I am in the process of refurbishing my website, which will allow me to host my blog as part of my own site from now on. This means that this Blogspot blog will be retired, and you will be able to find my blog from now on at its new, and permanent address. I am planning on posting more frequently again, so please check it out—I even made the effort to move all the old posts that still seemed relevant to me over there, so you won't miss anything. Please make sure to update the feed URL in your RSS reader!
Go to Flo's new blog now
Im Zuge der Erneuerung meiner Website übersiedelt mein Blog an seine neue, selbstgehostete und permanente Adresse. Der Blogspot-Blog wird damit nach einer langen Phase der Inaktivität eingestellt, ich habe aber vor an der neuen Adresse wieder öfter zu posten. Also, bitte denkt daran auch die Feed Adresse in eurem RSS Reader umzustellen!
Zu Flo's neuem Blog
June 06, 2011
December 18, 2009
NASA's Shuttle Radar Topography Mission measured the earth's surface elevation in february 2000 using radar interferometry. The resulting data is available to the public and can be used for various purposes. I have been playing with the data over the last days and experimented with different methods for visualizing terrains in 2d and 3d, primarily in the context of Openstreetmap rendering. However, nothing has impressed me more than the very first plain grayscale image I produced (showing the area around and to the north of Vienna):
(click for a slightly larger version)
I have never seen so clearly the details and variation of the earth's relief. On most maps, data like this is rendered in the background to give the viewer a sense of depth, but map graphics and surface textures are usually layered on top and take away a lot of the clarity that is so stunning here. One has to consider that the image shows an area that is usually considered to be rather "flat" - but look at how one can see the thousands and thousands of years of wind and rain working on the "Weinviertel" area to the north. Or look at the sharp edge of the "Wienerwald" area, suddenly dropping down to the really flat plains of the "Tullner Becken" and "Wiener Becken".
I considered adding some labels and paths as means of orientation, but then I liked the idea to leave it like it is as a puzzle for you to figure out the locations of places you know in the image.
Addendum: In the light of the current issue of "protecting the planet", pictures like these make me quite confident that the planet will do fine - even long after we humans managed to remove ourselves from it after a short, rather irrelevant episode of civilization...
October 26, 2009
It's nice to see a project I have been involved with going live: The October issue of Red Bull's “Red Bulletin” magazine features augmented reality content that supplements the printed articles. But see for yourself:
Two groundbreaking new features made this move of augmented reality into mainstream media possible. Markerless tracking technology, developed by my former colleagues at TU Graz, allows the system to identify and locate pages in the camera image without requiring special layout or patterns on the page. And even more important, implementing the base technologies in Flash (done by Imagination in Vienna) allows end users to explore the content within their browser, requiring only a webcam connected to or built into their computer. If you want to try for yourself, grab a copy of the magazine and go to http://en.redbulletin.com/print2.0 (or to de. for the german version) to see it in action.
I was involved early in the project as a consultant, implementing a prototype to experiment with various content formats and bringing together the right people to realize the project. It was clear that Red Bull as a customer would require a seamless and direct user experience to suit their brand, and fortunately some of my former colleagues at Vienna University of Technology are now among the top players in the worldwide augmented reality research community and were able to deliver the necessary technology. I am quite happy how this worked out, as it was an important step for me to move away from doing a lot of implementation work by myself to a more conceptual level, bringing together people and using my experience to move the project in the right direction early on.
Although I am happy to see the results, I also see augmented reality, even in this very simple yet compelling form, still suffering from the same problems and obstacles like when I first experimented with it several years ago: Lighting (the real, not the virtual) is incredibly important and difficult to get right, because reflections on the page can make tracking impossible (especially in glossy magazines like Red Bulletin). In low lighting, the noise from the camera makes tracking impossible. Furthermore, the performance of the Flash implementation is a little below my expectations, requiring the application to use a camera resolution of 320x240 (!), further diminishing tracking and image quality. I believe there is a lot of potential for improvement here by optimizing either the implementation or Flash itself. (Hey Adobe, please note this down and check what you can do to optimize. And while you're at it, please add multi-threading capabilities to Actionscript if you want to see killer applications like this with decent performance - in a future of heavily parallelized systems this will be inevitable anyway.)
Talking about the application itself, this is obviously nothing new. Basically, there is still no more compelling augmented reality application in sight than simply placing virtual stuff on real objects - Flash's built in capability to display streamed videos just adds a very nice content type to it. Worldwide, hundreds of researchers are still looking for the “killer app” that will only be possible with augmented reality (I tried for myself for some years). Until a genius comes up with a truly revolutionary idea, we will have to stick with permutations of ARToolkit's cube demo as the mainstream application - and work on providing stable tracking, good performance (possibly on mobile devices) and a seamless user experience as icing on the cake. If done right, this can be great added value for dead-tree publications.
