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Google Glass minus glass: Dekko makes the world your OS

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With the advent of wearable tech, apps and operating systems will have to radically adapt to the changing ways users want to interact with their devices and the world. One startup that thinks it is up to this challenge is San Francisco-based Dekko, a new company founded by the husband-and-wife team that used to work at augmented reality pioneer Layar.

Dekko plans to launch its real-world operating system Thursday, which brings the promise of augmented reality (AR) to fruition using the camera on your mobile device, powerful computer vision algorithms, and some serious financial backing.

Dekko’s tech overlays content on the real world, a kind of out-of-the-device OS that goes way beyond just superimposing search results over a snapshot of a landmark or restaurant, like Google Glass does. The system actually builds up a 3D model of the scene in front of you from image frames, then reconstructs it and inserts whatever you want — a favorite cartoon character, perhaps, or a guided walking tour — onto the image. “The tech layer can run anywhere that the camera can see anything,” said Dekko CEO and co-founder Matt Miesnieks. This is a big change from other AR efforts that require an anchor or a known object to interpret the scene.

The biggest advance from Dekko is the ability to complete the entire AR process — scene modeling, object recognition, and reconstruction — in real time on the relatively limited processor of an iPad Mini. This is impressive considering computer vision techniques still struggle with basic pattern recognition, even with powerful post-processing. Dekko’s algorithms don’t even rely on two cameras (like the stereo vision of human eyes) or an infrared field (like the Kinect) to calculate depth. The system just uses the slight differences between moment-to-moment image frames to build up a 3D model of the world, and focuses on surface textures to segment objects.

dekko-game-sceenshot-full

As is the case for other AR ventures, the cluttered and dynamic real world still poses a challenge for Dekko. The OS works best in static environments, and can now model a 10-by-10-foot window in front of the user. Miesnieks is confident that his team can solve the problem of tracking far objects, and said the window will be expanded to 100-by-100 feet in the next six months. Real time reconstruction at the pixel level should also become possible, with improvements in mobile device GPUs and CPUs.

Co-founders Matt and Silka Miesnieks are veterans of another AR outfit, Layar, which superimposes digital content onto snapshots of printed pages. Disillusioned with what he calls the “gimmicks” of earlier AR efforts that devolved into marketing, the Miesnieks are focusing on gaming as Dekko’s entrée. “We consciously chose gaming as a vertical because it’s often how new technology is introduced to the market,” he explained, citing Microsoft’s bundling of Solitaire with Windows to get users comfortable with graphical user interfaces. “It’s a new way for people to see apps outside the box.”

Dekko’s tech will almost certainly have advertising applications as well. Samsung, Intel, and Facebook have already expressed interest in using it to augment their services and devices, and Dekko is in talks with major hardware manufacturers to integrate its core tech into new devices. On the app side, toy, game, and media companies want to have their superheroes and creatures frolicking among the dishes and books on your coffee table. This capability will be demonstrated when Dekko Monkey, a tabletop game app, comes out this summer.

Dekko is working jointly with developers to build apps rather than just opening up its tools, since Miesnieks thinks that the company occupies a unique space and has privileged and complex algorithms. He concedes that a tension exists between framing Dekko as a tech platform versus a stand-alone app. “Augmented reality has the exciting potential of a goldmine, but no one has come out with a nugget of gold,” Miesnieks mused. “We need to go in ourselves to get the first nugget before selling shovels to others.”

Dekko has already scored something akin to gold, securing $1.9 million in funding last September. Today the company announced an additional $1.3 million of seed funding, mostly from MicroVentures. That cash should help Dekko scale up its OS and make good on the AR promise of a seamless experience between digital and real.


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chcktylr
3948 days ago
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Seattle journalist finds his ‘remarkably prescient’ future-of-news memo from 1993

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Veteran Seattle journalist Chuck Taylor writes about finding recently found a 1,000-word future-of-newspapers memo that he wrote as a Seattle Times reporter in 1993.

