New from Green Wolf: GWG-004 1/6th scale Galac-Tac Desert Raider 12-inch figure preview

Mandalorian armor referred to the traditional armor worn by the human warrior clans of Mandalore. Common traits included a helmet with a T-shaped visor that concealed their faces, and armaments like whipcord throwers, flamethrowers and jetpacks. The Mandalorians’ bloody history made their armor an iconic symbol of fear. The bounty hunters Jango and Boba Fett wore customized Mandalorian armor, although neither Fett was a Mandalorian warrior.

Ever wondered how the science fiction based Mandalorian armor from Star Wars could be applied to modern warfare? Galac-Tac is a set of airsoft armor that’s based on Mandalorian battle gear. Now, after a year of hard work from all involved, Green Wolf is finally able to show you the 1/6th scale Galac-Tac and Green Wolf Gear 12-inch action figure! Looks pretty darn cool :)

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Expressions in Virtual Reality

Posted by Steven Hickson, Software Engineering Intern, and Nick Dufour, Avneesh Sud, Software Engineers, Machine Perception

Recently Google Machine Perception researchers, in collaboration with Daydream Labs and YouTube Spaces, presented a solution for virtual headset ‘removal’ for mixed reality in order to create a more rich and engaging VR experience. While that work could infer eye-gaze directions and blinks, enabled by a headset modified with eye-tracking technology, a richer set of facial expressions — which are key to understanding a person’s experience in VR, as well as conveying important social engagement cues — were missing.

Today we present an approach to infer select facial action units and expressions entirely by analyzing a small part of the face while the user is engaged in a virtual reality experience. Specifically, we show that images of the user’s eyes captured from an infrared (IR) gaze-tracking camera within a VR headset are sufficient to infer at least a subset of facial expressions without the use of any external cameras or additional sensors.

Left: A user wearing a VR HMD modified with eye-tracking used for expression classification (Note that no external camera is used in our method; this is just for visualization). Right: inferred expression from eye images using our model. A video demonstrating the work can be seen here.

We use supervised deep learning to classify facial expressions from images of the eyes and surrounding areas, which typically contain the iris, sclera, eyelids and may include parts of the eyebrows and top of cheeks. Obtaining large scale annotated data from such novel sensors is a challenging task, hence we collected training data by capturing 46 subjects while performing a set of facial expressions.

To perform expression classification, we fine-tuned a variant of the widespread Inception architecture with TensorFlow using weights from a model trained to convergence on Imagenet. We attempted to partially remove variance due to differences in participant appearance (i.e., individual differences that do not depend on expression), inspired by the standard practice of mean image subtraction. Since this variance removal occurs within-subject, it is effectively personalization. Further details, along with examples of eye-images, and results are presented in our accompanying paper.

Results and Extensions
We demonstrate that the information required to classify a variety of facial expressions is reliably present in IR eye images captured by a commercial HMD sensor, and that this information can be decoded using a CNN-based method, even though classifying facial expressions from eye-images alone is non-trivial even for humans. Our model inference can be performed in real-time, and we show this can be used to generate expressive avatars in real-time, which can function as an expressive surrogate for users engaged in VR. This interaction mechanism also yields a more intuitive interface for sharing expression in VR as opposed to gestures or keyboard inputs.

The ability to capture a user’s facial expressions using existing eye-tracking cameras enables a fully mobile solution to facial performance capture in VR, without additional external cameras. This technology extends beyond animating cartoon avatars; it could be used to provide a richer headset removal experience, enhancing communication and social interaction in VR by transmitting far more authentic and emotionally textured information.

Acknowledgements
The research described in this post was performed by Steven Hickson (as an intern), Nick Dufour, Avneesh Sud, Vivek Kwatra and Irfan Essa. We also thank Hayes Raffle and Alex Wong from Daydream, and Chris Bregler, Sergey Ioffe and authors of TF-Slim from Google Research for their guidance and suggestions.

