Opensource Dronecode Project Announced

The Dronecode Project, administered by the nonprofit Linux Foundation, aims to establish common technology for use across the industry. The concept behind Dronecode is to create an open hardware and software stack, where companies can plug in modules for enhanced performance whether it be sensors, piloting, mission planning or other functions. The Android ecosystem is their model.

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Chris Anderson, who started DIY Drones and later 3D Robotics, is behind Dronecode. It utilizes open source hardware and software and includes the APM/ArduPilot UAV software platform and associated code. Examples of Dronecode projects include APM/ArduPilot, Mission Planner, MAVLink and DroidPlanner.

Founding members include 3D Robotics, Baidu, Box, DroneDeploy, Intel, jDrones, Laser Navigation, Qualcomm,, Squadrone System and others.

PX4 ​is an independent, open-source, open-hardware project aiming at providing a high-end autopilot. The PX4 from 3D Robotics, for example, features advanced processor and sensor technology for controlling any autonomous vehicle.

ArduPilot (also ArduPilotMega – APM), was created in 2007 by the DIY Drones community, based on the Arduino open-source electronics prototyping platform.

H.265 encoding, available on Qualcomm’s 810 smartphone processor can reduce HD bandwidth by 50%. Portland’s Elemental Technologies can do the number crunching in the cloud, bring real-time video to all manner of displays.

OpenVX provides mobile developers with an industry standard API to deliver embedded computer vision and computational imaging chipsets that can keep UAVs on track.

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“Open source software and collaborative development are advancing technologies in the hottest, most cutting-edge areas. The Dronecode Project is a perfect example of this,” said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation.

“By becoming a Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the Dronecode community will receive the support required of a massive project right at its moment of breakthrough. The result will be even greater innovation and a common platform for drone and robotics open source projects.”

See: Columbia River Drones

Goodyear Blimp Gets Competition

The Goodyear Blimp is often in the sky at major television events, and with the launch of a new Goodyear Blimp in August (Wingfoot One), Goodyear officials expect their fleet of three blimps to cover 160 events in 2014.

Doug Grassian, senior manager for airship communications at Goodyear in Akron, Ohio, explained the television operations to TV Technology.

On site at the event, the crew sets up microwave gear that carries signals from the ship to the network television production truck. They generally test the system out a day before the event.

The typical equipment complement starts with an Axsys Technologies’ Cineflex V14 gyro-stabilized pan/tilt head that can also rotate. The Cineflex V14 has an integrated Sony HDC-1500 camera and Fujinon 9.7×42 lens with a 2X extender.

Inside the ship, there’s a Sony PVM-1741A HD monitor and a Tektronix WFM5200 waveform monitor for the camera operator. A Sony PDW-HD1500 HD video recorder captures the feed for safe-keeping.

For the microwave downlink, Goodyear uses Janteq and Nucomm microwave transmitters and receivers, with Gigawave antennas picking up the signal at the production truck.

The balloon-like body of the airship – the “envelope” – is made of polyester with an innovative film from DuPont™ called Tedlar, surrounding a semi-rigid internal structure, which differentiates this airship from previous Goodyear blimps. The new airship can do up to 73 mph, which means it can cover more ground, and more events, than the older 50-mph models.

Wingfoot One replaces the Spirit of Goodyear that was retired.

Helicopters like the the all-new Cabri G2 may soon give small helicopters like the Robinson R-22 and R-44 some serious competition.

The company has also signed a deal with Eurocopter to develop an unmanned variant. An unmanned demonstration used a four-dimensional flight plan that was uploaded to the helicopter.

Another competitor, the Enstrom 480B-G, is equipped with the Garmin G1000H glass cockpit.

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The cost/effectiveness of drones will be hard to top for many applications. They can now be equipped with Lidar, Flir, tiny hyperspectral cameras and 360 degree cameras (videos).

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Of course FAA rules allowing coverage over public areas is still in the works.

VR Cinema: Killer App?

Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, a 5.7″ phablet announced last week, is even bigger than premium flagship phones like the LG G3 with a 5.5″ display, the Sony Xperia Z3 with a 5.2″ display, and Samsung S-5, with a 5.1″ display, notes C/Net. The Note, with a Snapdragon 805, is also more powerful.

The 5″+ phablets should make tomorrow’s rumored 4.7″ iPhone 6 look downright dainty, but a 5.5″ iPhone 6L might fit right in.

The Note 4’s killer app may be VR. The Note 4-powered Gear VR headset was developed by John Carmack at Oculus, who has spent the last year spearheading this effort.

When docked, the Gear VR uses the Note 4 display and its processing power for full-immersion games and movies. The headset has its own magnetometer and accelerometer to calculate movement, as well as a proximity sensor. Built-in lenses with a 96-degree field of view sit between your eyes and the screen, and there’s a touchpad on the headset for navigating menus.

It’s expected to be available this fall in the U.S. for around $200. Whether VR cinema on an $800 phone and $200 headset will catch on is an open question.

