Apple announced that it’s partnering with computer animation studio Pixar to boost the company’s augmented reality initiative, the company announced Monday during its annual WWDC conference for app developers.
“In iOS 12, we wanted to make an easy way to experience AR across the [eco]system, and to do that we got together with some of the greatest minds in 3D, at Pixar,” Apple senior vice president Craig Federighi said.
Together, Apple and Pixar developed a new file format for AR called “USDZ.” It’s a compact and simple format that’s designed to let people share AR content “while retaining great 3D graphics and even animations.”
The USDZ format is addressing the typically large storage size of AR content, which can make it harder to share information easily and quickly.
Companies like Adobe are adopting the USDZ format to work with its Creative Cloud platform, which includes apps like Photoshop and Dimension.
Once iOS 12 is released in the fall, AR content can be shared in the USDZ format in apps like Safari, Messages, and Mail, and can be managed in the Files app.
Federighi also announced Apple’s latest version of its AR platform, called ARKit 2.
ARKit 2 will offer improved face tracking, more realistic rendering, support for 3D object detection, and the ability to start an AR experience based on a real-world physical object or space.
ARKit 2 will also support shared experiences, where two or more people can play AR games together.
Sci-fi podcasts tend to be modest affairs, and are usually hosted by enthusiastic amateurs or up-and-coming writers.
But in recent years radio professionals have been creating shows with much higher production values. One of those shows is Flash Forward, hosted by science journalist Rose Eveleth.
“Sci-fi is so powerful in getting us to imagine things, and imagine futures,” Eveleth says in Episode 272 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “It puts you into these worlds and makes you think, ‘What would I do in that situation?’”
Another highly-produced show is Imaginary Worlds, created by Eric Molinsky, whose long career in public radio includes work for Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
He was drawn to podcasting in part because of the freedom to go deep on his favorite geeky topics.
“That was the first thing I remember noticing with Roman Mars and 99% Invisible, which was one of the first big podcasts, was that it sounded like public radio, but he could make it as long as he wanted, which was so liberating for a public radio producer,” Molinsky says.
Sci-fi fans are also being treated to professionally-produced audio dramas like Steal the Stars, Limetown, and The Message.
But is all this content going to draw listeners away from the fans-and-writers talk shows that have traditionally dominated sci-fi podcasting?
But Rose Eveleth feels that many people—particularly those who work in radio—tend to overestimate the importance of high production values.
Listen to the complete interview with Rose Eveleth and Eric Molinsky in Episode 272 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Eric Molinsky on public radio:
“The people listening to the show very often would not be very well versed in [science fiction], and I felt like I often had to keep justifying why we were talking about this on public radio. And I always found with other public radio shows, or like NPR, when they would cover this stuff, they absolutely had to mention how much money these movies were making, or how many viewers this TV show had, just to justify why they were talking about it, and I remember that frustrated me a lot. … I also felt like public radio rarely talked about the issues within science fiction and fantasy, and the really interesting, in-depth conversations that the fans were having about this kind of stuff.”
Rose Eveleth on interviewing scientists:
“There are some scientists who don’t want to do future stuff, which I totally understand. Some of them have had their work misrepresented in the past. … As a scientist it’s always really risky when you start talking about hypotheticals, because your job is not to talk about hypotheticals, your job is to talk about what you know and what you can test and what you can measure, and so I do try to be very careful and very clear, and try to separate the scientists from the zany, future-y stuff as much as possible. Because it’s a lose-lose situation if I make them look like they’re predicting something that they’re not, and then they get mad and then other scientists don’t want to talk to me, so I’m pretty careful about that stuff.”
Rose Eveleth on her episode “The Carbon Gene”:
“I did this episode, and it went out, and I got a text message a couple days later that said, ‘Hey, they just talked about you on the Rush Limbaugh show.’ Apparently Rush Limbaugh thought that I was literally proposing this. He saw the headline, and went on this whole rant about how liberals are trying to genetically engineer our babies to combat climate change. It was this whole thing, and he went on this whole rant about it on his show, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is really bad.’ And it was actually really interesting, because I was waiting to be inundated with Rush Limbaugh listeners—to my email, or to Twitter or whatever—and I got nothing. Not a single person got in touch with me.”
Eric Molinsky on his episode “When Cthulhu Calls”:
“I did an episode with Here Be Monsters, we did a collaboration, which was set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft. It was basically a fake episode, which starts out realistic—in fact, we did interview, I think, some kind of scientist, but eventually it got so ludicrous that I was interviewing H.P. Lovecraft’s brain in a jar, and it was making anti-Semitic comments toward me. And I could not have been more clear in the beginning that ‘This is going to start out real, but it is a radio drama.’ In the description on social media, in the description on your phone, it says ‘This is a radio drama.’ And I could not believe how many people wrote me and said, ‘I completely forgot. It was so believable that I forgot, and I’m really angry at you for misleading me.’”
