Tag Archives: google

Google PhotoScan and Google Books

One of the mobile apps I’ve had the most fun with lately is Google’s PhotoScan. Basically, it lets you use your phone’s camera to scan printed pictures rather than take a picture of a picture. Here’s how it’s described on the app page:

Don’t just take a picture of a picture. Create enhanced digital scans, wherever your photos are.

– Get glare-free scans with an easy step-by-step capture flow

– Automatic cropping based on edge detection

– Straight, rectangular scans with perspective correction

– Smart rotation, so your photos stay right-side-up no matter which way you scan them

Scan in seconds

Capture your favorite printed photos quickly and easily, so you can spend less time editing and more time looking at your bad childhood haircut.

The way it works is you fire up the app, make sure the picture you’re scanning is in the “frame” you see on your screen, and then when you tap the shutter button four dots appear on the picture and the app instructs you to move a circle from dot to dot in a certain order. I wondered why the app requires this action, but not enough to acturally research it, but I think I might have stumbled on the answer in this article about Google’s massive book scanning project:

The stations—which didn’t so much scan as photograph books—had been custom-built by Google from the sheet metal up. Each one could digitize books at a rate of 1,000 pages per hour. The book would lie in a specially designed motorized cradle that would adjust to the spine, locking it in place. Above, there was an array of lights and at least $1,000 worth of optics, including four cameras, two pointed at each half of the book, and a range-finding LIDAR that overlaid a three-dimensional laser grid on the book’s surface to capture the curvature of the paper. The human operator would turn pages by hand—no machine could be as quick and gentle—and fire the cameras by pressing a foot pedal, as though playing at a strange piano.

What made the system so efficient is that it left so much of the work to software. Rather than make sure that each page was aligned perfectly, and flattened, before taking a photo, which was a major source of delays in traditional book-scanning systems, cruder images of curved pages were fed to de-warping algorithms, which used the LIDAR data along with some clever mathematics to artificially bend the text back into straight lines.

I don’t know for sure, but it sure sounds like the technology developed for the book scanning project translated nicely to an app that could be used by average people armed with smartphones to scan gazillions of old photos into the great Googleshpere in the sky. Amazing.

Oh, and you should read that article on the book scanning project. It’s a fascinating exploration of a copyright conflict that has resulted in Google having a database of 25 million scanned books that no one is allowed to read.

Fighting the Flab Google Style

Google took an analytical approach to promoting better eating habits at its offices and some of the common-sense approaches they came up with would work in your office or home too:

Employees were eating too much of the free candy and that, the firm surmised, might hinder efforts to keep workers healthy and happy.

What if the company kept the chocolates hidden in opaque containers but prominently displayed dried figs, pistachios and other healthful snacks in glass jars? The results: In the New York office alone, employees consumed 3.1 million fewer calories from M&Ms over seven weeks. That’s a decrease of nine vending machine-size packages of M&Ms for each of the office’s 2,000 employees…

For Google, it’s more than just the candy that employees consume. In another case, the company tried to get workers to drink more water. So it stashed bottled water on eye-level shelves and behind clear glass. It then put sugary sodas on the bottom shelves of refrigerators and behind frosted glass. After several weeks, water consumption increased 47 percent while the calories consumed by drinking sugary beverages fell 7 percent…

But even the plates at the food bars have been Google-ized. To get people to eat smaller portions, the staff experimented with plate sizes, providing a big one and a small one. Nearly one-third of employees chose the smaller plates and didn’t go back for more servings. When Google posted the result in cafeteria signs, the overall use of small plates increased a further 50 percent.

Quite frankly in our house the best solution is to just not buy any of the stuff that's bad for you because not one of us has an ounce of willpower when it comes to food. 

Cool News from a Friend

I met Steve Cavanaugh several years ago when we were both coaching our daughters' Challenge soccer teams for Twin City.  Not long after that he and the boys on the White Lightning made the mistake of letting me join their over-40 soccer team in the PASL, a dubious decision for which they continue to pay.  Let's just say I've seen Mr. Cavanaugh on many a green field around Winston-Salem, so it seemed kind of appropriate when I received an email about the recognition his firm received from Google for a green-initiative project they were involved with here in North Carolina.  Below is a video about Google's program – the swine farm project in Yadkin County that Cavanaugh & Associates designed starts at about the 2:20 mark – and below that is the text of the press release from Cavanaugh & Associates.

Google Inc., Endorses Bio-Energy System on NC Hog Farm

Winston-Salem, NC -Yesterday on YouTube, Jolanka Nickerman, Google's director of carbon offsets, announced Internet giant, Google, will invest in high-quality carbon offset credits generated from a swine farm that was transformed into a green-energy animal waste treatment facility designed by Cavanaugh & Associates, P. A. Headquartered in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Cavanaugh, in partnership with Duke University and Duke Energy, developed this $1.2 million prototype system at Loyd Ray Farms, a 9,000-head hog finishing operation northwest of Yadkinville, N.C.

In an effort to bolster sustainable agriculture by reducing green house gas (GHG) emissions and creating alternate revenue sources, Cavanaugh was commissioned by Duke University to develop a biomass renewable energy project that generates electricity from the methane gases produced and captured by the innovative swine waste management system.  Methane is captured from a digester and used to fuel a microturbine to generate electricity. Methane is 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide, as a green house gas, and this project is designed to capture and combust all the methane generated by the farm's waste treatment system. In keeping with the innovative approach to managing waste produced on this hog farm, Loyd Ray Farm is the first swine facility in North Carolina to generate REC credits and produce enough electricity to power over 35 homes a year. 

Like Duke, who credits the greenhouse gas emission reductions (otherwise known as carbon offsets) toward its voluntary carbon neutrality goal, Google is a proponent of green energy and investing in alternative energy projects like the one found at Loyd Ray Farms. Google announced today that it is purchasing carbon offsets from this project.  Both Duke University and Cavanaugh hope this is the first of many swine farm biomass energy projects in the Southeast.

"Loyd Ray Farms is a testament to the importance of  creating sustainable agriculture and Cavanaugh's commitment to Stewardship through Innovation when it comes to finding ways to keep North Carolina moving forward," said Cavanaugh's CEO, Steve Cavanaugh. "Because this is our home too, Cavanaugh welcomes creative partnerships with companies like Google who support the idea of using animal "waste" as an alternative fuel source. It's truly a win-win scenario for us and our environment."

For more information on the Loyd Ray Farm project or to obtain a detailed description of the project in PDF form, please contact: Gus Simmons, PE, Principal in Charge/Designer:gus.simmons@cavanaughsolutions.com or 910-392-4462.  


Go Topeka Your Name

So Google's doing this little deal where they're going to provide nasty-fast connectivity to certain municipalities at no cost.  So cities around the country have been doing goofy things to try and get ElGoog to wire 'em up, and none goofier than Topeka, KS which changed its name to Google, KS.  So the folks at ElGoog have a sense of humor on this April Fools Day.  So here's the evidence: