could print my ideas, email them, check the stock-prices and weather, etc… But most importantly, I could get my ideas down when they occur, think through them, even collaborate with other people (that would seem wrong I’m sure), and really make good use of that time. Naturally (no pun intended until now that I read it back) there would have to be a timer on the shower so that water-conservation didn’t become too big an issue. But it would stop that ‘forgetting time’ that occurs between when I have the idea and when I have finished the ‘getting up’ process.

Obviously it wouldn’t have a webcam!

Seattle in Virtual Earth 3D (Beta)

Ok, so there aren’t many cities available in Virtual Earth 3D (Beta) yet, but it’s still very cool. I did some moving around Seattle, and quite easily found the standard shot of the Space Needle with the city and Mount Rainier in the background. You can see it at http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&cp=47.618049~-122.346581&style=h&lvl=19&tilt=-17.5733726439434&dir=156.518344228474&alt=251.429188030772

virtualearth3dbeta

Now, wouldn’t this be even better if it could detect some photos that people had taken of it, and place a Photosynth-style picture on top of this? Keep the street labels and stuff like that, so that you can actually see what’s going on, but use the ‘hybrid’ concept to be able to get a photo-real map. Then making the photos smarter could really start to see some incredible technology.

I’m sure this will be available in Firefox soon too, but for now, IE is the tool of choice.

Photosynth – I hope it handles movies

Photosynth is cool. But in the trial version you can't upload your own photos. That's cool though – because at the moment you can get a good feel for what it's going to be like.

But it got me thinking – when I went to St Mark's Square in Venice, I didn't take that many photos. I don't really want to take 100 shots, even in an incredible place like that. I appreciate that other people will have taken shots and be letting the Photosynth community share them, but they won't be doing that when it comes to looking around a school, or a house that I'm considering buying. So then I got to thinking that if I take a video camera, and split out the movie into individual frames, then Photosynth could weave its magic with that. I know the resolution is a lot smaller, but it would let me walk in somewhere, turn around (slowly), keep walking, and get my 'hundreds of shots' quite quickly. If my wife is taking photos of things in detail, then together we should get good coverage – enough low-res to cover up the gaps, with high-res detail for zooming in.

So then my imagination started to run… if Photosynth could just handle movies straight off, then could it be modified to take several synchronised feeds? Could it then produce a world from the images at a certain point in the game, like when a goal was scored, or something like that? With enough processing power, could you watch the match from anywhere on the ground, flying around it as you wanted?

Or could you manipulate the world that Photosynth created? Could you make a world of your house, and then replace a wall with a window? If Photosynth knew what was on the other side of the wall (garden, other rooms, whatever), then you could work out how your renovations might look? Or could you change the colours, wallpapers, etc?

Could you then make a movie of yourself, which you could look at from various angles (but particularly, looking directly at the eyes, in mirrored image, as if you were looking into a mirror), and try on clothes, glasses or hairstyles? It's all well and good for people to have software that shows a picture of their face with a different haircut, but if you could move around this world, and even see animations, then that gives you a much better impression about what you will look like.

The thing that impresses me the most about Photosynth is the imagination. I know the technology must be pretty clever – I did some image processing subjects during my degree, and I know it can be all kinds of headaches… but if they've cracked the concept of matching pictures to a virtual world, then I can see much bigger things in the not too distant future.