Visual Navigation for Flying Robots

Free lectures! Free courses on-line! Free! Free!

Got your attention? I’m like spam.

So far, so good. It has been a year since I decided to get fully involved in this field of Computer Vision, and hasn’t been easy, but I gotta say it is full of surprises. My University has been strongly doing some research about it, and a proof of that is that the 3D Computer Vision course given in Coursera is actually done by a Professor in my university (tho in German). So, I think we’re moving quite strong.

quadrocopter

My curiosity took me to the Computer Vision chair of the Informatics Department at the TUM and I think this semester they completely got me, as I’m planning to get the 3 lectures given there: Visual Navigation for Flying Robots, Multiple View Geometry and Machine Learning for Robotics and Computer Vision. Robotics, Machine Learning and Computer Vision! Makes my mouth water. Huh! Beautiful. Continue reading

VHS mode in Youtube

Not sure if a late Easter egg, a passing joke or a permanent feature (would be fun), but Google gives us again the opportunity to play around with the common things on the internet.

This time comes all through Youtube. A new feature was added to the player of Youtube: the “Tape Mode”. You click it and your image will seem like an old VHS-cassette-like video. Quite nostalgic, I would say. I just discovered it watching some Ellen videos (I admit it, goddamit, that woman’s jokes are funny for me), and discovered this one with Steve Carell (better if you watch it in Youtube‘s website):

The legend says that they do it because of the 57th Anniversary of the commercial realease of the first VHS cassette. Well, quite a random number for me, but anyways. Not all videos have this feature. Apparently you just have to randomly find them too. Buuuu!!

Oh yeah, click “Pause” and it will keep the old effect of the cassette. These hipsters are everywhere with the electronic vintage effects. First their instagram, now this. I don’t think is gonna last, but I’d activate it for fun only.

Find a nice video and give it a try!

Festo and its biological inspiration

Many companies around the world are fascinated with natural selection, because there is no wider range of inspiration for technology than the nature itself. Machines, robots and software are being designed with a strong background in biological elements. It is not coincidence that terms like mouse, virus or bug are common in the thecnological field.

Festo is a german company whose main goal is to design and build actuators for the automation industry. They are one of the biggest in this field. However, the german engineering is challenging through Festo again, and the innovation lovers in the company created the Festo Bionic Lab, where they have a complete freedom to experiment with their creativity. What have they done? A field entirely made of biological immitation. Their creations may  deceive your eyes at first sight, but oh boy! They have nailed it. Let’s check their main robots (my favorites), just for you to have an idea what I’m talking about…

The Airacuda was the first project, released in 2006, and the big challenge was to create a system that could really be an underwater robot, behaving and moving as a real fish. It still seems quite “robotic” with no emphasis in its out-looks, but the engineering behind such an underwater systems has been a true innovation copying the fish.

Continue reading

Treasure Hunt in Google Maps

And the guys in Google seem to have lots of free time. Following the concept they created last year with an 8-bit Google Maps, this year they come with a new idea for April’s fool: an old style Treasure Hunt. I don’t know for how long it’s gonna be available but this trick looks very odd (tho funny).

When you open Google Maps for the first time you can see on the upper right options of visualization, an option that states ” Treasure”. Click it. That’s it, you can see now your map as an old middle aged map. They say you can find some hidden treasure chests, but I think it’d be very hard and time-consuming.

Munich vintage

But what happens when you wanna have a closer look? Well, unfortunately it zooms in until a definite distance, as they didn’t rendered all buildings and streets, just the main ones. However, if you choose the “Street view”, you will have a surprise having an old telescope-like look.

Munich landscape vintage

Aaaaand, that’s this year’s Easter Egg from Google Maps. Maybe not so special but, quite creative and entertaining. Have a look at your city. How much stuff is in it? Did you see the most interesting things?

Predator Algorithm

The more I go into Machine Vision, the more I get amazed by the Engineering behind the most common thing around me.

Now, this post is not abut something that we can see daily now, but I’m sure it’s gonna be soon among us. Very soon. I’m talking about the Predator Algorithm (originally named TLD), developed by czech scientist Zdenek Kalal. This algorithm is implemented in such a way that the computer learns continuously detecting the features and objects in it.

Yes, it learns and with time detects easily every object. But well, nothing better than a graphical explanation of what I’m trying to explain, by the inventor himself:

The creator of this algorithm had such a success that he already started his own company to start the implementation of this great Engineering tool: TLD Vision.

These are the kind of things that really inspire.

Build your own 3D Scanner!

Yes, it is possible and you can do it. Actually you don’t have to be a total expert in programming or Maths. Yes yes, you have to know some good stuff, but being a nerd or a genius is not the point.

Gabriel Taubin, an Argentinian Mathematician researching in Brown University is in charge of this project and made it available for everyone, so if you have 3D Computer Vision as your hobby, then this is the perfect start. As I said, you don’t have to be an expert but you need to go deep into it and it will be totally amazing, I promise. Just have a look to the website:

BYO3S

The final results would be amazing and they provide every kind of tool that you may need. It seems that the used methods vary, but that’s just extra fun. I really encourage you to try it, because it’s cheap, fun and totally useful.

The following video is NOT of the project, but it shows you how accessible is to build your own 3D scanner.

But don’t forget the Kinect, boy!

Language Immersion

In my daily struggling trying to learn the German language I use to try new tools and techniques to improve my skills and be more understandable, but of course many times it doesn’t work just because “Deutsch ist eine verkackte Sprache” as my flatmate says.

But well, I love the goddamn language and I will always learn it. So I decided to install an extension for Chrome called “Language Immersion”, which is an experimental extension that changes randomly the words in the text of the websites that you are visualizing, so it mixes the normal text of your language with some words in the language you wanna learn. You can manage how deep you wanna be into the language ranging from Novice to Fluent (5 different levels)

Simple but an effective idea, isn’t it? Let me post the video that explains how this works:

I’ve tried it and after 5 minutes I stopped it. I think it was going worse than it should. Wasn’t helping at all. Now, I don’t consider myself an expert in German or that I express myself perfectly (nor in English) but I certainly find the translations really shitty. I can say it by now for German, which is a complex language that depends so much in the context and every word in a sentence makes sense when you know the other words too. If you have a sight of what Dativ, Akkusativ and other related things are, then you can get my point. The translation in Google Translate is not optimal and when the context is cut, it falls instantly like a drunk bitch with heels. I don’t wanna imagine it with Hungarian!

Is good that they are using the translation tool from Google, it is pretty massive. They even have Swahili and Yiddish available… but not Japanese! I know is another alphabet, but come on! They have Chinese!

Only 5 levels of immersion don’t give too much to play with. I was in the 4th and around 20 or 25% of the words were translated. Changed to the 5 and then all of them were translated.

A good thing is the possibility to highlight the translated words and when you don’t know the meaning you just click on the highlighted word or expression and it shows it back in the original language. But even better, if you wanna know how is it pronounced, you just hold the pointer over and it says it automatically. Of course you can disable all these features and even the extension itself whenever you want.

But yeah… is a shit and it actually could confuse more than it helps. A good idea with bad translations, few options to choose and a lack of intuition; but as I stated, it’s still experimental, the creators said. I hope gets better soon. By the moment I’ll kick it out of my Chrome.