( His blog post about the memo is from 2008; it was sent to me this week, on the 20th anniversary of the open World Wide Web.)The memo, says Taylor, “predicts

“It predicts the demise of print, the print,” writes Taylor, “the use of mobile devices for information access, including video, and the likelihood that if newspapers didn’t seize the opportunity online, others would and might come to dominate journalism.”

What he Taylor wrote 20 years ago:

– “We have returned to the pamphlet journalism of the 18th Century. As never before, the people will be setting the civic agenda.”
chuck2

– “We are on the verge of a massive liberation from limitations that presently define for us what constitutes news.”

“Space will not be a problem. Electronic newspapers will be capable of always offering users a hierarchy of options for every story or topic — from headlines to capsules, full-blown stories, transcripts, encyclopedic background and biographies.”–

“The deadline will always be now because of electronic dissemination. Text journalists will need to react as broadcasters do today.” today.

– “Printing will become an anachronistic hobby-art form. Printed news media won’t immediately vanish. But they will languish as younger generations, bored by media that aren’t three-dimensional and interactive, shun comparatively unstimulating newspapers and magazines.”

UPDATE: I asked Taylor who, if anyone, received the memo. He writes in an email:

I’m quite certain I must have sent it to someone, probably via Atex message. I was a pain in the ass when it came to sounding the alarm about new tech. But I can’t verify that I sent it and I don’t recall the response.

In the early 1990s, the Seattle Times actually was pretty cognizant of the Internet and launched a very early text-only dial-in product, the name of which escapes me. I remember creating a Mac client for it using the telecom software application MicroPhone. I also remember getting pretty excited when the Mercury News launched on AOL. That seemed to be a real breakthrough, just before the Web was born.

I was totally into that stuff. Here’s a story I wrote around that time.

* A 1993 Seattle Times memo (seattleposttimes.typepad.com)
*
Howard Weaver: The digital revolution I saw coming but didn’t do enough to prepare for (howardweaver.com)

Just for the heck of it, I did a search to see what I was doing online 20 years ago. What I found:

obscure

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chcktylr
3953 days ago
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How Ray Kurzweil Will Help Google Make the Ultimate AI Brain

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On Tuesday, Kurzweil moderated a live Google hangout tied to a release of the upcoming Will Smith film, ?After Earth,? presumably tying the film?s futuristic concept to actual futurists. The discussion touched on the necessity of space travel and the imminent resolution of the world?s energy problems with solar power. After the hangout, Kurzweil got on the phone with me to explore a few issues in more detail.
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chcktylr
3962 days ago
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Tales From The Flight Deck

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dc10 frontBack in the day, you’d slide that DC-10 electric seat forward in the copilot’s position and hunker down for the long haul: 9 hours from DFW to Paris on a good day with favorable winds. But more than flight time or miles or fuel flow and track routing, pacing was the order of the day: you’re going to be sitting here all night–don’t be in any rush to do anything.

That was over twenty years ago–closer to twenty-five. And the captains in those days had at least that many years with the airline in order to have advanced seniority-wise into the widebody left seat ranks, rarified air in any airline. So we’re talking what–a half century into the past, into the flight memories and aviation lore to be shared in the cold, dark, midnight sky over Greenland and the Atlantic?

Always liked flying with Bob C., now deceased, but who in those long hours at altitude would relate memories of flying wing for Iven Kincheloe over the Yalu River during the Korean War. Barely hanging onto his wing, trying not to get killed . . . he was a madman . . .

connieBut tonight’s story hour would come from a different source. Dick B. had flown Super Connies for TWA before quiting to take a job with my airline when I was still in pre-school. “A better deal,” he’d always say, “although flying plumber on the Connie was a heck of an education.”

Plumber. Or, in more correct parlance, flight engineer. Back in the fifties, he’d say, the airline biz was a whole ‘nother animal. Of course, we all still say that: when were you hired? Ninety-one? Well, all through the eighties this airline was a blast . . .

