SandBot Happily And Tirelessly Rolls Patterns In Sand

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The patience and precision involved with drawing geometric patterns in sand is right up a robot’s alley, and demonstrating this is [rob dobson]’s SandBot, a robot that draws patterns thanks to an arm with a magnetically coupled ball.

SandBot is not a cartesian XY design. An XY frame would need to be at least as big as the sand table itself, but a SCARA arm can be much more compact. Sandbot also makes heavy use of 3D printing and laser-cut acrylic pieces, with no need of an external frame.

[rob]’s writeup is chock full of excellent detail and illustrations, …read more

Tweetbot for iOS now includes an OLED-optimized dark mode and GIF support

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There’s a new version of Tweetbot for iOS today, and this release will be especially appreciated by iPhone X, XS, and XS Max users. It comes with an optimized version of dark mode that’ll take advantage of OLED panels’ high contrast levels. (Apple previously listed 16 apps that offer “pure black mode,” so maybe Tweetbot wants to make it onto the second version of that list.) The app already featured a dark mode, but this new version should be slightly nicer on the eyes.

The update also includes GIF support in the compose view; redesigned profiles; redesigned tweet status details; new iconography and app icon; haptic feedback support; auto video playback (that you can turn on or off); and the ability to add descriptions to images….

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To see this gorgeous new Into the Spider-Verse footage, you must endure Post Malone

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I’m sorry to direct Verge readers to a Post Malone song, but the grubby musician has made his latest music video hard to pass up: “Sunflower” is a collaboration with Swae Lee that the pair wrote and recorded to accompany Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the gorgeous upcoming animated film that follows Miles Morales (and basically every other Spidey that ever existed).

What we’ve seen in the trailers thus far have racked up early praise — The Verge included — for its unique visual style, which mashes up a comic book aesthetic with contemporary CGI. Technically a lyric video, “Sunflower” incorporates the song’s lyrics — which are just okay — with more impressive footage from the film, including, no doubt, extra animation specifically…

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Original fan art celebrating Peter Tieryas’ “United States of Japan”

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Mechas are cool. Mecha toys are even cooler. But mecha toys based on my own stories has been the coolest.

When I was eight (making it the late 80s), I spent two years in South Korea. I remember how much I used to love going to toy stores and staring longingly at all the various mecha kits. Miniaturized robots fighting titanic battles over the fate of the world was a fun escape, especially with the Cold War still breathing its last gasps and the threat of North Korea ominously real, making every day life intense.

My love of big robots continued throughout the years after I returned back to the States, growing with games like Hideo Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid and Zone of the Enders, while anime such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, Patlabor, and Escaflowne fired me up even more. That passion influenced me professionally too as I spent my first big gig writing game manuals for LucasArts and building mechas in what was then a new 3D package called Maya on my own time to improve my art abilities. I obsessed over details, how the parts would actually move, and what type of complex rigging systems the robots would need to be animated.

When it came time to writing my new book, Mecha Samurai Empire, I drew on those experiences and tried to craft a more realistic mecha book, integrating my knowledge of animation and visual effects. I made parallels between the huge teams that are required to bring a character to life and the crews driving the massive mechas. Read the rest

Laser Cut Cardboard Robot Construction Kit Eases Learning And Play

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It has never been easier to put a microcontroller and other electronics into a simple project, and that has tremendous learning potential. But when it comes to mechanical build elements like enclosures, frames, and connectors, things haven’t quite kept the same pace. It’s easier to source economical servos, motors, and microcontroller boards than it is to arrange for other robot parts that allow for cheap and accessible customization and experimentation.

That’s where [Andy Forest] comes in with the Laser Cut Cardboard Robot Construction Kit, which started at STEAMLabs, a non-profit community makerspace in Toronto. The design makes modular frames, enclosures, …read more

How Hitman 2’s developers turned its gigantic levels into ever-evolving playgrounds

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2016’s Hitman reboot was a fascinating experiment in reviving a classic formula with a new twist. IO Interactive, the developer behind the assassination sandbox series, decided to combine the best efforts of 2012’s more linear but highly polished Hitman: Absolution with the open-world spirit and heavy experimentation of the series’ first three major entries.

The result was one game with just six levels and a loosely woven story linking them together. But each one of those levels, released in episodic installments over the course of many months, was a staggering achievement in scale and realism, sending players everywhere from a complex re-creation of a Paris art museum to a seaside Italian town housing an underground bioweapon plant….

