Archive for August, 2022

Location alarm

Sunday, August 7th, 2022

My phone has a wonderful feature. If you set a time, my phone raises an alarm when that time is reached.

I use this for all sorts of things, including travel, cooking, taking naps, and pretty much everything else where I need to know that a certain thing has to happen at a certain time.

But my phone doesn’t have a feature that raises an alarm when I get to a particular geographic location. I wish it did.

I would use that feature, for example, when taking a train or a bus. Why do I need to keep checking to make sure that I am near my destination, when my phone has a perfectly good GPS, and could do it for me?

I suppose if it were easier to program phone apps that access your current GPS location, I would write my own location alarm.

Whales swimming serenely through the air

Saturday, August 6th, 2022

I’ve been watching the wonderful Korean drama Extraordinary Attorney Woo. It amazes me how Korean TV manages to avoid pigeonholing content into narrow genres.

In the U.S. most shows can easily be categorized as “comedy” or “drama””. There is little cross-over. Yet the best Korean shows (like this one) manage to be both at the same time, and at a very high level.

Also, there is a recurring visual motif in this show of giant whales swimming serenely through the air. And I really like giant whales swimming serenely through the air.

This wonderful visual is, all by itself, a good enough reason to get those future mixed reality glasses. Don’t you agree?

Day of preparation

Friday, August 5th, 2022

Today is the last day before the people in our research lab at NYU fly out to the big ACM/Siggraph conference. This year the conference is in Vancouver, and we will be presenting a big demo.

There are lots of pieces — robots, VR headsets, 6D trackers, computers, cameras, and all sort of other toys. But mostly it’s a set of interconnected software programs, working to support a live demo.

Today everybody is heads down and focused on getting things done. Soon it will be time to pack everything up and taking it all to the airport, and then on to Canada.

Next week is going to be crazy, with a million things going on at the same time. But today, on this final day of preparation, the energy in our lab is quiet and focused.

High wire act

Thursday, August 4th, 2022

I have realized that the most fun way to do Widget Wednesdays is to actually do them on Wednesdays. I guess I could work in advance, build something up gradually over time, and I’ve tried that.

But it is not nearly as much fun. The thrill of having to write a complete program, get it working, do all the design tweaks, and present it for you to play with, is its own form of very high order recreation.

I’ve been enjoying this high wire act, waiting until the day, and then striking all at once. I realize that the results are less like symphonies and more like haiku. But hey, I like haiku.

Widget Wednesdays #31

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2022

Continuing with the grid theme, I was wondering what would happen if, in my recent seven sisters example, each of the moving squares were to leave a trail. This would give a better sense of how things are moving over time. Also, they would then have interesting shapes, and therefore become more like creatures.

One thing led to another, and I ended up increasing both the size of the grid and the number of creatures. The current grid has 160×160 squares, and is inhabited by 200 roving creatures.

I also changed it so that the creatures don’t ever leave the space. The way I do this is to detect when a creature hits one of the walls. When that happens, the creature now bounces off that wall, so that it will remain in play.

You can see the result here. As usual, you can click on the word at the very bottom of the page to open up and play with the source code.

Magic lantern

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2022

Around four hundred years ago, when people first saw the magic lantern, I’ll bet they thought “Wow, we are now in modern times!” That’s probably been the way it has felt with every new kind of communication technology.

When the first telegraph messages made their way across the Atlantic, the first silent movies, the first broadcast TV show. And in more recent times, UseNet, then surfing the Web for the very first time with Mosaic, then eventually all the things you can do on your iPhone.

At each step the feeling has been “Wow, we are now in modern times!” And yet that is exactly the feeling we try to avoid in research.

Our job is to constantly remind ourselves that we are not, in fact, the ne plus ultra of modernity. Instead, we need to think about what might be coming next, and how we can help to make that happen.

Ultimately, I think that’s a more exciting way to think about things. Instead of saying “Wow, we have movies now!” it’s more useful to say “We are in the age of silent movies, and talkies are coming.”

On this day in history

Monday, August 1st, 2022

On August 1, 1834, Britain abolished slavery. That historic event occurred 31 years before the United States managed to do the same — a very large gap in my estimation.

As an American, I wanted to find something positive that happened within our own country on this day in history. So I went to the Wikipedia and started looking.

The best thing I could come up with was this: On August 1, 1981, MTV was launched. Its historic first video was “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.

I’m not sure what this says about our nation.