Here is Red Bull's promotion video for the project:
June 04, 2009
Finally I found some time to do a little hardware hacking on the Arduino platform. As a quick first project and a first step towards much larger things we are planning at Maschinenring I came up with something that a) makes sense and b) can be done with a minimum of money (€10 if you already have an Arduino) and a main focus on programming: A two-joint articulated plotting robot.
Unfortunately, this picture is a fake :)) but I could not resist using this Escher quote (actually i guess the hand should carry a screwdriver to make it symmetrical but I didn't want to spend too much time in Photoshop for now). The real plotting results are much more disappointing because of mechanical errors which are not really controllable in software (and no, it's not the fault of the cardboard used for building the robot arms) and accumulate to an error of approximately +/- 0.5cm in the output.
Nevertheless, it was a fun project and great for getting back into some hardware-oriented programming and thinking about things like optimizing calculations for integer math. More details (including a video of the robot in action and the Arduino source code) can be found at the Maschinenraum blog.
Heres a picture of the actual output: this should be an orthogonal spiral with a winding width of 1cm. (Sorry for the crappy quality, I only have a webcam for taking pictures right now.)
Because of the low precision I didn't bother to program a way to upload more complex graphics to the robot yet, so output geometry is limited to things one can easily implement procedurally. Send me code if you want something drawn, and I send you an arm-signed drawing from the artist ;).
Posted by Flo at 10:06
July 29, 2008
Usually I sort incoming mails into folders immediately, besides the ones that require some kind of action or a reply, which I leave in my inbox (I sometimes even pull automatically sorted emails back into the inbox if I want to remind myself to act upon them). This means there are always some messages in my inbox, usually between 10 and 30, depending on my workload and other factors. Some of these emails can get very old in there, years in some cases where I just don't find the right mindset for a reply.
I am leaving for holiday tomorrow and wanted to answer some of these long waiting emails before that. The basis was laid already a few months ago when I decided to declare as abandoned some private email threads that have been waiting for multiple years, but now the impossible has happened:
Empty Inbox! I can't remember if this has ever happened before since I started using email in ... 1995 I guess.
How do you handle your inbox?
June 12, 2008
[This is a German post – if you want to receive only English posts, you may subscribe to the english feed]
Proletarier bekriegen sich gegenseitig und fordern, den Ölmultis Steuergeld in die Tasche zu schaufeln:
Telepolis: Massive Streiks in Spanien und Portugal
Manchmal wünsche ich mir schon, dass ein BWL-Gundkurs zur Allgemeinbildung gehört: Wenn der Produzent entdeckt, dass die Preiselastizität für ein Produkt gegen Null geht, wird er den Preis endlos steigern und sich dabei eins lachen. Einziger Ausweg: weniger zu verbrauchen!
April 22, 2008
I just finished my first Flex project, an interactive projection wall for the exhibition ITNOA - In The Name Of Architecture. The exhibition brings together projects of students of the three universities in Vienna teaching architecture (TU Wien, Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Die Angewandte) in a self-curated setting. While the projects coming from different universities are presented in different areas of the printed-out part of the exhibition, syn:wall brings all projects together on one surface and creates neighborhood relationships between similar projects using quantitative attributes and tags.
The result of such an exploration can be printed out on a color laser printer and taken home by the visitor as an individual page of a distributed, virtual exhibition catalog.
One thing I learned (again) in this project is how inferior projectors are as an output medium. In a single grid cell of the exhibition, measuring 120 x 45 cm, a whole architecture project can be communicated in printed form, including texts, diagrams, plans and renderings. In the same area of the projected image there are 240 * 100 pixels, which can hold a lousy, pixelated thumbnail of the same project. Therefore I really like the idea of on-demand printing, and I would like to investigate this further in future projects, including producing larger prints with a plotter (something we originally planned to do but could not realize within the given budget and time).
ITNOA will be on until the end of the week, with a closing down party on Friday, the 25th of April (unfortunately I cannot be there on Friday because of two other appointments). It is located in the "Albertinapassage", the underpass under the Ring on the Albertina side of the Opera. ITNOA is also probably the last chance to have a drink at the infamous "Gaudí Bar" there, since the underpass will be closed down shortly after the exhibition. This place somehow always inspires me to get totally wasted every time I am there...
Thanks to Rüdiger Suppin for working on the concept with me and to all ITNOA people who helped entering the project information and crop all the images.