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Now you can share your ETA in real time on Google Maps for iOS

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Google Maps’ ETA sharing feature, which lets the app share your navigation route with friends in real time, is coming to iOS today. The feature has been available on the Android app since last year, and was introduced with the clip above. The video shows some specific use cases for ETA sharing, like when you’re planning a surprise party and need to coordinate partygoers’ arrival times. It’s also just a neat, useful tool for when you want to know your friends’ whereabouts, a feature that’s long been available on other navigation apps like Waze and Citymapper.

The update also allows for ETA sharing across third-party apps like Facebook Messenger, Line, and WhatsApp, a feature new to Android as well. You can access it by going to the ?…

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There’s now proof that quantum computers can outperform classical machines

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The hype around quantum computing is real. But to fully realize the promise of quantum computing, it’ll still take a few years of research and scientific breakthroughs. And indeed, it still remains to be seen if quantum computers will ever live up to the hype. Today, though, we got mathematical proof that there are really calculations that […]

Researchers create virtual smells by electrocuting your nose

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The IEEE has showcased one of the coolest research projects I’ve seen this month: virtual smells. By stimulating your olfactory nerve with a system that looks like one of those old-fashioned kids electronics kits, they’ve been able to simulate smells. The project is pretty gross. To simulate a smell, the researchers are sticking leads far […]

Compression could be machine learning’s “killer app”

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Pete Warden (previously) writes persuasively that machine learning companies could make a ton of money by turning to data-compression: for example, ML systems could convert your speech to text, then back into speech using a high-fidelity facsimile of your voice at the other end, saving enormous amounts of bandwidth in between.

Less exotically, ML is also used for “adaptive compression” algorithms that use ML-based judgments to decide how to compress different parts of a data-stream without compromising fidelity in ways that are perceptible by human observers.

Warden points out that companies already spend a lot of money on compression: vendors that want to sell ML-based compression systems would be asking for customers to switch who they spend an existing budget with, a much easier sell than convincing companies to spend money in an altogether new category.

One of the other reasons I think ML is such a good fit for compression is how many interesting results we’ve had recently with natural language. If you squint, you can see captioning as a way of radically compressing an image. One of the projects I’ve long wanted to create is a camera that runs captioning at one frame per second, and then writes each one out as a series of lines in a log file. That would create a very simplistic story of what the camera sees over time, I think of it as a narrative sensor.

The reason I think of this as compression is that you can then apply a generative neural network to each caption to recreate images.

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Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” coming to to big screen

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A half a century after Judy Blume’s classic young adult novel Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was first published, it’s going to be made into a film. Blume has consistently refused to allow her books to become movies. Fremon Craig who wrote and directed The Edge of Seventeen will adapt “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” for the screen and direct the movie with James L. Brooks producing. Apparently Blume hit it off with them during a trip to Hollywood in August. From Deadline:

“It is this right of passage for women and girls,” Fremon Craig told Deadline. “It’s rare for me to run into a woman or girl who hasn’t read it and every time I’ve mentioned it to a woman, they clutch their heart and let out this joyful gasp. There’s something so timely and full of truth and I remember for me that at that age, it felt like a life raft at a time when you’re lost and searching and unsure. This book comes along and tells you you’re not alone. Women remember where they were when they read it. I can’t think of another book you can say that about….”

“I got the greatest email from Judy where she said if someone were to make a film of one of her books, she hoped it would have the same tone and feeling that The Edge of Seventeen had,” Fremon Craig said. “It’s maybe the greatest compliment I’ve ever gotten, because she has always been a North star for me as a writer.

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An astoundingly odd cinematic cigarette commercial from 1977

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I can imagine the first brainstorm: “What if the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey was actually a massive pack of cigarettes? And they found it at the bottom of the ocean?” Here’s the actual back story according to Big Dog Media Productions:

When health warnings first appeared on packets in 1971 and the rules for cigarette advertising rules were changed, tobacco companies were faced with the challenge of maintaining brand awareness and driving sales in a market made more aware of the risks than ever before.

The change in rules, coupled with a fresh approach to advertising in general, gave birth to a unique genre of advertising that neatly ticked the boxes of the rule book yet created an art form. As with Surrealist art, these ads aimed to surprise and intrigue the viewer by replacing the objects people expected to see in a particular scene with something incongruous – in this case, a packet of cigarettes.

Collett Dickenson Pearce was tasked with the advertising for Benson & Hedges in 1973….

The story goes that Frank Lowe, Managing Director at CDP in 1977, had two finished campaigns to present. After much debate, he took both campaigns to CDP’s Creative Director, Colin Millward, and asked him his view.

Colin said “…one will let you sleep at night, the other will make you famous.”

