Wearable projector adds info to everyday activities


[Pattie Maes] from MIT’s Media Lab showed a really interesting augmented reality demo at TED this year. It’s a wearable projector that lets you interact with any surface. A camera tracks the gestures your fingertips make and performs related actions. She shows several uses: projecting a dial pad on your hand, displaying additional info on a product you’re holding, and taking a picture when you form a frame with your hands. The current equipment cost is $350, but that would be reduced in a dedicated device.

[via Waxy]

MegaUpload captcha cracking in JavaScript


This was certainly the last thing we expected to see today. [ShaunF] has created a Greasemonkey script to bypass the captcha on filehosting site Megaupload. It uses a neural network in JavaScript to do all of the OCR work. It will auto submit and start downloading too. It’s quite a clever hack and is certainly helped by the simple 3 character captcha the site employs. Attempting to do the same thing with ReCAPTCHA has proven much more difficult.

UPDATE: [John Resig] explained of how it works.

[via Waxy]

Using Bittorrent on Amazon EC2

Bittorrent is a great distribution method for large files, but its heavy bandwidth usage can be disruptive to both work and home networks. [Brett O'Connor] has decided to push all of his torrenting activity into the cloud. Amazon’s EC2 service lets you run any number of Amazon Machine Images (AMI, virtual machines) on top of their hardware. You pay for processing time and data transferred. [Brett] put together a guide for building your own seedbox on the service. First, you set up the Security Group, the firewall for the machine. Next, you specify what AMI you want to use. In this example, it’s a community build of Ubuntu. Once you have your SSH keypair, you can start the instance and install Apache, PHP, and MySQL. TorrentFlux is the web frontend for bittorrent in this case. It manages all the torrents and you just need to click download when you want to grab the completed file.

Even if you don’t plan on setting up a seedbox, the post is a straightforward example of how-to get started with EC2. He’s not sure what the cost will be; the current estimate is ~$30/mo.

[via Waxy]

[photo: nrkbeta]

Year in Ideas


The New York Times has published their 8th annual Year in Ideas. It’s a collection of interesting research and policy changes that have happened in the last year. They cover several projects that we’ve found noteworthy in the past. Pictured above is [Max Donelan]‘s power generating knee brace. It generates power as you perform mundane daily activities. Another pick was the Brickley Engine. It has a unique piston layout to reduce friction for increased efficiency. We were particularly interested in the research that discovered drone pilots become exhausted far quicker than pilots in real aircraft. It’s doubtful that this problem of “sensory isolation” will go away and we wonder what other fields it might appear in. They even mention [Josh Klein]‘s crow vending machine. You’ll find something to pique your interest in the Year of Ideas, even if it’s DNA forensics for dog poop.

[via Waxy]

Simulated annealing


Here’s an update on our earlier post about genetic programming. Altered Qualia has posted a new implementation of [Ron Alsing]‘s idea. It starts with 50 polygons and then randomly changes one parameter with each optimization step. If the the change results in fewer differences from the target image, it’s kept as the new best DNA. This search method is similar to simulated annealing. The image above is the result of 1500 good mutations out of 35900 possible. The implementation lets you choose any image, but smaller means the fitness calculation is faster. It’s written in JavaScript using the <canvas> environment. You’ll definitely get better performance using newer browser builds.

[Original image by R Stevens]

[via Waxy]

Genetic programming


[Ron Alsing] wanted to try out some genetic programming, so he created a simple test problem: Could you render the Mona Lisa using just 50 semitransparent polygons? The program starts with a random DNA sequence. It then mutates and compares itself to the original image. If the mutation is closer, it becomes the new sequence. The final image he shows looks pretty good after 904,314 iterations.

[prunesquallor] pointed out a genetic algorithm project of his own. It’s a flash program to evolve a car. The car tries to get as far as possible on a set terrain without the passenger circles hitting the ground. The wheel size and positions can change along with the spring length, constant, and damping. A graph tracks the best performance along with the mean. He’s planning on building a version that lets you change the parameters.

[via Waxy]

Augmented reality in Flash


Digital Pictures Interactive has put together a great augmented reality demo. Unlike many others, it’s entirely Flash based, so there’s no install necessary. Print out the custom symbol and try it out for yourself in your browser. Augmented reality refers to any mashup that combines computer generated content with a live video stream. We see great potential for this technology and the large number of consumer webcams would certainly help consumer adoption. Video demo embedded below. [Read more...]