Sky launching 3D television in the UK

Gunug Rinjani Summit
Creative Commons License photo: NeilsPhotography

According to a Digital Spy report, we could be seeing 3D television in our homes by the end of the year.

Digital television (satellite) broadcaster BSkyB plans to provide the 3D service through its existing Sky HD playout and set top box system. The broadcaster trialed this out first last December and has filmed several sporting events in HD.

Of course, 3D television relies on delivering a slightly different image to each eye. There are several different technologies to do this:

  • Red-Blue Glasses. The oldest and most infamous form of 3D. Normally, all TV pictures are made up of a combination of red, green and blue. In this system, the red channel is used to deliver a picture to your left eye and the blue channel to your right eye. You need to place a red filter over your left eye to eliminate the blue channel and vice versa. It’s great because it works with any screen, but it looks strange and it’s uncomfortable.
  • Polarised Light. The TV set emits light which is orthogonally polarised, depending on which eye it is intended for. For example, vertically polarised light for the left eye and horizontally polarised light for the right eye. By using polarisation filters, each eye only sees the image intended for it. This gives a much nicer image than using red-blue glasses but obviously requires technology in the TV to create polarised light.
  • Sharp’s 3D Display. I was lucky enough to see a demonstration of this a few years ago and to play Quake in 3D. It’s pretty cool. I won’t go into the full details of how it works: but only one person can use the display at once and they have to be sat in the exact right position for the system to work at all.

Sky have, rather sensible, opted for the polarised light system for 3D television.

Perhaps this is the killer application that HD needs.

Create Adobe Acrobat PDFs and XPS files from Microsoft Office

Motherly Love
Creative Commons License photo: tarotastic

It’s often very useful to distribute your  Word documents in the PDF file format as not everybody has Word and the same fonts you’ve got on your computer.

If you had used an early beta version of Microsoft Office 2007, you will have noticed there was a built in feature to export your documents into Acrobat PDF files or Microsoft’s obscure XPS (XML Paper Specification) format. That disappeared in the final version of Office 2007 but it’s available as a free plugin. According to Microsoft, it’s compatible with:

  • Microsoft Office Access 2007
  • Microsoft Office Excel 2007
  • Microsoft Office InfoPath 2007
  • Microsoft Office OneNote 2007
  • Microsoft Office PowerPoint 2007
  • Microsoft Office Publisher 2007
  • Microsoft Office Visio 2007
  • Microsoft Office Word 2007

This is a really useful plugin. Sending your documents as PDF has a lot of benefits: recipients won’t inadvertently edit them and the document will look more like it is supposed to (fonts are embedded for example). Especially as Office 2007 users have new fonts such as Calibri and Cambria which many people may not have, this comes in really handy.

Once installed, save as PDF by going to Office Button > Save As > PDF or XPS.

If you want to save as PDF from other programmes, the best thing to do is to get a PDF printer. I personally use PrimoPDF which is totally free and works really well. For open source junkies, PDFCreator does a pretty good job too – although I had issues with certain documents.

Far Afield: Soundscape Music

Far Afield is a fascinating soundscape compilation album which is free to listen to and download from the Internet Archive.

Similar to the Birdsong DAB radio station that I’ve mentioned in the past, Far Afield consists of field recordings of sounds from both natural and artificial sources. But the recordings don’t turn out as walls of random noise because the recordings are specifically focused around using the rhythms and melodies as focal points.

Curator Fred Yarm says:

The results that I received were astounding. The tracks represent everything from highly composed tracks telling stories or capturing the essence of far away locales to straight field recordings that the artist felt did not need any processing to demonstrate the beauty of the situation. Cracking ice on a lake, cicada songs, rusty gates, dripping water, moving trains, and a handful of other captured sounds provided the instrumental palettes for these compositions. Many thanks are to be given to the artists who accepted this challenge to coax such delightful music and beauty out of unplanned and un-orchestrated events.

