Norm Abram Is Back, And Thanks To AI, Now In HD

We’ve said many times that while woodworking is a bit outside our wheelhouse, we have immense respect for those with the skill and patience to turn dead trees into practical objects. Among such artisans, few are better known than the legendary Norm Abram — host of The New Yankee Workshop from 1989 to 2009 on PBS.

So we were pleased when the official YouTube channel for The New Yankee Workshop started uploading full episodes of the classic DIY show a few months back for a whole new generation to enjoy. The online availability of this valuable resource is noteworthy enough, but we were particularly impressed to see the channel start experimenting with AI enhanced versions of the program recently.

Note AI Norm’s somewhat cartoon-like appearance.

Originally broadcast in January of 1992, the “Child’s Wagon” episode of Yankee Workshop was previously only available in standard definition. Further, as it was a relatively low-budget PBS production, it would have been taped rather than filmed — meaning there’s no negative to go back and digitize at a higher resolution. But thanks to modern image enhancement techniques, the original video could be sharpened and scaled up to 1080p with fairly impressive results.

That said, the technology isn’t perfect, and the new HD release isn’t without a few “uncanny valley” moments. It’s particularly noticeable with human faces, but as the camera almost exclusively focuses on the work, this doesn’t come up often. There’s also a tendency for surfaces to look smoother and more uniform than they should, and reflective objects can exhibit some unusual visual artifacts.

Even with these quirks, this version makes for a far more comfortable viewing experience on today’s devices. It’s worth noting that so far only a couple episodes have been enhanced, each with an “AI HD” icon on the thumbnail image to denote them as such. Given the computational demands of this kind of enhancement, we expect it will be used only on a case-by-case basis for now. Still, it’s exciting to see this technology enter the mainstream, especially when its used on such culturally valuable content. Continue reading “Norm Abram Is Back, And Thanks To AI, Now In HD”

Kids Explore Engineering With Cartoon Tech Build

“To the Tortuga!” my husband and I heard the announcement from the backyard. Our two boys, Ben (7) and Miles (3), had become pleasantly obsessed with the coolest brothers in nature – the Kratt Brothers. From the moment that these two energetic animal-loving brothers were discovered by our kids, they’ve been huge fans. Our house has been transported to the Sonora Desert where we saved a Gila Monster, then to the Australian Outback to learn about the Thorny Devil. We even went to swing with the Spider Monkeys in South America and then back to the good ‘ole U.S. of A to harness the speed of the Roadrunner – since we are, after all, a family of runners!

creaturepod-from-show
Creaturepod [Source: WildKratts Wiki]
Our boys have been the Grand Brothers for months and there are no signs of it letting up. At the end of summer, I decided to reward the kids with a Creaturepod, a plastic toy meant to look like the fictional walkie talkie of the same name used on PBS Kids’ Wild Kratts program. They loved it, but soon found that it didn’t do anything on its own. They both have wild imaginations and like to bring to life most of their play, but the toy just wasn’t doing it for them. Being that Chris and Martin Kratt are brothers in real life, and Ben and Miles Grand are brothers in real life, Ben thought it would only be right to have “real life” Creaturepods. Real walkie talkies that he could use to communicate with his friends and have Wild Kratts adventures. This natural interest provided an¬†opportunity to make learning, designing, and building a source of fun for the boys. It is an amazing way to teach that you can change the world around you by having an idea, making a plan, and gathering everyone with the¬†skills needed to complete the project.

Continue reading “Kids Explore Engineering With Cartoon Tech Build”