Silence is Golden

Following the recent NSA incidents made me read a bit about secure internet communications and alternative networks to the world wide web. Stumbling upon a few mesh projects and brushing up on my trivial knowledge about cryptography made me excited about entering what could be the beginning of the end of the internet as we know it but I’ll leave that for another post.

What I want to talk about is the reaction we all or most of us had when we read the news. People are seemingly more scared and more aware about their internet privacy and took to the streets against their own governments.

Looking back on the events I was surprised at how outraged people were by  their governments “listening” . Surprised because since the birth of the internet intrusions have been a big problem.

Latest with Captain Zap’s hack on AT&T in 1981 it was clear that networks had to be secured from external intrusions the so called “hackers”. But intercepting communications didn’t just start 30 years ago, communication interception has been present ever since… well ever since a human being was able to communicate. If encrypted writings dating back 1900BC and codes have been cracked ever since, does it leave any hope for others not to put their nose where it does not belong?

Giving that humans had almost 4000 years experience in trying to know what the other is saying and trying to hide your thoughts it does not surprise me at all that there is basically no privacy on the internet, or telephone lines, or simple mail. Someone somewhere will always want to know what you are up to, might it be your grandmother, a bored hacker or your beloved big brother.

My guess is the people were shocked that the listener was this time someone they were supposed to trust. The government has now stepped into the shoes of the hacker, the person they have always warned us from but we all should have seen this coming 4000 years ago. If you don’t want someone to listen to what you are saying, then don’t say it.

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Working with CS Cart

In the past week I have been put to the task to implement a new skin for the CS Cart eCommerce Software. Usually the projects I work on are based on either Symfony framework, Drupal or WordPress; taking up this project on a new platform with a 2 week turn around was quite a challenge.

One might expect when purchasing a software which advertises itself as “a perfect platform for custom eCommerce requirements”, it would be thoroughly documented but I had to find out that this was not the case. Of course one can find answers around the Internet. However it is a tedious and time wasting task. I was left with having to dig through core code and debugging to somehow get a grasp on the internals. To CS Cart’s defense, the design template I received to integrate into CS Cart was extremely customized.

On this note I will start writing up a small series on development with CS Cart covering basic changes to existing skins, writing add-ons and creating your own skin.

Web apps a la Minority report?

Yes, I know, I have been lazy again with blogging. It was been a turbulent two months and I didn’t have much time. Anyhow, let’s go on. My past blog posts were all about AR, current and future developments with some examples. I didn’t get to play with it yet but something else popped up on my to do list.

While I was looking around for AR examples done with Flash and working with Papervision3D I had this idea… what if I could detect the motion of my hands through the web cam to move objects around in my Papervision3D application?

At first I thought it might be impossible to achieve with Flash but I still googled: flash motion detection. Woop I came across numerous post and most of the pointing me to two crazy guys Ohtsuka Masakazu and Mario Klingemann. Now Ohtsuka was crazy enough to port parts of OpenCV into ActionScript3 (the project is code named Marilena) and Mario improved parts of that port for performance, which enables Flash developers to perform facial recognition on still images and web cam. This technology even found its way into Facebook via an application.

Coming across this blew my mind literally and I started investigating on OpenCV and hand motion recognition which in turn blew my mind (or what was left of it) again, I realized that what I have been thinking is actually possible but yet to be implemented in ActionScript3. The most amazing part is that unlike Minority Report, this approach does not need any special gloves (although it would surely simplify development).

So here are a few videos I have found during my research. I am positive that the user experience on the web will drastically change in the next few years. AR, motion and object dedection, there is a huge amount of possibilities. Imagine a website with computer vision that would respond to your facial expression; try to cheer you up when you’re sad, calm you down when you’re angry and joke with you when you’re happy.

This first video is pretty much the most impressive that I found so far. Big kudos for this kid.

Could body motion recognition the next version of the Wii?

AR with FLARToolKit

Augmented Reality in practiceYesterday I gave you an introduction to AR (Augmented Reality) and what is possible with this technology. Today I want to introduce you to FLARtoolKit. FLARToolKit is an ActionScript 3 port of the open source library ARToolKit with which you can build your own AR applications. With FLARToolKit you can build easily great AR applications using Flash/Flex in combination with you favorite 3D Flash Engine which means that thanks to Saqoosha, a Japanese coder, we can experience beautiful AR in our browsers. View Saqoosha’s new year’s greetings in the video or print out a marker and try it yourself.

In the next few weeks I will try myself on the FLARTToolKit and post some examples on how to build AR applications with Flex and Papervision3D.

Enjoy

On Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality - This might be the near futureRecently I have been researching on AR (Augmented Reality) which is in my opinion currently the most interesting trend in the industry. According to Wikipedia AR is

… a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with-, or augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery – creating a mixed reality.

So what does THAT now mean? It is not virtual reality as some might think. Virtual reality is composed purely of computer generated elements whereas AR uses pictures (video feeds) of the real world and superimposes computer generated elements on it.

Some of you might have actually already experienced AR in one way or the other. The first time I got in touch with it was a game on my Nokia phone a few years back (can’t remember which one it was) that used the phone’s camera to build the environment of the game. Upon the camera feed were little 3D viruses generated that I had to shoot and by moving the phone I would move within the game’s environment.

