Explore Google Street View With a Soundtrack Chosen by AI

Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Google Street View is the closest you can get to globetrotting without leaving your living room. The technology features 360-degree views of thousands of locations that anyone can view by dragging their cursor across their computer screen. Now, a media artist has made the immersive experience even more realistic. As Co.Design reports, Nao Tokui’s new project Imaginary Soundscape pairs Google Street View locations with soundtracks chosen by AI.

The background noises are designed to feel like they were recorded in the same place that was photographed. Views of the inside of the Spanish church Sagrada Familia come with the sound of chatter echoing against high ceilings; pictures of the Westminster Bridge Road in London are accompanied by soft engine roars and background conversation in British accents; the view of a forest pilgrimage path in Japan is paired with chipping insects and birds and snapping twigs.

But unlike the images, the noises aren’t attached to each specific place. Rather, they’re open source audio tracks the AI system thought would fit well with the scene based on its visual information. Tokui and his team used two neural networks developed by MIT to build Imaginary Soundscape. The results, which include background noise for all of Street View, are available on the project’s website.

Search your address to see if the AI gets it right, or just select “random” to get an idea of the full range of soundtracks. The program isn't always spot-on (pictures of an empty Tokyo Station are accompanied by firework sounds, for example), but when it is, it’s easy to feel you’ve been transported away from your computer for a moment.

[h/t Co.Design]

This Amateur Rocketeer Builds Functioning, Miniature Replicas of SpaceX Rockets

Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell, Getty Images

Amateur rocketry is a hobby that predates NASA. Hobbyists have successfully made it to space using rockets built without the massive budgets and resources available to larger organizations. And some of these rockets do more than reach incredible heights: As Motherboard reports, Joe Barnard, a 25-year-old rocketeer from Nashville, Tennessee, is working on making model rockets capable of propulsive landings, the same trick that makes some SpaceX rockets reusable.

Most rocket boosters that propel loads past the Earth's atmosphere are designed to go only one way. In 2015, Elon Musk's space exploration company SpaceX made history when it successfully maneuvered the boosters used to launch its Falcon 9 rocket back onto the landing pad. SpaceX says its latest version of the rocket can be re-flown up to 100 times, saving the company millions of dollars per launch.

Joe Barnard is bringing this same level of innovation to the amateur rocketry world. He first became interested in aerospace engineering after watching early SpaceX videos, and instead of earning a degree in the field, he taught himself the basics. He's since made rocketry into a career, founding Barnard Propulsion Systems (BPS), a small business that sells supplies to other hobbyists, and working on rockets of his own.

Like the rockets at SpaceX, Barnard's creations use thrust vectoring—the technology that makes it possible to navigate and stabilize a rocket after launch—only on a much smaller scale. He's built miniature models of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets, and as is the case at SpaceX, his launches don't always run smoothly.

Barnard is still perfecting propulsive landings in amateur rockets, but for now he says each failure is a learning experience. You can watch the progress of his experiments on his YouTube channel.

[h/t Motherboard]

This High-Tech Skin Turns Almost Any Object Into a Robot

iStock
iStock

Instead of trading in their low-tech toys for fancy new gadgets, kids of the future may have the option to turn Teddy into a cyborg. As Gizmodo reports, researchers at Yale University have invented a robot "skin" that can give mobility to just about any inanimate object that can bend.

The researchers describe how this technology, called OmniSkins, works in a paper published in Science Robotics. The material, made from elastic sheets that contain sensors and actuators, can be wrapped around any malleable surface and controlled remotely or with on-board light sensors, essentially turning the item into a makeshift robot. The actuators in OmniSkins manipulate the object, while sensors can gauge exactly how much pressure needs to be applied to perform an action.

The project was largely funded by NASA, and it's easy to see how the tech might be used on one of the agency's missions in the future. On board a spacecraft, every cubic inch of space is precious, and the ability to repurpose something into a robotic arm or rover in a pinch would be invaluable to astronauts.

But the technology has potential applications on Earth as well, and not just to allow stuffed animals to walk on their own. Add a few of the skins to a shirt and it could automatically adjust your posture throughout the day, or you could use them to create a gripper to handle hard-to-reach objects.

You can see OmniSkins in action in the video below.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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