It’s well worth downloading this CC-licensed album, putting it on your iPod and having a listen. In our daily routines: the commute to work and the incessant ringing of the phone in the office, we’re all too used to hearing the same sounds again and again. Far Afield can immerse you in an altogether different place.

Emotion Visualisation: We Feel Fine and Moodstream

Two fantastic visualisations of emotion today which may serve as inspiration for some of art, writing or perhaps even webpage designs.

We Feel Fine

We Feel Fine

We Feel Fine scours the internet for human feelings every ten minutes. According to their website, they use sources “including LiveJournal, MSN Spaces, MySpace, Blogger, Flickr, Technorati, Feedster, Ice Rocket, and Google”. They then analysewhat is written in the blogs for “I feel” or “I am feeling” and do further analysis/crawling around the website to pick up information on the type of feeling which is being felt as well as the age and geographical location of the author.

The applet on the website then generates a “emotion cloud”. Try it out.

Getty Images Moodstream


Moodstream is a visual brainstorming tool. Choose from 6 presets or select your own from various parameters such as happy/sad, calm/lively, humourous/serious, nostalgic/contemporary, warm/cool. The applet finds music, images and videos and combines them to deliver that image. It’s designed to be a take you in inspired and unexpected directions.

Nintendo Wii Remote Hacks

If you guys haven’t seen this video of Johnny Lee’s Wii Remote hacks, it’ll blow you away. What he has done is taken an inexpensive $40 (or £30) Wii Remote and hacked it to do some extraordinary things. In order to track the position of the Wii remote, there is an infrared sensor on the top. Your Wii sensor bar emits beams of infrared light which the remote picks up and uses to track where it is. (find out how I took the following photo)

Anyway, he hacked it so it could be connected as a computer and would work in reverse: the wii remote is laid stationary (like a webcam) and then it tracks the movement of an infrared dot.

There is a fantastic interactive whiteboard built on the cheap and I think the headtracking program is just stunning.

Electronic Arts have released a game called Boomblox for the Wii which uses this head tracking technology.


Bomomo is a unique and very original technique to create a work of art. It’s hard to describe it – just give it a try! It uses <canvas> so works fantastically in Firefox and reportedly fairly well, in Safari and Opera 9.5 too. It’s been described as an “interesting mix of Spirograph, Etch-a-Sketch, and MS Paint”.

See an example of a Bomomo drawing.

Personas for Firefox

Personas for Firefox is a really nice extension for Firefox which adds lightweight theming without having to restart your browser.

Personas for Firefox

I’ve been using it several months now and it’s really nice so I really recommend having a look. There are a dozen Foxkeh themes which are pretty cute too.

Personas was recently updated so the theme could be dynamic web content. People have started to play around with this feature: for example theming the browser with a live webcam from Germany.

Find out how to create your own Personas. The team hope to release the final version of Personas in time for Firefox 3.

Boris Johnson: "Is Fatboy Slim a DJ?"

Tory MP for Henley and Mayor of London candidate Boris Johnson is set to release a single called “Is Fatboy Slim a DJ?”. The producers of the single say that the single will be released sometime after the election for Mayor of London (1st May). A video is currently in production but you can listen to a snippet from the dance mix on the website.

I met Boris last year and he is a really lovely person. He talked about his career in politics and many of the controversies he’s been in. and I was also lucky enough to ask him a few questions about education & young people and get an autograph. I wish Boris the best in the Mayor for London elections next month and in hitting the number 1!

If you’re a fellow Boris fan, I strongly recommend reading his biography!

Google Mail Trend Visualiser

The Google Mail Trend Visualiser is pretty cool. It’s a Python script which connects to your Gmail account using IMAP and then produces some pretty graphs, tables and distributions on information such as who is emailing you, subject lines, mailing lists and so on.

Check out the example output for the Enron e-mail dataset and if you’re interested, have a look at the getting started guide. I’ve tried installing this but so far no luck… I get “ImportError: No module named utils” but I’m running Python 2.3 on Windows… your mileage may vary.