AR has many applications and it will change a gamers experience soon. The guys from NVIDIA already started (with others) to develop a unique gaming experience. Let’s take “ARhrrr!”  for example: This game is a project from Georgia Tech and SCAD-Atlanta. The game is developed for the new Tegra by NVIDIA and uses the Tegra’s camera to build a gaming environment on a printed city map. In this city you, the player, have to protect citizens from zombies. The device represents a helicopter in the gaming environment and you can even use real-life Skittles as ammunition. I think it is a bit hard to explain the game itself so here’s a demo video of it:

But the use of AR is not limited to games only. It can be used in many different ways. One company working a lot with AR is Total-Immersion and has lots and lots of examples of use including digital marketing, publishing and education.

One of my favorite marketing applications using AR is “Living Sasquatch“. Many of you may know the advertisements “Messin with Sasquatch” and with Living Sasquatch you can make your own little video with Sasquatch in your own room. All you need is a webcam a printer and you’re good to go. Try it out.

In the future I think that AR will be present everywhere. Scientists are currently researching on digital contact lenses that can show you your vital signs directly in your sight. Though it will take a few years until a first prototype is ready, this idea alone brought up many other applications such as integrations with your phone or pocket PC or the like. Furthermore we can expect at least glasses with AR capabilities much earlier than the contact lenses, as the application of AR on glasses is much easier than on lenses. I myself will probably come up soon with my own little test applications and I already have several ideas how to use this wonderful technology to build interactive websites.

Back

Finially… After a long long period of silence I got myself back together and now I’ll start to write again.

A few months ago I started to develop with Adobe Flex. Quite interesting and sort of easy to use but I got really interested when I stumbled upon Away3D and Papervision3D. Those two are 3D engines for Flash… yes… 3D and not like the good old Shockwave Flash. No, fully fledged “high” performance 3D engines even suitable to program little games with them. I was amazed by the capabilities of those two engines and directly dove into developing small test applications and I am currently working on two websites using Papervision3D.

I will post more in the next few weeks about my progress in developing those two applications but in the meantime you can check out some really cool websites developed with PPV3D and Away3D:

Away3D


Eminem’s new album has broken records, and this amazing interactive adventure website lets you discover and immerse yourself in Eminem’s sick musical world.

Some superb 3D User Interface ideas can be seen at AIRFORCE.com’s Supercar site.

Powerflasher’s “PDF Book 3D” tool uses Away3D to breathe fresh air into your run-of-the-mill 2D page flip book viewer

Papervision3D

Nascar and the United States Air Force, the work was performed for GSD&M Idea City out of Austin, Texas.

Site for a band that already broke up in 1986

Business of Mutual Benefit

Don’t you just love those scam emails? To many they are obvious but unfortunately there are still a few fools out there that fall for it. This is what I received today and I fell laughing off of my chair:

BARRISTER FRED JACK

Tel: 27 73 802 2624

Sandton South Africa.

BUSINESS OF MUTUAL BENEFIT.

My name is Fred Jack, personal Attorney to late Mr. Adams Walker,a national of your country who died along with his wife and his Two sons in a a plane crash.

My late client left behind a deposit of Ten Million, Two Hundred Thousand United States Dollars($10,200,000.00usd) in his domiciliary bank account in a bank here in South Africa.

After the death of my client ,his bankers contacted me as his Attorney to provide his next of kin who should inherit his fortune.

The bankers had planned to invoke the abandoned property decree of 1996 to confiscate the funds after the expiration of the period given to me.

I seek your consent to present you as the Next of Kin to the Deceased since you are at an advantage as nationals from the same country, so that the proceeds of this Bank Account valued at $10.2 Million Dollars can be paid to you.

We shall both share the fund, 35% to me and 60% to you, while 5% should be for Expenses or Tax as your Government may require, I shall assemble all the necessary Legal Documents that will be used to back up our claim .

I guarantee that this will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of law.

Please get in touch with me by telephone or email to enable us discuss further.

Best Regards,
Fred Jack Esq.

Asleep In The Park

Well, what can I say. Another diamond found in the ppig pile of bands on Jamendo:
Asleep In The Park

Sounds like very nice classical rock. On their Jamendo Page it says:

Captivating and charming, with more girlie curls in the band than since Shirley Temple was a crackwhore, Asleep in the Park are a raucous, upbeat, indie-rock band that have emerged from the cluttered streets of inner Melbourne and are now marching their trademark high-energy harmonies across the city and beyond.

Like a failed exercise in abstinence, Asleep in the Park ooze enthusiasm, passion and an endearing mania which infuses their music with an appealing blend of thumping bass lines, lush keys, driving guitars and insanely catchy lyrics that reach deep into your skull and vigorously shake listeners into a blissful delirium.

Joining the indefinable populus of indie brit pop rock, Asleep in the Park work harder than Madonna’s diaphragm, running every facet of the band including management, production, graphic design and distribution. In this way they fit the description of indie rockers right down to their sun-faded Converse being held together by safety pins and gaffer tape. However, this is where the stereotype ends. Refusing to be programmed, pigeonholed or easily referenced, Asleep in the Park cite countless musical influences, from rock to punk, country, pop and soul, mixing genres like other people mix drinks, but without the nasty hangover. The overall result is music that pokes and prods at your brain with devilishly clever writing and feet-tapping melodies.

Visit them on Jamendo or their website www.asleepinthepark.com