The Impossible Has Happened: Polaroid Is Back

Founders of The Impossible Project have just announced a huge deal: Polaroid instant cameras and film are coming back to the market in 2010. After being discontinued over the past few years, Polaroid fans have lamented the lack of film packs, and many commercial Polaroid instant camera users (for example, in the fashion industry) have been buying up all remaining film stock, making it very hard to come by a pack of Polaroid instant film.

The folks at The Impossible Project -- a project to re-start production of analog instant film that is Polaroid-compatible, using an old Polaroid plant in the Netherlands -- have announced that The Summit Global Group (the folks who own the Polaroid instant camera brand now) will be re-launching several popular Polaroid cameras, and the film (including both color and black-and-white versions) in early 2010.

Get ready to shake it like a Polaroid picture, people. (Note: it is not recommended that you shake a Polaroid. It doesn't help. Seriously.)

Remembering Jamie Livingston, Polaroid-a-Day Photographer

Last year I posted what has become my most-read blog post ever: He Took a Polaroid Every Day, Until the Day He Died, the story of Jamie Livingston, a man who documented his life (and death from cancer) via daily Polaroid photographs. After the publication of that story, Livingston was added to Wikipedia, he was featured in the New York Times and Fox News, I was interviewed (along with several of Livingston's friends -- who actually did the work of putting his photos online, rather than me just writing about it) on Canadian Public Radio, and much more. Without giving too much away, let's just say that Livingston's friends are actively carrying on his legacy both in displaying his work and writing about his life. So, fans of Livingston's work: stay tuned, this story isn't over.

Meanwhile, if you haven't read it, I urge you to read the blog post that started it all. For what it's worth, the story was mentioned today on Twitter by both Alyssa Milano and Chris Hardwick, among others. Remember, you can see Livingston's photos here. You can also read various blogs about Livingston by his friends Hugh Crawford and Betsy Reid (who appear in many of the photos, and did the work of rephotographing and displaying them both online and at Bard College).

(The photo above is Livingston's Photo of the Day from January 23, 1986.)

Live Smarter
Stop Your Snoring and Track Your Sleep With a Wi-Fi Smart Pillow

Everyone could use a better night's rest. The CDC says that only 66 percent of American adults get as much sleep as they should, so if you're spending plenty of time in bed but mostly tossing and turning (or trying to block out your partner's snores), it may be time to smarten up your sleep accessories. As TechCrunch reports, the ZEEQ Smart Pillow improves your sleeping schedule in a multitude of ways, whether you're looking to quiet your snores or need a soothing lullaby to rock you to sleep.

After a successful Kickstarter in 2016, the product is now on sale and ready to get you snoozing. If you're a snorer, the pillow has a microphone designed to listen to the sound of your snores and softly vibrate so that you shift positions to a quieter pose. Accelerometers in the pillow let the sleep tracker know how much you're moving around at night, allowing it to record your sleep stages. Then, you can hook the pillow up to your Amazon Echo or Google Home so that you can have your favorite smart assistant read out the pillow's analysis of your sleep quality and snoring levels the next morning.

The pillow is also equipped with eight different wireless speakers that turn it into an extra-personal musical experience. You can listen to soothing music while you fall asleep, either connecting the pillow to your Spotify or Apple Music account on your phone via Bluetooth or using the built-in relaxation programs. You can even use it to listen to podcasts without disturbing your partner. You can set a timer to turn the music off after a certain period so you don't wake up in the middle of the night still listening to Serial.

And when it's time to wake up, the pillow will analyze your movements to wake you during your lightest sleep stage, again keeping the noise of an alarm from disturbing your partner.

The downside? Suddenly your pillow is just another device with a battery that needs to charge. And forget about using it in a place without Wi-Fi.

The ZEEQ Smart Pillow currently costs $200.

[h/t TechCrunch]

Forget Horns: Some Trains in Japan Bark Like Dogs to Scare Away Deer

In Japan, growing deer populations are causing friction on the railways. The number of deer hit by trains each year is increasing, so the Railway Technical Research Institute has come up with a novel idea for curbing the problem, according to the BBC. Researchers there are using the sound of barking dogs to scare deer away from danger zones when trains are approaching, preventing train damage, delays, and of course, deer carnage.

It’s not your standard horn. In pilot tests, Japanese researchers have attached speakers that blare out a combination of sounds designed specifically to ward off deer. First, the recording captures the animals’ attention by playing a snorting sound that deer use as an “alarm call” to warn others of danger. Then, the sound of howling dogs drives the deer away from the tracks so the train can pass.

Before this initiative, the problem of deer congregating on train tracks seemed intractable. Despite the best efforts of railways, the animals aren’t deterred by ropes, barriers, flashing lights, or even lion feces meant to repel them. Kintetsu Railway has had some success with ultrasonic waves along its Osaka line, but many rail companies are still struggling to deal with the issue. Deer flock to railroad tracks for the iron filings that pile up on the rails, using the iron as a dietary supplement. (They have also been known to lick chain link fences.)

The new deer-deterring soundtrack is particularly useful because it's relatively low-tech and would be cheap to implement. Unlike the ultrasonic plan, it doesn’t have to be set up in a particular place or require a lot of new equipment. Played through a speaker on the train, it goes wherever the train goes, and can be deployed whenever necessary. One speaker on each train could do the job for a whole railway line.

The researchers found that the recordings they designed could reduce the number of deer sightings near the train tracks by as much as 45 percent during winter nights, which typically see the highest collision rates. According to the BBC, the noises will only be used in unpopulated areas, reducing the possibility that people living near the train tracks will have to endure the sounds of dogs howling every night for the rest of their lives.

Deer aren't the only animals that Japanese railways have sought to protect against the dangers of railroad tracks. In 2015, the Suma Aqualife Park and the West Japan Railway Company teamed up to create tunnels that could serve as safer rail crossings for the turtles that kept getting hit by trains.

[h/t BBC]


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