Tag Archives: intriguing

Drones for news?

A former co-worker of mine, who moved to Halifax to cover business issues there, has penned an intriguing idea into one of her latest articles, about unmanned drones as they move out of the military realm and into the mainstream:

Although the military and law enforcement are the most obvious users of drones, Stiles said such multi-use devices are on the brink of hitting the mainstream. Smaller drones, such as the 1.3-kilogram Aeryon Scout, could be used in climate research and weather forecasting, fire detection and management, and by news organizations to collect video and audio feeds, for example.

As an employee of a news organization myself, I could see several quick applications — traffic being the most obvious, but also quick-response to breaking news, and fantastic video/photo angles on sites that are difficult to approach, whether that’s fires or crime scenes. We had record-breaking flooding this year, and sent our photographers up into planes on a a regular basis to get a sense of the scale of the disaster — this could have enabled us to get aerial shots even more often.

And imagine what stories could be unveiled just by keeping an eye on things for a long period of time. If you sent the drone over a big box mall every few days for a whole year, you could collate those pictures to see if that massive asphalt parking lot is, perhaps, too big.

The Aeryon company website is conspicuously absent of any price details, and in the article they say it’s tough to pin down. At this point, I suspect it’s a case of “if you have to ask, it’s too expensive.” But I also know I can buy two-foot-long remote control helicopters from a table in the mall for less than $100. Slap a GoPro on that baby, and you’re half-way there.

‘Up’ bracelet a great step towards continual biofeedback

I really like the concept behind the “Up” bracelet, from Jawbone. The bracelet, which will sell for about $100, is a single-use device that does nothing but track your movements. Think of it as a glorified pedometer — but one that’s ultra-sensitive and hooked up with an app.

Mashable has a pre-review:

What is the wristband tracking, exactly? In short: sleep and exercise. … [I]t looks for micro-movements at bedtime and can tell when you’ve fallen asleep …. it will wake you with gentle vibrations in the morning instead of music or noise, so your partner can go on sleeping. …. it can track whether you’re in light or deep sleep, and will wake you within a certain window of time, when your sleep is at its lightest.

It’ll also keep track of regular old exercise, plus all the activity you do during the day that you might not think counts as exercise, whether it’s running for the bus or pacing during a conference call.

Plus, if you take pictures of your food, it will ask you a few hours later how you’re feeling. That way, you’ll learn if your food is making you feel sluggish or bloated.

Is it a perfect way to continuously monitor your health and welfare? No. But I’d rather wear a bracelet than buy a toilet to analyze my pee.

And for $100, it’s really not that expensive.

(via @alysonshane)

Sweet! I’m number 4,171,037,751!

The BBC has a sweet tool that lets you chart yourself into the world’s population explosion. It’s awesome! Try it yourself here: What’s your number?

After they hook you with that, some other simple demographic questions will show you more about your country, your life expectancy, and that rate of growth or shrinkage of the population elsewhere in the world.

In the time I tooled around their site, the world’s population grew by more than 600 people. Whoa.

(via Gizmodo)

How many slaves work for you?

I appreciate this website not only for its message, but also for the slick, easy-to-use survey it uses to get that message across.

Although you answer less than a dozen questions, you have the ability to finely grain your answers. And they seem pretty up-front and detailed about their methodology.

I was surprised to find that 45 people apparently worked to produce the things that I own. I wasn’t surprised to hear that most of them were in China. I was surprised to see the south-eastern U.S. get a dot. And Australia.

Find out how many slaves you have working for you.

Shooting with a silencer: Camera noise, the Jacobsen Blimp, and why those Osama/Obama photos were staged

Did your local newspaper run a photo of U.S. President Barack Obama, addressing the nation about the death of Osama bin Laden?

Well, no, it didn’t.

What your local newspaper actually ran was a staged photo, taken a few minutes after the president gave his speech. Obama walked back out to the podium, and faked talking for a few minutes, while photographers snapped away.

According to Al Tomkins, writing on journalism website Poynter.org, this is pretty standard practice — although it’s not talked about much:

This type of staging has been going on for decades.

John Harrington, president of the White House News Photographers Association, tells me that the Obama Administration has used this technique before and they are not the first.

“I am aware of it happening in previous administrations. I believe Bush 41 did it too,” Harrington said. “The times where I have known of it happening before is when the President is in the Oval Office and you are working in a very tight space.”

Other photographers who work at the White House told Poynter.org that since the Reagan era (and possibly before) it has been the standard operating procedure that during a live presidential address, still cameras are not allowed to photograph the actual event.

(See also the blog of Jason Reed, a White House photographer for Reuters, who posted a description of the night that Tompkins linked to.)

So why do they do it?

Apparently, it’s partly a concern for space, partly because the teleprompter gets in the way, and partly because camera shutters make too much noise (especially when there are dozens of them, and they’re echoing off White House marble).

But there are ways to silence a camera. Check out this cool foam-lined case for an SLR that practically mutes the shutter sound, although at the price of limiting your ability to change settings on the camera itself. It’s called a Jacobsen Blimp:

Tompkins doesn’t hold back what he thinks about this type of re-staging of a photo. Although the initial photo captions are clear that this was a re-enactment, Poynter checked into 50 newspaper front pages from the next morning. More than half don’t make it clear to readers that they’re not seeing the actual speech:

It is time for this kind of re-enactment to end. The White House should value truth and authenticity. The technology clearly exists to document important moments without interrupting them. Photojournalists and their employers should insist on and press for access to document these historic moments.

Hear, hear.

They call it ‘light’ reading — novel posted page-by-page on lampposts

First noticed by blogger EV Grieve, then picked up by the New York Post and then the Gothamist blog, someone is serializing their novel in a very offline way — by pasting a single page at a time on lampposts in NYC’s East Village, with each page directing readers to the next page.

The Post, which started at Page 7, couldn’t find Pages 1-6, so I guess there’s no way to work backwards. Amazingly, though, they did find someone who was against it:

“Honestly, I don’t like the idea. I hate it when people just post things everywhere,” said Joe Curanhj, 42, owner of Stromboli Pizza, located right in front of the lamppost bearing Page 8. “They have the Internet, why don’t they use that?”

Wow, crankypants — is this somehow worse than crappy bands advertising their crappy shows? Personally, I like it. It’d be even better if the story were somehow linked to the locations they were pasted, so that the reader could follow along on some kind of short story walking tour.

(from @urbanphoto_blog, via @stateofthecity — welcome to FB by the way)

Now versus ten years ago

io9 came up with this intriguing infographic, which shows a few of the differences between the year 2000 and 2010. Who knows what might happen in the next ten years, but we can maybe get a glimpse by looking back at the last decade.

I didn’t see too many surprises — except that energy consumption in the U.S. appears to have declined slightly? Meanwhile, China’s is skyrocketing. They’re presented in different units, but I did the conversion (1 kWH = 3412.3 BTU) to show that the Chinese power consumption of approximation 4.17 trillion kW/h is roughly equal to 14.2 quadrillion BTU. The American’s are still way ahead in wasting power. Go North America!

Some other comparisons are “for entertainment only” since I have no idea if they dollar values were adjusted for inflation or not.

Upside-down, hand-powered table saw

This intrigues me — a hand-saw combined with a table saw, so that you move the wood over the blade, but it’s not powered.

I would have thought it would be too difficult to make extensive cuts, but the video is pretty convincing. Although, they don’t show people ripping eight feet of plywood, so who knows.

At any rate, this looks like it’s more for precision work — and judging from the demo video, you can accomplish some great precision work!

(via Boing Boing)