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Monthly Archives: August 2007
Ars Technica’s History of the Amiga, Part 3

Filed under Computer Graphics

Ars Technica’s History of the Amiga continues with Part 3, in which we finally meet the rest of Amiga Inc.’s team – including R.J. Mical, Carl Sassenrath, Dale Luck, and Dave Needle.

The group is under the gun as they prepare for their computer’s first private showing at CES in 1984. At left we see the prototype of the machine, with each of its three custom chips emulated by enormous breadboard sandwiches.

The operating system is well under way, with Sassenrath’s lean multitasking kernel and Mical’s work on the UI and its interface for developers. But as they near the point where they’ll have an actual product to sell, they’re running out of money. Go forth and reminisce.

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SIGGRAPH Paper on a new – automated – inpainting technique

Filed under Computer Graphics

digital image healingA paper from this year’s SIGGRAPH by James Hays and Alexei Efros (Carnegie Mellon) takes a new approach to digital image “healing” or hole filling. This is a problem faced in many situations, whether it’s restoring a damaged picture, eliminating flaws like a bug on the lens, or just replacing unwanted areas of an image – picture, for example, a plate for a motion picture backdrop in which the makers of a period film want to eliminate modern details.

What makes this technique unusual is that it doesn’t look for other areas in the image for texture and detail to insert. The software that the authors developed uses a database of 2.3 million unique photographs and – without human intervention – looks for semanitic matches for the area that they chose to replace.

No human tagging or hints were used. The program looked over the entire database for broad matches, then looked more carefully for the best fit. When finished (after about an hour on a single CPU, or five minutes on a cluster of fifteen), the authors were presented with several results to choose from. Their paper shows how completely different those results often were, which is one of the most interesting aspects of the algorithm. They also show us examples of bad matches, in which existing methods provided better results than theirs.

Overall the results are impressive, especially considering that the software has to figure out a lot about the images it’s “looking” at in order for this to work. The larger the database, the better it does.

image processing for hole filling

I think that there are some inherent problems with actually using this sort of technique. Their huge database was acquired from Flickr accounts and so there would obviously be copyright issues; also, because some of the solutions include people – even crowds of them – a commercial use could produce photographs of people without model releases, or even any way of knowing who the heck ended up in the picture. And because it’s hard to figure how else you could assemble a library of millions of source photographs, I think that’s a pretty large hurdle to jump. Still, very interesting.

Ladies’ World Domination Society Tees

Filed under Works in Progress

World Domination T ShirtsHere’s something I think is pretty fun, even though I can’t exactly wear it myself – women’s T-shirts for the “Retropolis Ladies’ World Domination Society”.

Sugar, Spice, and complete, uncompromising oversight over everything that goes on in the Future That Never Was: that’s the chemical composition of the Ladies’ World Domination Society. Also, they serve tea.

Their motto is “Don’t MAKE me come down there!”

Available (on different selections of shirts) at both the Retropolis Transit Authority and at Celtic Art & Retro-Futuristic DesignBe the first on your block – I just finished ’em today.

“If I Only Had Wings, I’d Fly” – a new Retropolis Poster

Filed under Computer Graphics, Works in Progress

These don’t happen too often – they’re fairly complex undertakings – but I’ve just added a new Retropolis poster to my Celtic Art & Retro-Futuristic Design site.

This scene – a sort of car show of the Future That Never Was – showcases one of the rockets I modeled for my Empire State Patrol project. Here I changed its color and dropped it into a variation on the scene I built for my “Skin A Scion” contest entry at Deviant Art.

The poster (18 by 24 inches at 300 DPI) mixes some older and newer characters together, and its title – “If I Only Had Wings, I’d Fly” – marks the second time I’ve named a picture with a quote from Nat Gonella’s “It’s a Pair of Wings for Me”, which still swings after about 66 years. Love that song – and in fact, though I’ve never known how many people noticed, almost all my Retropolis pictures use titles or quotes from popular music of the twenties through the forties. If you figure out why, you can explain that to me.

The poster is available now. An archival print should be available in a few days.

Lawrence Northey’s Robot, Rocket, and Ray Gun Sculptures

Filed under Found on the Web

Retro Robot ArtLawrence Northey’s sculptures of robots, rockets, and ray guns (oh my!) are what you’d have to call out of this world.

Like the artists who created the Faberge eggs he admires, Northey uses a variety of materials and techniques. Most of these pieces feature brass, stainless steel, and glass. Sometimes cast aluminum or cast resin parts are also used, typically hand painted to give a uniform finish with the other parts.

While most of these pieces are pure sculpture, in sizes around thirty inches in heght, there’s also the amazing “Dave the Robot Lamp”, which lights up in eerie warm colors – pretty dang extraterrestrial, in fact.

Northey does commission work as well as selling made-to-order series – like “Dave the Robot“, at right, and the cast aluminum “Silver Edition Raygun“.

Retro Rocket sculpture

One of the fascinating things about these works is that although they’re obviously inspired by retro-futuristic toys from the 30s through the 50s, they’re made with exacting craftsmanship and detail that recalls early European art deco objects. Consequently you’ll find that they’re priced as artworks, not knicknacks. Judging by the samples on his site they’re worth every penny.

Some of his commissioned work is animatronic – lighting up. moving, and making sounds, even music. And like your chronically project-obsessed correspondent, he’s tying these characters and ideas together into a story which he calls “Wired City”.

Not to be missed!

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Down in the Basement. Where it Strains Against its Chains and Turns a Gigantic Wheel of Pain, for all Eternity. Muahahahahaha.