Wednesday, December 28, 2011

3 Technology Link

3 Technology Link

Team uses high-tech optical technique to pull sound from 125 year old recordings

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 10:22 AM PST

Team uses high-tech optical technique to pull sound from 125 year old recordings

Team uses high tech optical technique to pull sound from 125 year old recordingsAlexander Graham Bell

Scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have succeeded in using 3D optical scanning technology to effectively lift the voices from 125 year old recordings created by researchers working in Alexander Graham Bell's Volta laboratory. The recordings were made on various media as researchers tried to improve the sound quality of Thomas Edison's recently invented phonograph.

Bell, made famous by his invention of the telephone, was working with a team of researchers in his Volta laboratory in the 1880's in Washington D.C. and as a precaution against having his ideas stolen by competing teams, periodically sent samples of the results of his and his team's efforts to the Smithsonian Institute, also in Washington, for safe-keeping. Unfortunately, devices to play the recordings were not sent along as well, which meant the recordings sat unheard in storage for a century and a quarter.

Now however, thanks to a special optical scanning technique, those voices can once again be heard. Restoration specialists Carl Haber and Earl Cornell working with digital conversion specialists and museum curators, used a hardware/software system called IRENE/3D, to first take high resolution images of the spinning discs and then to remove errors introduced by damage to the discs or cylinders. They then finished by mimicking a stylus as it moved over the media, on a computer, reproducing the originally recorded voices. Using such a system, the early recordings can be played without anything actually touching the original media, which could conceivably be damaged in the process.

Team uses high tech optical technique to pull sound from 125 year old recordings

Using the technique, the team was able to hear human voices reciting Shakespeare, or reading from a book or newspaper. It's not known if any of the voices heard is actually Bell, but historians believe Volta Laboratory only had three inventors: Bell, Bell's cousin Chichester and Charles Sumner Tainter. Thus it seems possible that one or more of the voices is his.

An example of an extracted audio file.

Another attractive feature of the IRENE/3D system, which was developed at Berkley nearly a decade ago, is that it is able to scan discs made of various materials. In the case of the discs from the Smithsonian, some were made of wax, others of glass, with would have required developing unique individual players if each was to be actually played to hear what was on it.

Thus far the team has succeeded in reproducing the recordings on six discs, but have many more to work with as the Smithsonian has some 400 such discs and cylinders from Volta Laboratory and several others.

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Holographic 3-D looks tantalizingly closer in 2012

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 10:12 AM PST

Holographic 3-D looks tantalizingly closer in 2012

Holographic 3 D looks tantalizingly closer in 2012Applications like holographic TV have long been relegated as the next big thing in the distant future but a Leuven, Belgium-based R&D lab for nanoelectronics has come up with a process that might bring holographic images closer to realtime.

Scientists at Imec believe, as do other researchers, that holographic images are the answer toward resolving the eye strain and headaches that go along with present-day 3-D viewing.

At Imec, their work involves creating moving pixels. They are constructing holographic displays by shining lasers on microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) platforms that can move up and down like small, reflective pistons.

"Holographic visualization promises to offer a natural 3-D experience for multiple viewers, without the undesirable side-effects of current 3D stereoscopic visualization (uncomfortable glasses, strained eyes, fatiguing experience)," the company states.

In their nanoscale system, they work with chips made by growing a layer of silicon oxide on to silicon wafer. They etch square patches of the silicon oxide. The result is a checkerboard-like pattern where etched-away pixels are nanometers lower than their neighbors. A reflective aluminum coating tops the chip. When laser light shines on the chip, it bounces off of the boundary between adjacent pixels at an angle. Diffracted light interferes constructively and destructively to create a 3-D picture where small mirrored platforms are moving up and down, many times a second, to create a moving projection. The process can also be described as the pixels closer to the light interfering with it one way and those further off, in another. The small distances between them generate the image that the eye sees.

Imec hopes to construct the first, proof-of-concept moving structures by mid-2012. "Imec's vision is to design the ultimate 3D display: a holographic display with a 60° diffraction angle and a high-definition visual experience," they state.

As such, Imec will have lots of company elsewhere in the race to iron out complexities of holographic imaging. According to reports throughout 2011, research teams aim to make the technology more of a reality than a wish-list item for consumers.

The BBC's R&D department has identified the work that broadcasters are doing across Europe, for example, in holographic TV. Engineers are also focused on research into 3-D holoscopy for the Internet and other 3-D applications.

Researchers at MIT this year said they were closing in on holographic TV by building a system with a refresh rate of 15 frames per second. Also earlier this year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) completed a five-year project called "Urban Photonic Sandtable Display" that creates realtime, color, 360-degree 3-D holographic displays.

