Tag Archives: people

Take yourself out (of any video stream) with this new app

Ever felt like you’d just want to disappear? Jason Mayes, a senior developer advocate at Google, made it so you can — on video, at least.

Image via Youtube / Jason Mayes.

Mayes has developed an app he calls ‘Disappearing People,’ which can remove individuals from video streams in real-time. While it’s not perfect yet, with one example Mayes posted online still showing some pixelation and other flaws, it’s definitely workable. The app was built using Javascript and TensorFlow, a comprehensive library of free tools and resources for machine learning, and Mayes made the code freely available.


The app works by first recording a series of images through a user’s webcam, which it uses to establish a baseline of their empty room. Once someone enters the room, the app recognizes them as being a human and erases their pixels out of the video. The gaps are then filled in with pixels from the baseline images of the room to create a seamless video.

In the sample video Mayes uploaded to Youtube, you can see him moving around the room (raw footage on the top part of the video) but not registering on the stream (bottom part of the video). There are a few seconds when his lower arms become visible, the app doesn’t remove his shadow on the wall to the left of the shot, and there are a few other glitches as well, but overall, it was a very fine performance.

You can also try the app for yourself here, and the code can be accessed here.

So far, the app is more entertainment than a practical tool, but it is a very nice proof of concept. If you don’t like taping over your laptop’s camera lens but are nonetheless concerned about privacy, it might just be the app for you, though.

Commuters, traffic, and offices make cities hotter during the week

Humans have a much more direct impact on weather than you’d think. The huge number of commuters pouring into cities during the week actually makes them warmer and shifts local wind, rain, and cloud patters, a new study found.

Image credits Pat McKane / Pixabay.

During the week, all the people, cars, and operating buildings in cities pour out a lot of heat into the environment. Recently, Nick Earl at the University of Melbourne, Australia found that you can actually tell if it’s a workday or the weekend by the average temperature. Based on more than 50 years’ worth of recordings from Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, Earl and his team showed that morning temperatures in Melbourne are typically 0.3 degrees C hotter on Thursday or Friday than on a Sunday.

“That’s just the average,” he says. “Some days will heat up more, if for example there isn’t much wind.”

It’s not surprising, given that the city sees some 250,000 extra people and heavy traffic every weekday compared to the weekends. All the air conditioning in office buildings also plays a part. This weekly cycle caught Earl’s eye in the first place.

“Nothing in nature occurs on a weekly cycle, so it must be due to human activity.”

Earl and his team have shown that Sydney, Brisbane, and Adelaide have similar weekly temperature cycles. Tokyo or Moscow also show the same cyclicity. Other weather phenomena, such as wind speeds, precipitation, and cloud cover also tend to be greater in urban centers during the week. These are effects of higher heat and pollution levels, Earl says.

“For example, warmer temperatures in the city create convection, which can suck in more air from outside, affecting wind speeds and direction,” he added.

Knowing how human activity impacts weather and average temperatures can help adapt to freak weather patterns and save lives. This can become especially useful in hot areas or countries, such as Australia, where heatwaves can claim the lives of a lot of people.

“For example, during heatwaves, you could ban cars from the city so that it doesn’t warm up as much.”

It could also help urban planners counteract the effect, for example by requiring roofing to be made of deflecting material which can cool down cities.

The paper will be presented at the annual conference of the Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society in Canberra next month.

population growth

Our species’ journey to 7 billion people, in one map

population growth

Some 2,000 years ago, there were only 170 million people in the whole planet. Most were concentrated around the Italian Peninsula and Central Europe, the Indian subcontinent and south-east Asia. In the Americas, only a couple million people were alive during this time. Fast-forward today, and we can find 7 billion people with only a couple areas like the Sahara, the Arctic , the Amazon basin or Australia’s wasteland spared from our expansion. In between this time, the rate of growth was more or less constant with a couple of ups and downs, following periods of prosperity or, oppositely, great misery (wars, black plague etc.). It wasn’t until the industrial revolution sparked the motors of progress that things really took off.

In only 100 years, population skyrocket from 1 billion to 7. By 2050, it is expected to reach 9.7 billion. This great video shows how this growth took place, all tuned to the soundtrack of a heart beating. Each yellow dot represents one million people concentrated in an area.

The world already consumes 1.5 Earths each year (more resources than can be regenerated), and as population increases the stress will become higher. Not even WWIII would stop a furious growth that will see 10 billion people living on this planet by 2100. Though in some parts of the world growth will stabilize or even follow a negative curve (Europe), some have a potential for a rapid growth like Africa where half of the population growth is expected to happen. Can the world sustain 10 billion people? Not if they live like the wealthiest 1 billion today. We’ll need to eat less meat or none at all, exclusively use renewable energy, cut waste and use smart farming practices. Then, the world might even sustain 20 billion. We just need to tune to the planet’s beat. What it can provide, we’ll accept gladly. But nothing more.

via Vox