Maybe a 5″ Huawei Ascend P7 will offer VR competition for half the cost.

Of course there’s Google Cardboard. Essentially, it’s a cardboard housing for a smartphone. You get a $10 lens kit, about $7 in off-the-shelf magnets, $3 worth of velcro, a rubber band, and an easily programmable $1.50 Near-Field Communication sticker tag for launching the companion mobile app. It lets you cruise through a landscape or city street in Google Earth, watch YouTube videos in a virtual theater or Chrome Experiments, visiting the Great Barrier Reef in a helicopter, or riding a roller coaster. The spherical videos are provided by AirPano.

Hop in the virtual pedicab. Let’s travel along the Champs-Élysées tonight!

Free Hyperlapse App from Instagram

Instagram today announced Hyperlapse, one of the company’s first apps outside of Instagram itself. Using an algorithm, the app makes it easy to use your phone to create smooth tracking shots and time-lapse videos.

The app is available free for the iPhone. Instagram hopes to develop an Android version soon, but Instagram says that will require changes to the camera and gyroscope APIs on Android phones.

The product team shared their story with WIRED. Instead of using power-hungry algorithms to model the camera’s movement, smartphone’s gyroscopes measure it directly. By using those measurements in a simple algorithm it maps one frame to the next, giving the illusion that the camera is being held steady.

Microsoft also announced their hyper-lapse research recently. According to Microsoft, simple frame sub-sampling coupled with existing video stabilization methods does not work for time-lapse videos, because erratic camera shake is amplified by the speed-up.

Their algorithm first reconstructs the 3D input camera path as well as dense, per-frame proxy geometries. They optimize a novel camera path for the output video (shown in red) that is smooth and passes near the input cameras while ensuring that the virtual camera looks in directions that can be rendered well from the input. Microsoft is currently making their Hyperlapse algorithm available as a Windows app.

3D Devices from Amazon and Google

Amazon new 3D smartphone, expected June 18, will use modified version of OKAO Vision face sensing, reports TechCrunch.

Face-tracking 3D enables a 3D effect on a normal LCD screen. Four front-facing IR cameras will track the user’s head, and along with Omron’s technology, will adjust the on-screen objects as the user’s perspective changes.

The phone will join Amazon’s lineup of Kindle Fire devices, currently the Kindle Fire HD, HDX, and the Kindle Fire TV. Like those devices, the phone is expected to run the Fire OS, a heavily customized fork of Android.

By contrast, Google’s Project Tango hopes to make mobile devices capable of using depth sensors and high-spec cameras to craft three-dimensional maps, reports Engadget. The Tango team is now developing a seven-inch tablet that’s packed with a lot more power. It isn’t a consumer product yet, but the tablet’s designed to give developers what they need, for about $1000.

Project Tango’s 3D-mapping tablet has a 1080p display and runs a stock version of Android 4.4 KitKat, but uses NVIDIA’s quad-core Tegra K1 chip alongside 4GB of RAM and 128GB internal storage. The Tegra K1 mobile processor was introduced at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, and brings Kepler architecture to the mobile platform. The tablet also features USB 3.0, micro-HDMI, Bluetooth LE and LTE.

The Tango has two cameras and a depth sensor on the back. One camera has a 4MP sensor that offer higher light sensitivity (similar to the UltraPixel sensor in HTC’s One), while the other cameras track motion more broadly with 170-degree wide-angle fisheye lenses.

The Movidius VPU goes between the camera and the application processor, instead of between the application processor and the display, like the nVidia GPU. CENTR, the first 4K panoramic camera, also uses the Movidius visual processor.

The Kickstarter funded 360cam from GIROPTIC is a small egg-shaped device that fits in your hand. It features three, 185º fish-eye lenses and has MicroSD and WiFi connectivity for live or recorded 360 degree views. It’s not clear what chips the proposed camera uses.

3D Map with Realtime Shadows

The F4 Map is a 3D map where the shadows on the map are displayed in real-time and reflect the position of the sun. The shadows move throughout the day. The map includes 3d buildings and trees.

Dynamic Holland Shading is another map that includes dynamic hill shading based on the date and time of day. Move the date and time of day sliders and you can see the hill shading update instantly on the map. The dynamic hill shading is powered by a combination of MapBox’s dynamic hillshading and the SunCalc library.

You can view 360 degree imagery shot by Photo Sphere posted on Google Maps and Views. With an Android Jelly Bean 4.2 Nexus device, you can contribute your own photo spheres.

Google photo tours, a feature of Google Maps, guides you through a 3D photo scene. Photo tours are available for more than 15,000 popular sites around the world, from famous landmarks such as St. Mark’s Basilica in Italy to scenic treasures like Half Dome in Yosemite.

Google’s new Camera app, available today for KitKat (4.4), features Lens Blur, a new mode that lets you take a photo with a shallow depth of field using your Android phone or tablet.