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Top Ten Christmas Television Specials of All Time

Posted: 28 Dec 2011 09:41 AM PST

Top Ten Christmas Television Specials of All Time

Top Ten Christmas Television Specials of All Time

From the early days of television when The Hooneymoonerscelebrated Christmas in a live 40-minute sketch there has been a continual parade of made-for-television specials. Here are, without a doubt and surely without debate, the top ten:

1. Charlie Brown Christmas

Why it is #1: Charles Schulz beloved Peanuts Christmas special is one of if not THE most popular Christmas specials of all time. When this special was originally aired it was watched by over HALF the viewing television audience. Charlie Brown's Christmas is a mixture of Peanut comedy mixed with the classic and stirring message of Christmas. No one will ever forget this one simple phrase: "And that's what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown".


2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

Why it is #2: Rudolph #2?!?! Blasphemy! The claymation-like Rankin Bass production of the Montgomery Ward's classic Christmas tale has consistently outsold other specials on recorded media for decades. How could it not be #1? Understand this special has one major flaw that can't be ignored: just about everyone at the North Pole is a jerk. Think about it: Santa Claus? Not very nice to Rudolph. Elves? They bullied poor Elf Hermey to death. All the other reindeer? Won't let Rudolph join in their reindeer games. What the heck? These guys make toys all year long for kids and then give them away on Christmas night and they can't accept two guys who are just a tad different? That's not in the spirit of Christmas at all. Other than that gaping flaw this special is fantastic — the innovative stop motion animation, classic songs and characters who have survived the test of time — despite some of their flaws.

3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Why it is #3: WHY? How could it not be? It's a special with Boris Karloff and the voice of Tony the Tiger for crying out loud! That alone is reason to put this special into any top ten. But its not just that. Chuck Jones brings a Dr. Seuss book to life. A wonderful story about a character who hates Christmas and the Who's so much that he sets out to STEAL Christmas. That's right, he's taking it all, the ornaments, the food, even the TREE. He didn't even leave a crumb big enough for a mouse. The message that Christmas is more than all that ranks it up there.

4. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire

Why it is #4: While technically an episode of the Simpsons, this gets included here because it is the first Simpson episodeand it is a Christmas special. It is the first epidsode of a series going on 20+ years now — which has to be some kind of record, animated series or no. It is also a Christmas special that is just a bit different than the norm: when Homer finds himself without money to buy the family gifts for Christmas he takes a part time job to get the money. When THAT doesn't work out well he is convinced to use the little money he made at the dog track. Hearing the name of a late entry as Santa's Little Helper, Homer is convinced that this is the miracle that will save the Simpsons Christmas. Of course, it's not. In the end it's a simple gift of an adopted dog that makes for a special Christmas — and a great introduction to the Simpson's on TV.

5. Frosty the Snowman

Why it is #5: Frosty the Snowman, animated with narration by Jimmy Durante, tells the story of the magic hat that brings Frosty to life and the magician who wants to steal the hat from him. In the end like any good special the magician changes his ways and Frosty goes to live at the North Pole with Santa so he does not melt. It is a simple, feel good story where everybody wins — and it makes it feel like Christmas every year when it is shown.

6. The Year Without a Santa Claus

Why it is #6: Another classic Rankin/Bass stop motion special tells the story of a year when Santa Claus gets sick and is convinced there is not many people left in the world who believe in him. Santa decides to take a break from delivering presents. It is up to two little elves and a tiny reindeer to find people who still believe in Santa to get him to change his mind. Best known for the introduction of the characters Heat Miser and Snow Miser – and their classic conflict resolution with Mother Nature — their catchy tunes teach non-holiday morals and in the process convey the Spirit of Christmas.

7. Mickey's Christmas Carol

Why it is #7: A short animated tale (tail?) that retells Dicken's A Christmas Carol with Disney characters (Scrooge McDuck). Utilizing the same formula that made Charlie Brown's Christmas #1 the tale-within-the-tale introduces the lessons of Dickens to a young audience while charming adults who love both the story — and Disney.

8. Santa Claus is Coming to Town

Why it is #8: Another Rankin/Bass special, it tells the story of Santa from the time he was a little orphan baby until he moves to the North Pole. Along the way he meets his future bride, an evil warlock (who becomes his friend), and a strange little penguin — all to classic, memorable tunes. An odd story told by S.D. Kluger (Fred Astaire), it tells how Santa came to deliver toys to children and leave presents in their stockings — a stark departure from the classic history of the modern Santa Claus that is nevertheless politically correct, secular and ever-so-child-and-family friendly.

9. Bob Hope's Christmas Specials

Why it is #9: Ok, a bit of a cop out here as I am not selecting one special in particular but rather all of them. My reasoning? Well to be fair I haven't seen all of them. I have however seen Hope for the Holidays, which is a Christmas best of special with bits from all of his specials including visits with the troops and even some skits thrown in. If I could get my hands on all these specials I'm sure I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. These make my list because they are timeless in their humor and real in their perspective — something the classic animated and stop motion specials lack.

10. Happy Holidays with Bing & Frank

Why it is #10: Despite the title this is actually a Frank Sinatra special with Bing Crosby as his guest. I picked this as #10 for the simple reason that it features two of the best singers of all time performer some of the best of all-time Christmas music. It never grows old — and it doesn't get better than that.

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