Friday, 1 April 2011

Predator Video Motion Tracking

I have seen various motion tracking softwares and there are some very decent ones out there. I am still digging a bit learn a bit more about the Predator Tracking-Learning-Detection (TLD) system from the creator, Zdenek Kalal's, publications but this one impresses me immensely for a couple of reasons. Firstly it is amazing just in raw functionality. It learns and tracks complex pixel windows as an object moves around the image field as well and find it as it leaves and re-enters the field of view. The close second is that it is open source. This is Mr. Kalal's Ph.D research and he has put it out there for everyone under GPL. Very excellent!

So what makes motion tracking, and specifically the Predator, so cool? Like the X-Box Kinect that I wrote about last week, the Predator tracks objects that are in the image field. The Kinect is cool because it can be hacked to do some spectacular image space modelling. The Predator does not measure objects in 3D space like the Kinect but it seems to be pretty robust at tracking them once you show the system what you are looking for. It also can adjust for chances in scale as an object moves in an out in the image field. Two areas that I am still digging through publications to determine is how it handles multiple objects that are identical in the same image field. In the sample video a vehicle is shown driving along in dense traffic and it is not losing it. How it would handle 3 black BMW 323s in the same image field is unknown at this point. Also, the area that is being tracked can deal with the object changing pixel size as it moves closer and further away from the camera. The system is reported to learn as it gets more data. I assume that it learns as the object gets closer and further to remap and recalculate the change in size of tracking window and pixel values. I am not sure how the system would handle it if a window was chosen and the object was moved out of the image field of view and then brought back in closer to the camera prior to training it to recognize the window as it changes in scale. Those are just two questions that I endeavour to figure out. Either way, the technology it very cool and has very interesting potential. If people start playing with this code like they have hacked the Kinect we should see some interesting applications. I have already been trying to find time to try some of my own Kinect hacks. Now I need to decide, if I find that elusive time, whether I want to play with the Kinect or the Predator first!


Monday, 21 March 2011

Kinect - More than just a mocap for the XBox

Back in November 2010, Microsoft released the Kinect for their XBox 360. Interesting concept for controlling a video game system but that does not even touch the potential of what is possible with the Kinect. There are new hacks coming out daily for the Kinect system from creative, and sometimes warped, minds. Many of the hacks have a level of creative inspiration that they evoke while others are just finding some weird applications for an easily modified tracking system. Two articles that really epitomize the breadth of applications on are the Kinect being used for Medical Research by University of Minnesota as a replacement for a $150K machine followed by an article about someone using it as an Evil Genius Simulator! All of them are very much beyond what Microsoft was intending when they brought the system to market. The Kinect uses an IR projection of points, a depth sensor (CMOS) that maps the dots and another colour CMOS to image the area.

So what do the projected series of IR points look like?

The offset between the IR projection and the depth sensor determines the shape and distance away from the Kinect unit objects are. I have been following the postings at and am amazed at the wide range of ideas that people continue proposing for the Kinect. Updates are going up there daily so it makes an interesting read with the morning coffee a couple of times a week.

I have also been following this fellow because he is doing some pretty cool stuff with the Kinect  and does a decent job of breaking it down to show it in a practical function. The Kinect is on my wish list to pick up sooner rather than later in case Microsoft puts some type of firmware update to lock out the ability to hack it so openly. Hopefully I will have a few interesting things to post from some of my own experiments over the next couple of months.

Monday, 28 February 2011

3D Holographic Projections

Being a kid in the 70's I was a big fan of the Star Wars trilogy. Boys all wished to have R2-D2 and to have the ability to make holographic images (Princess Leia was definitely a good starting image). A really poor little image being projected out of R2-D2 was still very cool.

Well, I am still not be able to get my R2-D2, but the holographic possibilities have just become amazing. I first saw a couple of sample holograms from Musion just after Christmas with two musicians. One was on stage and the other was playing at some different location but being projected using their Eyeliner system to look like he was on stage as well. It was quite impressive. They also have a product that called EyeSay that has been deployed at the Manchester airport as a virtual assistant for travellers. I thought these samples were already amazing but then I saw the video that the Black Eyed Peas put together using the Eyeliner system. That takes it to a crazy level! The Black Eyed Peas have already been experimenting with some pretty cool 360 degree video technology. They could not find a system that would do what they wanted so they went and created their own 360 degree video system. Now they are incorporating holographic images in their performance. Watch the whole video through but for the impatient types, you will not want to miss the 4:00 mark. 4:15 shows you what you have really been watching. At the risk of repeating myself...very cool.

I want one, Dan

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Sapporo Beer Commecial in 3D, without 3D glasses

As I hopefully develop a few followers of this blog, I should probably give a few terms of reference on how often I plan on posting etc. My intention (hopefully I will adhere to this fairly strictly) is to post twice a week. Usually on Monday and Thursday evening...yes I am tell you this in a Wednesday post. I am full on contradictions. To this end, I have been compiling a list of various topics that I am planning on blogging but this just sort of jumped the cue. It appeals to a few key interests of mine:
  1. 3D
  2. very high on the cool factor
  3. beer is not necessarily a bad thing either
Some of you may already have seen this given that, when I am posting, it already has almost 2.5 million hits on YouTube. This is very interesting if you have not seen it. This Sapporo beer commercial is almost 100% CGI and must have been a pretty heavy investment in money to create. I won't ruin it by describing too much prior to you watching it but when the scene goes below the stream, it shows some insane 3D without any need for glasses. It does not pop out of the screen at you but there is amazing depth of field to this, utilizing some well applied perspective. As the scene moves around the foreground and background change in unbelievable ways. The link inserted in this page won't let you get the full screen HD effect so I am including that link here (don't forget to come back after).

To make this even more interesting, Sapporo has a website devoted to this campaign. It is interactive and as you move your mouse cursor the scene navigates much like you see in the video. I have not found a lot of information about exactly how they are doing it yet. If anyone has more info about it I would love to know. I plan on asking my CGI guru, Rob Clegg, to see what he has to say about it. He/his work is on my list of topics to blog about so you will learn more about Rob in the very near future. 3D web navigation would add a a pretty interesting feel to a web site, don't you think?.

Feeling very thirsty...Dan

Thursday, 17 February 2011

3D printing on steroids - The inaugural blog post

3D printing has come a long way since I started following it about 7 years ago. I have seen very low resolution, brittle models that turn to dust with a little handling and cost a fortune. More recently, 3D printing has made significant improvements in quality, mainstream visibility and more accessible pricing. The article "The Secret World of Printing Concept Cars in 3D" (linked from Wired) is about the improvements in quality and mainstream visibility....accessible pricing, maybe not.

As I head out to the 2011 Canadian International Auto Show next week, I am curious how many concept pieces I will see that have some 3D printing included in the fabricating process? If the the Renault Ondelios' printed interior in the Wired article looks as good as it does in the image, then the possibilities are expanding for large scale fabricating.