Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Computational Forensics

Forensics Model Grid

Not unlike the technology used for Google Street View, rasterphotogrammetry reconstructs spatial relationships from basic ground-level photographs of an environment or event. Specialized self-calibrating and panoramic equipment merges the technologies of lasers and cameras, automatically generating 3D models. The digital model geometry is determined by compiled coordinates, collected through polyline tracing and point clouds of repeated objects over several photographs, and the model’s surface is textured with photograph imagery.

The full model maintains accurate measurements of the original environment and allows unlimited re-measuring, particularly useful in crime scene investigation. This reconstruction nearly eliminates the need for exhaustive data collection from disparate sources, including records, reports, and witness testimonies. Forensic models have proved instrumental in court cases that involve highly detailed or physically deconstructed scenes, or in cases that have resurfaced with new questions or unanticipated possibilities. (Images: DeltaSphere)

Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine

Photos of the construction of the experimental Smith-Putnam Wind Turbine, built during the early 1940s. The first mega-watt sized wind turbine “operated for 1,100 hours before a blade failed at a known weak point, which had not been reinforced due to war-time material shortages. It would be the largest wind turbine ever built until 1979.” (Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Jan. 1981 issue, pg. 24)

From the private collection of Carl Wilcox in the possession of Paul Gipe. More photos and information about the project is available at

Possible Discovery of Earliest Forms of Animal Life

Situ Studio has collaborated with Professor Adam Maloof of Princeton University’s Department of Geosciences on research that suggests the possible discovery of the earliest animal life on earth. Situ Studio has co-authored a paper with Professor Maloof and colleagues on this work in the September issue of the journal, Nature Geoscience.

Excerpt from Princeton University’s August 17 Press Release:

“Analyzing the fossils turned out to be easier said than done, as the composition and location of the fossils made it such that they could not be removed from the surrounding rock using conventional techniques, nor could they be imaged using X-ray scanning techniques. This is because X-rays are only able to distinguish between materials with different densities, which is why they can be used to image bones that are inside the human body or buried within a rock. But the most ancient skeletal fossils are made not of bone, but of calcite — the same material that makes up the rock matrix in which they are embedded. Therefore X-rays could not be used to “illuminate” the newly discovered fossils and the researchers had to develop and refine another method.

Maloof, Rose and their collaborators teamed up with professionals at Situ Studio, a Brooklyn-based design and digital fabrication studio, to create three-dimensional digital models of two individual fossils that were embedded in the surrounding rock. As part of the process, team members shaved off 50 microns of sample at a time — about half the width of a human hair — and photographed the polished rock surface each time. The team ground and imaged nearly 500 slices of the rock.

Using specialized software techniques developed specifically for this project, the researchers then “stacked” the outlines on top of one another to create a complete three-dimensional model of the creature. The technique is similar to the way in which CAT scan technology combines a series of two-dimensional X-rays to create a three-dimensional image of the inside of the body. The technique that was developed served to automate the process — turning a prohibitively time-consuming task into an efficient and effective method for fossil reconstruction.”

Princeton University Press Release
Prof. Maloof describing collaboration (May take a couple minutes to download.)
Additional Images and Video

Nature Geoscience
National Science Foundation
BBC News
The Philadelphia Inquirer

Camera Movement – I Am Cuba

Taken from the groundbreaking, high-contrast depiction of a post-revolution Cuba, this clip is of a funeral procession from Mikhail Kalatozov’s 1964 Socialist propaganda film ‘I Am Cuba’ (Soy Cuba).

One of the most revolutionary aspects of this movie is the camera work of Sasha Calzatti. In this large scene the camera tracks smoothly from hand to hand and is then seamlessly mounted to cables for a flyover to capture the entire scene in a continuous shot.

More about this film here.

Robotic Pancake Flipping

“The video shows a Barrett WAM 7 DOFs manipulator learning to flip pancakes by reinforcement learning.
“The motion is encoded in a mixture of basis force fields through an extension of Dynamic Movement Primitives (DMP) that represents the synergies across the different variables through stiffness matrices. An Inverse Dynamics controller with variable stiffness is used for reproduction.

“The skill is first demonstrated via kinesthetic teaching, and then refined by Policy learning by Weighting Exploration with the Returns (PoWER) algorithm. Compared to policy-gradient approaches, the reward is treated as a pseudo-probability, which allows Reinforcement Learning to use probabilistic estimation methods such as Expectation-Maximization (EM).

“After 50 trials, the robot learns that the first part of the task requires a stiff behavior to throw the pancake in the air, while the second part requires the hand to be compliant in order to catch the pancake without having it bounced off the pan.”

Video credits:
Dr Petar Kormushev
Dr Sylvain Calinon
(Italian Institute of Technology)

We’ve launched a mobile device website. An abbreviated version of our main website and formatted for touch-screen viewing, it offers a quick overview of the practice while on the move. Viewing from a mobile device will automatically route to the mobile site.

Space shuttle Discovery being prepared for launch. Time-lapse video by Scott Andrews, Stan Jirman and Philip Scott Andrews. To learn more about the project, see the article which appeared in Air & Space here.

Return top