Animating Selfies through Technology

At times I think that the social media world is driven by the propagation of selfies, those self-portraits that you can find anywhere on the web (however you decide to take them). Selfies are often used as character photos for any number of social media sites, especially in popular places like Facebook. But just imagine if selfies interacted with you, winking or smiling when you liked a post or maybe showing an angry face when you give a disparaging response. A group from Tel Aviv University is working to make this possible, and they have developed a process of animating selfies that could make it practical for social media applications.

Animating Selfies

The process incorporates mapping the target image onto a pre-existing driving video created through the use of a model. The target image, once mapped to the driving video first image, is then warped and stretched as needed to match the video as it changes from frame to frame, The result is a process that makes animating selfies possible.

The software does not rely on warping the original image alone, since it will also add in fine detail items that convince us the video is real. Such things as creases and wrinkles are added to the subject through the fine detail portion if the process.

The software is not finished yet since it does have to generate some facial features that are missing from the original image. For example, a selfie that has a closed mouth will probably need to have teeth added to the final rendering if a smile is involved.

Interactive Preview Available

You can see a preview of the process on the group’s website, and the results do look promising. I think it will be only a matter of time before such technology is animating selfies everywhere, from Facebook streams to instant messages. No doubt this will be very entertaining and add to our interactions with otherwise static content.

Caution needed?

In the past, users provided their selfies as a means of identifying themselves and promoting their own self-image. However, by animating selfies the hosting site is actually promoting actions done on and for the site, not necessarily actions desired by the image holder. For example, you may not like it when someone you dislike gives a like to your latest post, but your animated doppelganger smiles at them just the same.

I can imagine that agreements will soon be in place forcing the end user to give modification rights to the hosting site, along with some kind of release if the emotions presented do not match up with your desired response. This can be a slippery slope since the use of one’s image to present emotions outside of the user’s actual intent could be misconstrued by the end viewer. Just imagine if the language allowed the use of the generated images with ads and other promotions. How powerful would the message be if your friends saw you smiling and promoting a brand of cereal or a new movie?

As we go forward with the manipulation of our images on social media, we may need to be cautious as to what rights we give up for the use of the site – if there is even an option. But one thing is certain – animating selfies is fascinating to watch, and I think that the time for static images as profile images is probably short lived.

Anymal Uses The Elevator Proving Escape Is Futile

So, what do you do when trying to escape one of our future robotic overlords? Well, I used to think that hitting the first elevator I could find would stop most of the quadruped robotic beasts. But now, thanks to Anymal, I know that I was sadly mistaken.

Image sourced from provided video

Anymal is the soon to be commercially available quadruped robot from ETH Zurich. The robot is designed to be of service in the industrial environment and bears a resemblance to those four-legged robotic beasts from Boston Dynamics. However, Anymal is smaller as it weighs in at only 66 pounds. The robot is designed to work, and it can carry up to 22 pounds or a third of its own weight.

The battery packs in Anymal give it about a four hour hunting time before a recharge is required, so if you can avoid it for longer than that you might be safe. And since Anymal travels at about the speed of a briskly walking human being you could try to run, but unless you regularly run a marathon my money is on the robot eventually catching you.

Since the current mode of Anymal appears to use QR codes to locate the elevator buttons, it might be possible to remove the codes and leave it stranded on a random floor. That is, assuming you would have the time and could beat it to that location. You could also try marking hazardous locations with the retrieved QR code chart, such as open power conduit boxes (which always seem to be handy in the movies). If nothing else, maybe you can use QR codes and try to communicate with it. I’m not sure how to spell, “We come in peace” in QR code, but at times like this a little experimentation is definitely warranted.

The video below shows Anymal in action, and I think it has been sped up by a factor of three or so.  Still, that does not give anyone enough time to take the stairs, trust me.

There is no word yet on the pricing of the Anymal Quadruped Robot, but I would not expect it to be cheap.

Under Armour Uses Printed Bioceramic Material To Promote Sleep And Recovery

Under Armour has a new line of products out that uses some pretty cool technology to enhance athletic recovery. The sleepwear uses special infrared printed designs with infused bioceramic material  that is designed to collect your body’s heat and reflect it back into those sore muscles, promoting healing in the process.

Image Copyright Under Armour (sourced from promotional video)

The energy reflected is in the far Infrared spectrum, which is supposed to be ideal for recovery as well as promoting better sleep and regulating cell metabolism. Not only that, but they are said to be insanely soft and stretchable, ensuring that you are relaxed and comfy as you head off to sleepy town.

It’s great to see that technology and materials science is coming together in such a way that can be beneficial to us without requiring a charge or an update. By using it now to help us recover and sleep is certainly a well deserving application, at least in my opinion. In fact, I look forward to see where the continued integration of the two leads our everyday lives, and I’m sure George Jetson has something very similar to this.

Under Armour Recovery Sleepwear can be found at retailers nationwide, and on the Under Armour website.

Roaming Robots Are Scanning The Product Shelves At Select Walmarts

Walmart is turning to roaming robots to keep its shelves stocked. The pilot program in Chicago is being tested in at least 40 retail stores. The robots, measuring about 2 feet in size and equipped with a scanning camera tower, cruise the aisles and analyze current shelf stock. The robotic store minions can even make note of items that might have been incorrectly placed by customers or other, say more organic, workers.


Picture Copyright Walmart


According to Chief technology Officer Jeremy King, the robots are 50 percent more productive and can manage to significantly improve item accuracy. Not only that, but the robots can also scan a shelf three times faster than a human. As King also says,

If you are running up and down the aisle, and you want to decide if we are out of Cheerios or not, a human doesn’t do that job very well and they don’t like it…

The robots do seem to like it, and they can monitor the shelves more often than the typical twice a week schedule of current workers.  The increased update of out of stock items translate to more profit for the massive retailer, since empty shelves often mean missed sales.

There is no word yet on if the system will be rolling out nationwide, but don’t be surprised to find a roaming robotic scanner at a Walmart near you soon. In fact, if this works out, I would not be a bit surprised to find that the current process for the cart pick for the curbside service pickup (you’ve probably seen their carts at Krogers and other chains) becomes automated thanks to a similar, albeit robotic hand equipped, system.