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Original author: 
Amid Amidi

Within 15 seconds of hitting the play button on Kou Kou by Takashi Ohashi, I did something I rarely do when watching films on my laptop: I turned off the lights at my workspace to create a dark theater environment. Good abstract animation, like a good song, demands the audience’s full attention, and I sensed this was going to be something special.

Takashi Ohashi, who has been featured on our Animated Fragments feature, has created a masterful piece of abstract animation with Kou Kou. Ohashi does something rare for abstract filmmakers, which is to organize his visual ideas with the clarity, pacing and dynamism of a more traditionally narrative storyteller. The second ‘movement’ that begins around the 4-minute mark packs a real punch. The competing red and blue offsets create tension and instability in the imagery, which serves to heighten the visual excitement.

To a non-Japanese speaker, the film is a beautiful visual experience, but the Japanese speaker will enjoy an additional layer of depth. Ohashi sent Cartoon Brew the following explanation of the film:

Kou Kou is a visual work based on an abstract animation synchronized with a song comprising the unique syllabic sounds of the Japanese language, without actually using any full words.

It is in the elements of sounds from which words are made that we find syllabic sounds. In the case of the Japanese language, the linguistic roots, or ‘Yamato Kotoba,’ each individual sound possesses a unique meaning. For example, words containing ‘su’ exhibit a frictional characteristic and hence are used to represent a linear or direct movement. In modern-day Japanese, ‘sasu’ or ‘susumu’ represent a concrete, tangible action.

Furthermore, words with fewer syllables are used to express simple onomatopeia-like words, whereas the more syllables a word contains, the more concrete it becomes.

However, although a given syllabic combination may not be understood despite its constituent syllables possessing their own meanings, there are particular instances where we are able to discover meaning from a meaningless word.

This is what I feel is most interesting about the Japanese language and why I’ve thought to express myself by combining just how good the combination of vowels and consonants unique to Japanese resonates with music synched to abstract animation.

This musical composition was made by recording 6 natural voice vocal tracks from singer Luschka and selecting lyrics with Japanese syllabic combinations which afforded expression. The track comprises words which themselves are meaningless, but carefully combining syllables and their respective unique resonances ensured highly musical peaks and troughs.

CREDITS
Director: Takashi Ohashi
Composer: Yuri Habuka
Mixing: Masumi Takino
Vocal: Luschka
Drums: Kyojun Tanaka (from DCPRG)

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Original author: 
Liz Gannes

Google has warned that it will shut down its Google Reader news aggregator July 1. Many people (myself very much included) are mourning a beloved and useful product, but the company cited declining usage.

funeral

Shutterstock/Yuri Arcurs

Under CEO Larry Page, Google has made a practice of “spring cleaning” throughout all the seasons so it can narrow its focus. Reader was just a another bullet point on the latest closure list.

But the shutdown wasn’t just a matter of company culture and bigger priorities, sources said. Google is also trying to better orient itself so that it stops getting into trouble with repeated missteps around compliance issues, particularly privacy.

That means every team needs to have people dedicated to dealing with these compliance and privacy issues — lawyers, policy experts, etc. Google didn’t even have a product manager or full-time engineer responsible for Reader when it was killed, so the company didn’t want to add in the additional infrastructure and staff, the sources said.

But at the same time, Google Reader was too deeply integrated into Google Apps to spin it off and sell it, like the company did last year with its SketchUp 3-D modeling software.

The context for this concern about compliance is Google’s repeated public failures on privacy due to lack of oversight and coordination. It’s pretty clear why Page is trying to run a tighter ship.

Regulators have had ample reasons to go after the company. Google recently paid $7 million to settle with U.S. attorneys general over its years-long international Street View Wi-Fi incident, while agreeing to more closely police its employees. And last summer the company paid $22.5 million for breaking the terms of its U.S. Federal Trade Commission agreement over informing users accurately about privacy practices when it used a trick to install ad cookies for users of Apple’s Web browser Safari.