This technology, along with headset removal, will be demonstrated at Siggraph 2017 Emerging Technologies.

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REDMAN TOYS 1/6th scale Deputy Town Marshal COWBOY 12-inch Collectible Figure

Tombstone is a 1993 American western film starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer, with Sam Elliott, Bill Paxton, Powers Boothe, Michael Biehn, and Dana Delany in supporting roles, as well as a narration by Robert Mitchum. The film is based on events in Tombstone, Arizona, including the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral and the Earp Vendetta Ride, during the 1880s. It depicts a number of western outlaws and lawmen, such as Wyatt Earp, William Brocius, Johnny Ringo, and Doc Holliday. Kurt Russell portrays Wyatt Earp.

REDMAN TOYS RM019 1/6th scale Deputy Town Marshal COWBOY Collectible Figure will include: DX Head Sculpt, Head Sculpt with Hat, Blood Red Scarf, Black Coat, Black Vest, Black Pants, White Shirt, Black Tie, Silver Badge, Black Gunbelt & Holster & Bullet X 5, Golden Badge Revolver, Cowboy Black Boots with Spurs, Double-Barrelled Shotgun, Red Bullets x 2, Pocket Watch and Gold Chain, Body with Hands X 2

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ETA Sep 2017

Related posts:
Toys City 1:6 scale CIA Operative aka Kurt Russell action figure review posted on my toy blog HERE and HERE
Sideshow Collectibles 1/6th scale “Big Trouble in Little China” Jack Burton 12-inch collectible figure previewed HERE
Preview Sideshow Collectibles 1/6th scale Kurt Russell as Snake Plissken 12-inch action figure HERE
Asmus Toys The Hateful 8 Series 1/6th scale “The Hang Man” John Ruth 12-inch action figure (pics HERE)

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Some misc news

I just learned my postdoc roommate Yisong Yue from Caltech released a new interesting paper: Factorized Variational Autoencoders for Modeling Audience Reactions to Movies: a joint work with Disney Research, published @ CVPR 2017.Another interesting pap… Continua a leggere

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Pedro Mairal – Supermarket spring

La poésie dans l’ascenseur

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Pedro Mairal – Supermarket spring
[Traduit de l’espagnol (Argentine) par Julia Azaretto – L’Atelier du tilde, 2017]

Article écrit pour Le Matricule des anges

Supermarket spring réunit dans une belle édition bilingue deux recueils poétiques d’un écrivain que l’on connaît surtout pour ses romans, publiés en France chez Rivages. Écrits entre 1997 et 2002, Tous les jours et Consommateur final racontent à leur façon – déviée, métaphorique, jamais précieuse ni affectée – les effets des politiques ultra-libérales dans l’Argentine des années 90 et de la crise économique qui s’ensuivit, fin 2001. Autrement dit, le schisme qui s’opéra entre un avant peu reluisant et un après encore pire ; un monde où vie et survie se confondent parfois jusqu’à former une pâte indistincte, dans l’absence de tout souffle épique. Un souffle que la poésie, malgré tout, peut réinventer, ce qu’elle ne se prive pas de faire ici, dans une sorte de lyrisme contenu, presque négatif, puisant aux registres les plus divers, faisant se télescoper les classiques grecs et la télévision poubelle.

Il s’agit de parler, si l’on peut dire, à hauteur d’homme. Car nous avons affaire à une poésie essentiellement urbaine écrite par un « poète d’ascenseur » : « j’étais – je voulais être – poète bucolique, poète cosmique / mais je suis un poète d’immeuble. » Il ne s’agit donc pas d’élaborer de grandes théories sur l’économie, mais d’être au plus près du quotidien brinquebalant d’une réalité faite de bouts de chandelles, dont la médiocrité est moins une condamnation qu’un simple état de fait : « des gens qui se douchent entourés de carrelage, / ouvrent les yeux, / et se réveillent soudain emprisonnés dans le métro. » Un monde où « l’hiver se met à briller / adossé aux trottoirs de l’après-midi », jusqu’à ce que « la déroute du feu et du silence / éteignent à jamais cette journée. » Une réalité dont l’élan ne peut être que tronqué, même le plus désespéré : « Il mit le feu à son appartement / et sortit sur le balcon pour se tirer une balle. / Mais l’arme ne marchait pas : / les balles étaient trop vieilles. »