Still, even with a grain of salt or two, the Kinchloe or Connie stories were a welcome relief from the doldrums of midnight cruise across the pond.

Tonight Dick was holding forth about the early Connie days, back when the Cold War was heating up; the days when a lot of guys like Bob were just out of the Air Force after the post-Korean War draw down. Guys like Dick had never served, so he’s been able to spend his early years on the engineer’s engineers panel instead of hanging onto Iven Kinchloe’s wing for dear life.

Those were the days of Kruschev bellowing about the demise of democracy, and Sputnik, and the nuclear standoff. In the midst of it all, both countries at least made a show of diplomacy. That’s where Dick came in.

Besides the well-known “red phone” from the Kremlin to the White House, other lesser gestures intended to defuse the Cold War took place as well.

aeroflotAeroflot would be allowed one flight a day into “Idlewilde Field”–later renamed Kennedy International–in New York City, and one U.S. carrier would be granted a landing slot in Moscow. A small but meaningful attempt at detente. The U.S. flag carrier granted this Moscow route was, of course, TWA; and the aircraft making the maiden flight was the Super Constellation. On board was one very young, excited flight engineer named Dick.

It was common knowledge that the Aeroflot aircraft would be packed to the gills with spying equipment like cameras and other electronic data gathering devices. Maybe that’s why Kennedy was chosen as the landing base by the U.S. State Department: nothing to overfly, no way to take spy photos out there in the Long Island hinterlands.

But in the spy vs. spy paranoia of the Cold War, the Connie crew just knew they’d be spied on once they landed in Russia. So, Dick told us, when the crew reached their layover hotel in Moscow, they made a pact: they’d all search their rooms for the listening devices and spying equipment they knew had to be there. Dick tore apart his room and found nothing–but in short order, his phone rang: the lead flight attendant had found a mysterious metal canister under her bed. Aha. Be right down with my tools.

The good flight engineer grabbed his tool bag and hustled to the flight attendant’s room, already packed with the captain and the rest of the crew, with the bed shoved aside, mysterious, gleaming canister in the center of the floor.

Carefully, using a crescent wrench adjusted for the odd caliber of the nuts on the bolts ringing the canisters, the engineer removed each bolt carefully. Suspense built with the last bolt . . . deep breath, lift the canister . . .

Nothing.

But within minutes, there was an angry voice at the door, fists pounding, and footsteps rushing down the hall and towards the room. The crew prepared for the worst.

kgbInstead, it was the maitre d, enraged, plus the hotel manager. As it turned out, the flight attendant’s room was above the main dining room. Instead of disabling a sinister spy device, the crew had unwittingly removed the anchor plate for the chandelier in the dining room.

Oops. maybe Kruschev was right–maybe Americans were the real crazies, despite the world famous pictures of him pounding the podium with his own shoe at a televised news conference. And my question, though I didn’t ask, is whether the red phone on Eisenhower’s desk rang shortly afterward, with a demand for payment for one smashed chandelier and maybe a buffet line.

But those days, and those pilots, are now long gone. Now, in the left seat, it’s pilots like me remembering them, but also our own early days with the airline and the adventures that span thousands of air miles.

And when it gets dark, and quiet, and dull on the flight deck at 41,000 feet a thousand miles from anywhere, it’s time.

Did I ever tell you about that time in London when the police picked up the entire crew walking down the middle of the street at 3am?

And so it goes . . .

cockpit night


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chcktylr
3964 days ago
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# 82 - ethics codes

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I have been working in journalism for over 25 years. With experience, I have come to understand - and respect - how difficult this profession actually is. 
Journalism students sometimes claim that they chose this career because they “like to write”. And many non-journalists grab the numerous opportunities to publish themselves on the internet.