In the Wi-Spy case, after repeatedly downplaying the incident, Google ultimately disclosed that an engineer had devised the drive-by plan to collect user data from unsecured Wi-Fi networks, and had easily passed it through rubber-stamp approval processes.

In the Safari bypass case, Google said it was just trying to check whether users were logged into Google+, and any resulting tracking was inadvertent and no personal information was collected. Ultimately, what the company was held accountable for was having an out-of-date help page — an even more basic slip-up.

While it might not be obvious how Google Reader could be compromised by similar lapses — perhaps policies could fall out of date, or user RSS subscription lists could be exposed — the point is that Google wasn’t willing to commit to ensuring that it was well-run.

So how many users would Google Reader need to make it a valuable enough product to be worthy of investment and a real team?

A petition to save Reader on Change.org has nearly 150,000 signatures. That’s clearly not enough.

Google wouldn’t disclose how many users the product had, but Flipboard CEO Mike McCue told me yesterday that two million people have connected their Google Reader accounts to the Flipboard visual news apps. So you have to imagine it’s probably an order of magnitude larger than two million.

(By the way, many people involved with the product agree that it wasn’t just tech news fanatics who loved the service, but politics junkies and mommy bloggers and anyone who likes to mainline fresh content from their preferred outlets.)

Nick Baum, one of the original Reader product managers who’s no longer at Google, noted that in the early days of the product there were “several millions” of weekly active users.

In a conversation this weekend, Baum said, ”My sense is, if it’s a consumer product at Google that’s not making money, unless it’s going to get to 100 million users it’s not worth doing.”

But Baum left the team in 2007 — before the rise of Twitter — and he notes Google never put the resources in to do things like help new Google Reader users find feeds to follow and parse the most interesting content from high-volume outlets.

The irony, Baum said, is that if Google Reader were out seeking venture funding in Silicon Valley with its high-value audience, it most likely would have gotten it. “As a startup they would have been perfectly viable,” he said. Not to mention, startups don’t have to worry about compliance issues.

“Someday someone will do something in this space that will work,”  Baum said. “And maybe then Google will buy them.”

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waderoush writes "In November, Lytro, the maker of the first light field camera for consumers, upgraded its viewer software to enable a feature called 'Perspective Shift.' In addition to refocusing pictures after they've been taken, Lytro audiences can now pivot between different virtual points of view, within a narrow baseline. This 3-D capability was baked into Lytro's technology from the start: 'The light field itself is inherently multidimensional [and] the 2-D refocusable picture that we launched with was just one way to represent that,' says Eric Cheng, Lytro's director of photography. But while Perspective Shift is currently little more than a novelty, the possibilities for future 3-D imaging are startling, especially as Lytro develops future devices with larger sensors — and therefore larger baselines, allowing more dramatic 3-D effects. Cheng says the company is already exploring future versions of its viewer software that would work on 3-D televisions. 'We are moving the power of photography from optics to computation,' he says. 'So when the public really demands 3-D content, we will be ready for it.'"

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Form Follows Function. Image: Screenshot.

If you’ve been missing the early days of HTML5, back when experimentation, not stolid, functional sites was the name of the game, we’ve got a site for you: Form Follows Function.

Form Follows Function is a collection of interactive experiments built using HTML5 elements like Canvas and CSS 3 tools like 2-D/3-D transforms. Experiments include growing trees with the click of the mouse (or touch of a finger, depending on your device), dragging waves and 3-D cans of Campbell’s soup. Even the rotating menu of the experiments is impressive.

The site is the brainchild of developer Jongmin Kim, whose design work has previously garnered a Webby award.

Fun thought experiment: Imagine taking this site back in time, showing it to your 2002 self and then pointing out that it’s all built with web standards, no Flash involved.

While we really like Form Follows Function it does fall prey to the main reason we don’t really miss the early days of HTML5 and CSS 3 all that much — it doesn’t use CSS prefixes properly. Form Follow Function optimizes for Firefox and Chrome while ignoring Opera and Internet Explorer; a shame, considering how well done the rest of the site is.

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