Une réalité comme prise sur le vif, suivant les contours des taches d’humidités aux murs vétustes d’appartements mal aérés. Une réalité qui se perd parmi les papiers gras incrustés dans le bitume des rues. Pour reprendre les mots de Julia Azaretto, qui signe une traduction subtile, « Pedro Mairal sort dans la ville saisir des instantanés de cet effritement invraisemblable ». Un effritement que la crise, au fond, n’aura fait que précipiter. Comme s’il était déjà implicite. Ne reste alors qu’à contempler le « feu bleu » de la gazinière : « petit feu urbain / comprimé / vie minimale / foyer / veilleur de solitude [...] dernière braise du monde / ce qui est resté du feu / fatigué sacré ».

Ce sont bien les destinées creuses de nos voisins de palier qui s’exposent ici, celles de tant de messieurs tout-le-monde. Et puisque ces destinées sont aussi les nôtres, on peut se tutoyer : « Argentin, tu es né dans une file d’attente, / né tributaire et déduit / par de grands hommes, fantômes de billets, né non transférable, mortel et semblable, / fidèle contribuable de l’État, / la banque a régulé ton cœur / administré ton sang et tes battements [...] les enfants des classes dirigeantes / ont vidé ton frigo, / avalé tes cotisations, éructé / des discours retransmis en boucle[...] » Oui, toi, éternelle victime de la brutalité libérale, « la sueur de ton front / a servi à nettoyer le pare-brise / de cinq députés ».

Le poète bucolique repassera, certainement. Encore que l’on puisse se prendre à rêver, même quand le quotidien poisseux colle aux basques, et glisser en contrebande du cosmique, du légendaire, lorsqu’il vient à manquer : « il paraît qu’ulysse est vivant / ulysse le navigateur le bourlingueur [...] à buenos aires oui il habite floresta [...] un mercredi on a sonné au 14 G / une infirmière en tongues à ouvert la porte / vous voulez voir don ulysse ? » Car dans ce portrait sans concession d’une réalité amère, le poète n’oublie pas que « cette étoile ronde que nous habitons / n’a pas encore fini de s’éteindre. »

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So there I was, firing a megawatt plasma collider at work…

Posted by Ted Baltz, Senior Staff Software Engineer, Google Accelerated Science Team

Wait, what? Why is Google interested in plasma physics?

Google is always interested in solving complex engineering problems, and few are more complex than fusion. Physicists have been trying since the 1950s to control the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium, which is the same process that powers the Sun. The key to harnessing this power is to confine hydrogen plasmas for long enough to get more energy out from fusion reactions than was put in. This point is called “breakeven.” If it works, it would represent a technological breakthrough, and could provide an abundant source of zero-carbon energy.

There are currently several large academic and government research efforts in fusion. Just to rattle off a few, in plasma fusion there are tokamak machines like ITER and stellarator machines like Wendelstein 7-X. The stellarator design actually goes back to 1951, so physicists have been working on this for a while. Oh yeah, and if you like giant lasers, there’s the National Ignition Facility which users lasers to generate X-rays to generate fusion reactions. So far, none of these has gotten to the economic breakeven point.

All of these efforts involve complex experiments with many variables, providing an opportunity for Google to help, with our strength in computing and machine learning. Today, we’re publishing “Achievement of Sustained Net Plasma Heating in a Fusion Experiment with the Optometrist Algorithm” in Scientific Reports. This paper describes the first results of Google’s collaboration with the physicists and engineers at Tri Alpha Energy, taking a step towards the breakeven goal.

Did you really just say that you got to fire a plasma collider?