(via r/ObscureMedia, thanks UPSO!) Read the rest

Ask Hackaday: Why Aren’t We Hacking Cellphones?

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When a project has outgrown using a small microcontroller, almost everyone reaches for a single-board computer — with the Raspberry Pi being the poster child. But doing so leaves you stuck with essentially a headless Linux server: a brain in a jar when what you want is a Swiss Army knife.

It would be a lot more fun if it had a screen attached, and of course the market is filled with options on that front. Then there’s the issue of designing a human interface: touch screens are all the rage these days, so why not buy a screen with …read more

The grisly mystery of Return of the Obra Dinn will make you obsessed

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At first, Return of the Obra Dinn seems impossible. The latest game from Papers, Please creator Lucas Pope tasks you with solving the mystery of the titular Obra Dinn, a ship that washed up on shore in 1807, five years after it was believed to be lost at sea. What happened to all 60 of its crewmembers? You don’t have much to go on: a list of the crew, a few maps and illustrations, and an empty ship to explore. But Obra Dinn is a masterpiece that reveals itself very slowly. You don’t understand the true scale of the experience until you steadily start uncovering clues, and before you know it, you’ve become obsessed with the fate of the ship.

The most important part of the experience is a magical watch that can temporarily transport you to…

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New Banksy video shows Girl with Balloon should have been totally shredded

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Because Banksy is the art community’s biggest troll, his dramatic choice earlier this month to automatically shred one of his most famous paintings the moment it was sold at auction for $1.4 million was not particularly surprising.

A new “Director’s Cut” of the artist’s initial video depicting that now-infamous moment Girl with Balloon met the shredder, however, shows that not everything went according to plan: while the painting was ultimately shredded halfway through during an auction at Sotheby’s Auction House, the artist had intended to shred the entire painting.

The scene, as captured in the video above, devolved into chaos anyway. Security guards whisk the half-framed painting away like the Secret Service would a politician;…

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These are the cheapest Nvidia GeForce RTX graphics cards you can buy

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Nvidia’s expensive GeForce RTX graphics cards are now available, and several manufacturers have released their own takes on the RTX 2070, 2080, and 2080 Ti. And an increasing number of them are more affordable than Nvidia’s own Founders Edition reference cards.

In most cases, you’re looking at up to $100 off, which makes the RTX 2070 cheaper than the last-generation Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 Ti. Currently, the savings vary depending on the card you’re after. The RTX 2080 and RTX 2080 Ti have yet to see much of a discount, though that’s likely to change as more manufacturers bring cards to market and demand dampens a bit.

We’ll keep a lookout for the most affordable Nvidia GeForce RTX 20-series graphics cards, and we will update the list…

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Philips Hue dimmer switch kit for $30

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I wanted to be able to control a light above our bed without having to get out of bed. The Philips Hue Wireless Dimming Kit (currently on sale for $30 on Amazon) was an easy way to do it. The kit comes with an LED bulb that connects wirelessly to the dimmer. The dimmer is mounted to the wall with adhesive tape, but you can remove it from its magnetic housing if you want to control your light from another part of the room.

The remote is much easier to use than a smartphone app (and more secure, too, I imagine). I’ve learned that the remote can be used to control up to 10 light bulbs.

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Author Peter Bebergal discusses his latest book, Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural

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Boing Boing pal, Peter Bebergal, has a new book coming out later this month called Strange Frequencies: The Extraordinary Story of the Technological Quest for the Supernatural. In 2015’s Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock n’ Roll, Peter explored what he identified as the “occult imagination” and how it had provided critical inspiration to many ground-breaking rock artists of the 60s and 70s (and beyond). In Strange Frequencies, Peter takes a hands-on look at how technology has always gone hand-in-hand with explorations of the otherworldy. He experiments with building a spirit radio, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings, a brain machine, and an automaton, and examines the legend of the Golem (arguably the “programmable robot” of Jewish mysticism), spirit photography, and the relationship between stage magic and magic of the supernatural.

To give you a taste of some of what’s in Strange Frequencies, Peter recently appeared on Ryan Peverly’s Occulture podcast. Peverly says that Strange Frequencies is the coolest book you will read all year.

And Haute Macabre has just published an interview with Peter conducted by the poet, Janaka Stucky.

JS: I’m glad you brought up divination because that relates to something else that was revelatory to me throughout the book, namely: that the ‘technology’ in the “technological quest for the supernatural” of the title isn’t just cameras, or televisions, or other mechanical devices, but also that crystals or sigils and other more fundamental tools external to our bodies are a kind of technology we use.

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