Last month I had the pleasure of presenting some of my team’s recent research at MIG ’22. It’s our first publication, on a topic I care deeply about: acting for autonomous animated characters. Why do NPCs in video games seem so far behind, in terms of acting ability, compared to their counterparts in animated movies? How might we make their acting more believable? This is one of those hard, fascinating problems that are just starting to become tractable thanks to recent advances in machine learning. I’ll have more to say about it soon, but for now, here’s a short video that explains the first small steps we’ve taken in that direction:
December 31, 2020 marked the official demise of Adobe (nee MacroMedia) Flash. On that day, a number of web-native interactive artworks (Graffiti Archaeology among them) disappeared from public view, seemingly forever. This felt like a classic case of “why we can’t have nice things”, and it made me sad, but of course we all have had much bigger things to worry about the past couple of years, so I tried to just let it go and move on.
Imagine my delight, then, when I learned about Ruffle, a Flash Player emulator written in Rust. I’ve been tinkering with it the past couple of days, and while it isn’t perfect, it’s really quite impressive! Super easy to install, and when it works, it works everywhere, no fuss.
The grafarc UI reveals a number of ways in which Ruffle seems to differ from the original Flash Player, which makes the user experience a lot jankier than we originally intended. (You can install the Ruffle browser extension if you want to see for yourself.) So, I won’t be switching that on by default just yet– I’ll see if I can work with the developers to fix those glitches first.
But I also tried it on my old synaesthesia visualization applet, and there it works perfectly! (On desktop, at least– because the applet requires you to type words on a keyboard, it won’t work on mobile devices just yet.) So I’m happy to report that with one line of code, an old interactive artwork that I believed long gone has returned, unscathed, from the abyss.
Long live Flash! And three cheers to the devs of Ruffle!
This past January I had the incredible good fortune to fall sideways into a wonderful graphics research project. How it came about is pure serendipity: I had coffee with my advisor from UW, who’d recently started at Google. He asked if I’d like to test out some experimental sketch-based animation software one of his summer interns was developing. I said sure, thinking I might spend an hour or two… but the software was so much fun to use, I couldn’t stop playing with it. One thing led to another, and now we have a paper in SIGGRAPH Asia 2020!
Have you ever wished you could just jot down a 3D character and animate it super quick, without all that tedious modeling, rigging and keyframing? That’s what Monster Mash is for: casual 3D animation. Here’s how it works:
Pearl has also been nominated in three categories (Narrative, Mobile, and Original Score) for the Virtual Reality Foundation’s third annual Proto Awards, coming up on October 8th. The nominees all look amazing. I can’t wait to meet them!
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!
Here’s something different: I have a new job! Today was my first day at Google Spotlight Stories. I’ll be working with some amazing filmmakers and technologists who are busy inventing a new kind of narrative visual storytelling uniquely suited to handheld mobile devices. If that sounds crazy, that’s because it is. It’s my kind of crazy. It’s exactly the kind of wild, inventive, “let’s try this and see what happens” attitude that got me interested in computer graphics in the first place, all those years ago. I couldn’t be more excited.
The video above really does a great job of capturing the delight of experiencing one of these stories for the first time. It’s almost impossible not to grin like a ninny. There’s not much more I can say about it right now, but there’s been some terrificpress about the projects they’ve created so far. I’ll share more when I can!
This is one of those moments in science that makes me think I’m so lucky to be alive right now. A team of scientists at UC Berkeley have found a way to map the brain’s representations of objects into a shared semantic space— a multidimensional space in which related things are nearer than unrelated ones. And there’s reason to believe this might be not just a semantic space, but the semantic space: they ran their test on five different people, and found that the first four dimensions of this semantic space were the same for all five subjects–dimensions easily labeled with ideas like moving/stationary, man-made/natural, animate/inanimate, and so on. In other words, the brain’s way of relating different objects might be something we all share at much more than a superficial level. This alone is pretty mind-blowing to me.
As if that weren’t enough, they’ve also created a very cool interactive visualization that shows how all of this plays out on the surface of an actual brain. (That page requires WebGL and a lot of memory, so if you’re reading this on an older device, you might want to just watch the video instead. Actually, you should watch the video anyway, because it’s really well done!)
Cassidy Curtis's splendid display of colorful things.