Yeah. Tri Alpha Energy has a unique scheme for plasma confinement called a field-reversed configuration that’s predicted to get more stable as the energy goes up, in contrast to other methods where plasmas get harder to control as you heat them. Tri Alpha built a giant ionized plasma machine, C-2U, that fills an entire warehouse in an otherwise unassuming office park. The plasma that this machine generates and confines exhibits all kinds of highly nonlinear behavior. The machine itself pushes the envelope of how much electrical power can be applied to generate and confine the plasma in such a small space over such a short time. It’s a complex machine with more than 1000 knobs and switches, an investment (not ours!) in exploring clean energy north of $100 million. This is a high-stakes optimization problem, dealing with both plasma performance and equipment constraints. This is where Google comes in.

End-on view of C-2U

Wait, why not just simulate what will happen? Isn’t this simple physics?

The “simple” simulations using magnetohydrodynamics don’t really apply. Even if these machines operated in that limit, which they very much don’t, the simulations make fluid dynamics simulations look easy! The reality is much more complicated, as the ion temperature is three times larger than the electron temperature, so the plasma is far out of thermal equilibrium, also, the fluid approximation is totally invalid, so you have to track at least some of the trillion+ individual particles, so the whole thing is beyond what we know how to do even with Google-scale compute resources.

So why are we doing this? Real experiments! With atoms not bits! At Google we love to run experiments and optimize things. We thought it would be a great challenge to see if we could help Tri Alpha. They run a plasma “shot” on the C-2U machine every 8 minutes. Each shot consists of creating two spinning blobs of plasma in the vacuum sealed innards of C-2U, smashing them together at over 600,000 miles per hour, creating a bigger, hotter, spinning football of plasma. Then they blast it continuously with particle beams (actually neutral hydrogen atoms) to keep it spinning. They hang on to the spinning football with magnetic fields for as long as 10 milliseconds. They’re trying to experimentally verify that these advanced beam driven field-reversed plasma configurations behave as expected by theory. If they do, this scheme could lead to net-energy-out fusion.

Now 8 minutes sounds like a long time (which is the time it takes for C-2U to cool, recharge, and get ready for another 10 ms shot), but when you’re sitting in the control room during an experimental campaign, it goes by really quickly. There are a lot of sensor outputs to look at, to try to figure out how the plasma was behaving. Before you know it, the power supplies are charged again, and they’re ready for another go!

What was that about optimization? What are you optimizing?

That’s the thing, it’s not completely obvious what good plasma performance is. Of course, Tri Alpha has some of the world’s best plasma physicists, but even they disagree on what “good” is. We can boil down the machine controls to “only” 30 parameters or so, but when you have to wait 8 minutes per experiment, it’s a pretty hard problem even with a concrete objective. Also, it’s not entirely known, day-to-day, what the reliable operating envelope of the machine is. And it keeps changing since the quality of the vacuum keeps changing and electrodes wear out and…

So we boil the problem down to “let’s find plasma behaviors that an expert human plasma physicist thinks are interesting, and let’s not break the machine when we’re doing it.” We developed the Optometrist Algorithm, which is sort of a Markov Chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) where the likelihood function being explored is in the plasma physicist’s mind rather than being explicitly written down. Just like getting an eyeglass prescription, the algorithm presents the expert human with machine settings and the associated outcomes. They can just use their judgement on what is interesting, and what is unhealthy for the machine. These could be “That initial collision looked really strong!” or “The edge biasing is actually working well now!” or “Wow, that was awesome, but the electrode current was way too high, let’s not do that again!” The key improvement we provided was a technique to search the high-dimensional space of machine parameters efficiently.

Oh, I like MCMC, it’s like the best thing ever!

I knew you’d like that bit. Using this technique, we actually found something really interesting. As we describe in our paper, we found a regime where the neutral particle beams dumping energy into the plasma were able to completely balance the cooling losses, and the total energy in the plasma actually went up after formation. It was only for about 2 milliseconds, but still, it was a first! Since rising energy due to neutral beam heating was not necessarily expected for C-2U, it would have been difficult to plug into an objective function. We really needed a human expert to notice. This was a classic case of humans and computers doing a better job together than either could have separately. You know how it is — when you think you have an optimization problem, and you optimize the objective, you usually just look at the result and say, “No no no, that’s not what I meant,” and you add some other term and repeat until you get sick of it?

That hasn’t happened to me. This week. Yet.

Yeah, so we just cut out that iteration and let the expert human use their judgment. This learning from human preferences is becoming a thing. Google and Tri Alpha made a pretty good team for it, for a really important problem.

So what now?

So actually, Tri Alpha learned everything they could have from C-2U and then dismantled it. They built a new machine called Norman (after their late co-founder Norman Rostoker) in the same warehouse. It’s much more powerful both in plasma acceleration and in neutral particle beams. It also has a more sophisticated system to confine the plasma in the central region. The pressure vessel, accelerators, and banks of capacitors and power supplies cover the building’s concrete floor.

They just achieved “first plasma” on it. They’re hoping, with our help, to verify this theoretical prediction that the plasma will actually behave better in the “burning plasma” regime. If they can do that over the next 18 months, it will be a lot more likely that the field-reversed configuration is a viable approach for breakeven fusion. In that case, Tri Alpha will try to build their follow-on design, an actual demonstration power generator. That one won’t fit in their warehouse!

Acknowledgements
On the Google side, we wish to thank John Platt, Michael Dikovsky, Patrick Riley and Ross Koningstein for their significant contributions to this work. We thank the Google Accelerated Science team for their continual support. We are also grateful to the entire team at Tri Alpha for giving us the opportunity to try our hand at optimization for this crucially important problem.

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Hot Toys 1/6th scale Thor: Ragnarok Gladiator Hulk Collectible Figure Preview – Best Hulk ever?

Pre-order from KGHobby HERE

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“And now, I give you your Incredible…”

Stomping into theatre this Fall, the Incredible Hulk will be dueling against his former ally the Mighty Thor in the eagerly awaited blockbuster Thor: Ragnarok! The super powerful Hulk appears to be monstrous wearing the Gladiator outfit and wielding brutal looking weapons on the alien planet of Sakaar. The vicious battle will surely be a deadly combat!

Today the incredible Hulk is smashing in as Hot Toys is ecstatic to introduce the all-new 1/6th scale Gladiator Hulk collectible figure!

Crafted based on Hulk’s appearance in the upcoming screenplay Thor: Ragnarok, the Gladiator Hulk figure comes with a newly developed and an interchangeable head sculpts with separate rolling eyeballs, capturing his screaming and angry facial expression with impressive likeness. The figure also features a specially painted muscular body showing detailed skin texture and tendons, a detachable gladiator helmet with real fur, a detachable hair piece, the highly detailed gladiator armor, war hammer and battle axe.

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Hot Toys MMS430 1/6th scale Thor: Ragnarok Gladiator Hulk Collectible Figure specially features: A newly developed and an interchangeable head sculpts with authentic and detailed likeness of Hulk in Thor: Ragnarok equipped with separate rolling eyeballs features | Movie-accurate facial expression featuring Hulk’s screaming and angry facial expressions with detailed wrinkles and skin texture | interchangeable hair piece | interchangeable gladiator helmet | Approximately 42 cm tall Giant green-skinned muscular body featuring detailed skin texture and tendons, with over 20 points of articulations, built-in joints in neck and arms which allow flexible movement | Three (3) pairs of interchangeable hands including: pair of forceful fists, pair of hands with wire insulation, pair of hands for holding war hammer and battle axe

Costume: metallic blue and brown-colored upper and lower body Gladiator armor with weathering effects, gladiator helmet with red and black-colored real fur, pair of brown-colored sandals with leather-like straps

Weapons: war hammer with grip handle, battling axe with grip handle

Release date: approximately Q1-Q2, 2018

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