After 101 days of traveling by plane, train, automobile, Korean warship, zipline and even robot, the Olympic torch will finally reach the site of the Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea.
Last Friday, a lucky honoree will use it to light the Olympic cauldron in a grand, symbolic start to the games.
While the blaze looks like any other, its origins are special: It was lit not with matches or a Zippo lighter, but with a parabolic mirror, echoing rituals from Ancient Greece.
To brush up on algebra, a parabola is a particular type of arc that is defined by the exact curvature of its sides.
Mathematically, these symmetrical curves all take some form of the equation, Y = X^2. Revolve a parabola around its axis, and you have the shape of a parabolic mirror.
Unlike most curves, which scatter incoming light in many directions, the reflected beams bounce from a parabola and all concentrate to one point, the focus.
These reflective surfaces are used in a number of devices to concentrate not only reflected light, but also sound or radio waves.
Satellite dishes, some types of microphones, reflecting telescopes and even car headlights benefit from the reflective properties of parabolic dishes.
In the case of the Olympics, when the sun shines on a parabolic dish, known to the ancient Greeks as a Skaphia or crucible, the rays all bounce off its sides and collect at one blazing hot point.
Put a piece of paper—or a gas torch—in that focal point, and you get fire.
A lone parabolic dish does a decent job heating things up, achieving temperatures of at least hundreds of degrees.
“That’s really very easy to reach,” says Jeffrey Gordon, professor of physics at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
Some may even be able to reach temperatures in the thousands of degrees, says Jonathan Hare, a British physicist and science communicator.
Hare has witnessed parabolic mirrors vaporize carbon, something that only happens at temps over 2,000 degrees Celsius
If conditions are absolutely ideal, light can be concentrated to match the same temperature as its source, Gordon explains. In the case of the sun, that means that the upper temperature limit when concentrating its rays is around 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
“No matter what you do, no matter how brilliant you are, you can never bring any object on Earth to a higher temperature [by concentrating sunlight],” says Gordon.
But, of course, conditions are never ideal. First, some of that heat is lost to the atmosphere.
Then, some is absorbed into your reflective surface, and still another fraction is scattered away due to imperfections in the mirror.
“The parabola is a good concentrator but not a perfect concentrator,” Gordon adds.
Gordon’s research is focused on pushing the limits of sun concentration to the max.
Using multiple concentrating mirrors, his lab has achieved temperatures of nearly 3,000 degrees Celsius, applying the heat for a range of feats, including a sun-powered surgical laser and a reactor for creating nanomaterials.
But now, at some truly blistering temps, he has a different problem.
“We start to destroy everything,” he says.
In the case of Olympic torch lighting, the issues are somewhat more mundane. For one, there’s the potential for clouds.
In the days leading up to the modern torch lighting ceremony at the ancient temple of Hera in Olympia, the organizers light a flame in a parabolic dish, just in case clouds obscure the sun on the day of the ceremony.
The preparedness proved useful at this year’s event, which took place on the drizzly morning of October 24, 2017.
People have practiced the concentration of the sun’s rays for thousands of years. The most famous example of solar concentration comes from 212 B.C. during the siege of Syracuse, Greece.
The Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes used the parabolic mirror, so the story goes, to deter a fleet of approaching ships, crafting a solar death ray using panels of what was likely polished bronze.
Though there’s reason to doubt the veracity of these somewhat fantastical claims—including a failed MythBusters’ attempt to replicate the feat—the ancient Greeks did have a handle on the magic of these special curves.
The first torches used in the games were modeled after ancient designs, writes Chapoutot. Built by the Krupp Company, Germany’s largest armament producer, each one only burned for 10 minutes.
The torches used today have come a long way.
In recent years, organizers have opted for high-tech features to keep the flame lit, no matter the weather.
This year’s torch, dreamed up by Korean designer Young Se Kim, has four separate walls to ensure the flame can withstand winds up to 78 mph.
It also has a tri-layered umbrella-like cover to prevent rain from extinguishing the blaze. It can even withstand temperatures down to -22 degrees Fahrenheit thanks to its internal circulation system.
If the flame goes out en route, support is always nearby with backup fire lit by parabolic mirror to swiftly relight it. Though the flame has averted major disasters this year, its robot transporter almost tipped over.
Organizers rushed to right the bot, preserving the flame.
So during last friday’s opening ceremony, as the Olympic cauldron is lit, take a moment to appreciate the fire that roared to life under a glowing bath of concentrated rays of sunlight.
As Greek archaeologist Alexander Philadelphus described during the planning of the first torch relay, the warm glow wasn’t lit by modern mechanics, but rather came directly from Apollo, “the god of light himself.”