Pixar has released its Renderman imaging software to the public free to download. This version is identical to the software it uses on it's own films, which was invented in-house, and is used today by major film and video game studios for animation and visual effects. This free license is for non-commercial use only, which includes show reels and student films.
Free Non-Commercial RenderMan can be used for research, education, evaluation, plug-in development, and any personal projects that do not generate commercial profits. Free Non-Commercial RenderMan is also fully featured, without watermark, time limits, or other user limitations.
Pixar is also launching a Renderman Community Site to share knowledge and assets, showcase work, and support all the new users bound to take advantage of this unique opportunity.
When Apple releases Apple Watch and Apple Watch Sport in April, expectations will be high. Today, over a dozen watches attempt to monitor heart rate through the wrist, using optical sensors to judge changes in blood flow, but only a few actually work well. It's a tricky engineering problem. Comb the reports of the most thorough gadget reviewers, and you'll see that many of Apple's competitors simply don't have their sensors quite working. The watches stop monitoring if the user is cold or moving around (which can sometimes happen in sports.)
Imagine getting to work Monday morning and a project manager demands that you reverse-engineer a difficult technology in a newly minted field. Optical heart rate feels a little like light-bulb filaments in the 1870s: everyone's trying to find a long-lasting one, only a few have the answer. In wearable products, the pulse is an important data stream to power a lot of advanced features.
To date, several companies have completely figured out optical heart rate monitoring for wearables, including Mio and Valencell. Will Apple join them in April, or will its users discover a finicky and imperfect version?
To know they are "laughing" will help you see that they are happy and mentally well. "Falling" may indicate an emergency situation. This device reassures you that your loved ones, who live far away, are doing well.via Tim Hornyak, IDG News Service Read the rest
Artist Rebecca Baxter of Halifax, Nova Scotia makes noisy, grating, often ethereal sounds from machines she designs and solders herself. Demand has been high for her one-offs, including those used in recordings and performances by Flaming Lips, Electric Wurms, New Fumes, Mike O'Neill, Panos, METEOROID, Holy Fuck, Buck 65, and Oscillator Sunshine Machine.
Now she's launched a campaign to raise money to build more sophisticated handmade instruments. So far her devices have been stand-alone, creating sound from oscillators inside, but her next model, the Omega, is slated to have inputs for a guitar or keyboard. More videos: 1, 2, 3. Read the rest
Online mag Hopes & Fears asked an educator in American Sign Language and his young assistant to demonstrate various internet jargon such as "emoji" and "photobomb". Each demo is captured in a short video loop. SMH portrays all the disgust involved in shaking one's head at something really stupid; Screengrab involves a nice gesture that enacts the mechanism of a phone display flashing in one's hand.
Since there's no central authority for such neologisms, some signs were ones used among friends while others were reached by consensus among members of the Deaf community online.
A group of design students from a Swedish university published an insightful academic paper last year spoofing all the baby health trackers now pitched to parents. The trackers measure things like a baby's breathing rate, heart rate, and sleep, and are made by startups including Mimo Baby, Owlet, Sproutling, and Monbaby.
Is this fear mongering for new moms? Or will these devices actually offer valuable data on infants? I think it's too early to tell. But the paper does a good job of critiquing the design pitfalls of the user experience. It argues such devices could needlessly raise anxiety and remove intuition from parenting.
There's a cool hand-drawn storyboard of a new mom deciding not to go the park with Johnny after she binges on biometric data:
Also, a good rendering of an epidemiological map overlay that would show all the kids in your neighborhood suffering from excessive booger:
I've been coveting the world’s best manual treadmill, the EcoMill ($7,000). But until I have a spare seven grand, I have to run with conventional electric mills. Most use a lot of juice -- between 800 and 1800 watts continuously -- because they have ot lock down a consistent pace with a low-cost mechanism.
At a sleepy little gym and pool complex here in Vermont, on a conventional electric machine this week, the current was so high it overloaded a nearby stereo receiver playing upbeat pop music for a water aerobics class. All of a sudden, seven wet, angry seniors swarmed from the pool. Encircled by bright floaties, they demanded I quit running so the music would come back on. I tried to explain the concept of a blown fuse and how treadmills use high wattage because they can’t rely on the friction like spin bikes and how the world really should invent a cheap electricity free mill. But at that only enraged them, and they gripped the handrails and rocked the machine side to side.
I really want my own EcoMill for the house. Or maybe a human-sized hamster wheel.
The Library of Congress site contains gems like this map showing the proposed final link of the original world wide web: the proposed trans-Pacific telegraph line, envisioned with Civil War-era technology. Read the rest
• New prosthetic "trooper" arm built with 3-D printer surprises Augusta boy (Augusta Chronicle)
If you'd like to get involved or see other wonderful stories, visit enablingthefuture.org.
A magesterial longread from Hans de Zwart of the Netherlands' Bits of Freedom steps carefully through all the ways in which the modern technological landscape focuses on ubiquitous surveillance for the purposes of social control and increased profitability for corporations. Read the rest
Charlie Stross lays out the state of aging: "cognitive functioning burdened by decades of memories to integrate, canalized by prior experiences, dominated by the complexity of long-term planning at the expense of real-time responsiveness...truck by intricate, esoteric cross-references to that which has gone before." Read the rest