It’s the early 90’s. PDI is about to do Michael Jackson’s “Black or White” video. Pixar is about to do “Toy Story”. ILM is about to do “Terminator 2”. None of these things have happened yet, but behind the scenes, amazing people are working on them. They’re meeting for lunch, hanging out at conferences, reading each other’s publications with great interest, playing volleyball together and throwing great parties. Nobody knows exactly where this is going, but everyone’s pretty damn excited.
That’s what this scene feels like today.
[I actually wrote this a year ago, but it still feels true right now. So there you go.]
For a few weeks last spring I had the tremendous pleasure of working with my dear friend Eric Rodenbeck on an amazing project: an Atlas of Emotions. Commissioned by the Dalai Lama, and based on decades of scientific research by Paul Ekman and his colleagues, the project aims to help people find a path through the complex landscape of their feelings toward a state of calm and happiness.
This was such a fresh and exciting experience. First, because Stamen is an absolutely lovely place to spend time for any reason. (Seriously: pineapple plants and bubble machines!) Second, because it forced a connection between parts of my brain that had never met before: emotion brain, meet design brain. Well, hello! My time on the project was brief and my contribution very small, but will that stop me from kvelling? No it will not! The rest of my feelings can be found right here.
Okay, one more update for those of you in New York: we will also be doing the first ever live public demo of Patrick Osborne’s Spotlight Story “Pearl” in full 360° at Tribeca’s Interactive Playground on Saturday, April 16th. We’ll be there all day.
Here’s where you can find tickets to the event. Hope to see you there!
News is finally starting to come out about the project I’ve been working on for the past year at Google Spotlight Stories. It’s an interactive 360º story, directed by Patrick Osborne, called “Pearl”. We’re simultaneously making a 2D film version of the story, which will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Sunday, April 17th at 6pm.
It’s been an amazing experience so far, full of exciting artistic and technical challenges, and it’s opened my mind to some astonishing new things. I’ll post more about it when we’re done, but in the meantime, Cartoon Brew has a nice writeup with some images from the show. And if you’re in New York that weekend, swing by and say hi!
Every place has a certain food that you just can’t seem to get anywhere else. For New Yorkers it’s the bagel. For the French, the croissant. Pão de Queijo (cheese bread) is that food for Brazilians. For years we’ve gotten by on packaged dough balls from the frozen section of our local Brazilian market. But this weekend we found an old recipe from a friend, and realized we had everything we needed to make it from scratch at home.
Following on last night’s breathtaking new full-color photo, we have even more exciting news to report. Pluot is finally revealing its secrets to scientific observation! Here is an artist’s rendition of what we know so far about its internal structure.
As New Horizons’ science mission reaches its suspenseful climax, researchers in Northern California are busy analyzing a flood of new data about this mysterious object. Approaching closer than ever before, we can see its dimpled contours and subtly mottled colors in unprecedented detail (click for the full resolution photo). Better yet, we have detected our first traces of the nearly spherical body’s atmosphere: a mix of tangy volatile aromatics emanating hundreds of micrometers from its surface. What an amazing day for science. Our team can’t wait to ingest all this new data!
We just saw Pete Docter’s brilliant and sweet Inside Out, which I highly recommend to anyone with a functioning heart and brain. As a sometime student of human emotion, and a fan of Paul Ekman’s work, I was impressed with how well tuned the five main characters were to the real mechanics of emotions. There wasn’t a moment in that film that didn’t ring true. If you haven’t seen it yet, go already!
For those who liked the “who’s driving this thing?” angle of the movie, I want to point out another body of work that I’ve admired for years: Tim Eagan’s Subconscious Comics, which ran in a Santa Cruz newspaper from 1981-2000, and appeared in book form as The Collected Subconscious. It’s a more adult and irreverent take on the same subject, where instead of the five cardinal emotions at the controls, it’s a hairless chimpanzee in tighty-whities known only as “The Boss”, surrounded by an entourage of anthropomorphized neuroses. Definitely not for kids, but lots of fun for grown-ups. Enjoy!
A few days ago the image above started going around the social networks, attributed to “a friend working on AI”. Apparently a deliberate leak, now we know where it came from: a research group at Google working on neural networks for image recognition. Their research is worth reading about, and the images are fascinating: Inceptionism.
I have to admit, machine learning makes me jealous. Why does the machine get to do the learning? Why can’t I do the learning? But projects like this make me feel a little better. When the black box opens and we see the writhing mass inside, we get to learn how the machine does the learning. Everyone wins.
And the machines still have some catching up to do. As soon as I saw the amazing gallery of inceptionist images, I recognized the “inceptionist style” from the mysterious grey squirrel. Could a neural network do that?
Cassidy Curtis's splendid display of colorful things.