But an evening like this one, with the horrible tragedy at the Boston Marathon happening in front of our eyes, it becomes painfully obvious that reporting is more than just “writing”. It becomes blatantly clear that many people who publish themselves lack basic knowledge on media ethics. And yes, when you tweet you are a potential massmedia. As such you have power. But this must be followed by a responsibility.

Tonight, in the midst of the massive reporting in different social media platforms, I have tried spreading some of my experience, tweet-by-tweet.
Many years ago, I remember talking about the possibility of a #twitterversity. Well, today, I tried to materialize it.

Here is a short compilation of the “lessons” (tweeted during the last couple of hours):

1.
image

No person should have to be informed by media that their next-of-kin has been killed or injured.

2. 

image

Always start by considering the perspective of the people involved - and their families. Phrase yourself with empathy. On a public platform, you are not just a by-stander, whispering to people around you. Imaging being read by the victims, before hitting “publish”.

3.
image

Most journalism codes of conduct that I know of, contain paragraphs on when not to interview. Shock is one very strong reason to refrain from approaching someone. Simply because the person is in a vulnerable state - and this is not to be ignored. Nor exploited.

4a.

image

Credibility is the capital of the publisher. Check your sources. Your facts. Triangulate. 
If you cannot verify but you still deem the information so important that you wish to share it - be open with the uncertainty.  

4b.

image

This one speaks for itself.


5.
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You have done all the fact checking and source verification possible. But you still can and will be wrong. Then be open about it. And correct clearly and as soon as possible.

6.
image
 
Never loose track on who is in your audience. You are not just talking to others who are also writing about the event. Your own situation or “exploits” as a “reporter” are not important. The ones suffering are. The ones potentially behind the suffering are.

7. 

image
Context is king. With an editor in charge of checking the “mix” between different topics, newsrooms have managed to avoid tasteless combinations of editorial and advertising content in the past. With the digital opportunities (like automated and promoted tweets) - the importance of this function is often overlooked. This weakness became apparent when a tweet from the Boston Police Department ** (published before the blast) suddenly ended up in the midst of the tragedy feed.


My intention with this list was merely to compile this humble mini-series on journalism ethics. You might not be journalist, but if you report on ongoing events on public platforms you will probably find some of this content useful. 


The last tweet I want to share with you here tonight is this one:

image

In the pre-internet era, people reporting from a disaster were often at the actual scene. It was almost the only way of telling the story. Internet and the social media has created a new type of “reporters” - the ones relaying what they have seen and heard on different digital platforms.
I believe this distance from the scene can potentially create a psychological distance too. In the worst case scenario, the feeling of watching a movie.
The feeling of sitting in the stands, commenting a theatre play. Or a football game.

I hope I am wrong, but I find no other explanation to the many tweets and comments I have seen tonight that should never have been published. And would never have been published if the authors were closer to or at the actual event.

I hope I have given you some reasons to reflect before posting. Because if you think about the consequences, the people involved in the event, before you publish next time, we might - together - have avoided some innocent people getting hurt. 


This is an extraordinarily tragic evening. So this is an extraordinary posting in the #Blogg100 challenge.
The tools I tested - well I didn’t really test the code of ethics since I know most of the paragraphs by heart (even though I too, sometimes fail) - you find them here. Please read them. Please use them.

** Corrected paragraph on #BPD and what I falsely designated as an “autotweet”.  Having been alerted to the fact that the tweet was posted slightly before the blast (verified), the only logic explanation as to why it suddenly ended up in the middle of the tragedy reporting is some kind of automatic promotion of it.
Even though I was partly wrong, I have decided not to remove this part of the blog posting since the question of context and autotweets still is important.
I am sorry for the original error.

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3964 days ago
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How New York Times tracked down people in image from Boston explosion

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The New York Times

The New York Times’ Lede Blog published a call for help last Wednesday: “Are you visible in any part ofthis imagerecorded on Monday afternoon or do you know someone who was there?”

“We got … Read more

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