Friday, April 30, 2010

Helicam Combines Toy Helicopter and Camera for HD Videos

Wow, what a great idea.... Makes me wonder whether I can connnect my flip video corder to the little home copters I've seen around the place... got to explore that one.


In a quest to get the perfect shot, Eric Austin, a Texas-based videographer, found a neat way to fuse a remote controlled helicopter and a Canon DSLR camera so he could shoot aerial videos easily and get the kind of footage that would otherwise be difficult to pull off.

"I took a hobbyshop helicopter and modified it to hold a camera, so I can get low altitude, close and tight aerial shots," Austin told

An amateur videographer turned pro, Austin got interested in remote-controlled photography just four months ago.

"As I did more photos and videos, I realized I could develop a niche where I could use the advancements in technology to provide the kind of photos most people can't get easily," he says.

Austin is one of the many hobbyist photographers who are finding ways to use drones and remote-controlled helicopter toys to get a more attractive camera angle. Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson helms a site called DIY Drones where users have found a way to use unmanned aerial vehicles to do aerial photography. Last year, New York City photographer Anthony Jacobs showed a helicam built using a German helicopter rig called MikroKopter. Jacobs used his helicam rig to shoot videos of neighborhooods in the city.

Austin, who has a website devoted to his RC helicopter videography, says he wanted to do something similar and offer HD-quality video and photos.

That's why, he says, he decided to create a rig that would be reliable and produce the kind of footage that could be used by professionals. And as this clip shows, the video can be interesting.

Aerial video with a Canon 5D , 7D from Eric AUSTIN on Vimeo.

So far, Austin has helped shoot footage for TV shows including History Channel's Sliced series.

Austin started with a remote-controlled helicopter called Align T-REX 700 and modified it to carry a special frame and camera mount. He tweaked the landing gear for the helicopter, covering it with a bright pink foam from the "noodles" used in swimming pools.

"The color stands out when I am flying the helicopter outdoors," says Austin. "And if I crash into the water, my whole equipment won't go to the bottom. It will be ruined, but at least I will get my gear back." Austin says he hasn't crashed his helicopter yet, but the foam ensures that in case of a hard landing, the equipment is less likely to completely fall apart.

He adjusts the camera's settings when it's on the ground and presses the Record button right before takeoff. For still images, Austin says he uses an external timer that activates the shutter every few seconds.

To create his flying video rig, Austin says he spent hours on the online discussion forums at the website.

"I didn't know anyone to talk to," he says. "And then realized the only place to go was online where people were discussing this."

One of the more challenging shoots that Austin has done with his helicam was flying over a cliff that was about 25 feet high with a river below. And he didn't crash the copter.

"The probability that a crash will happen is there, but so far, I have been careful," he says.

To download video, Austin has set up a 5.8-GHz video downlink feed using an on-board wireless transmitter.

All of this didn't come cheap. Austin estimates the entire rig cost him about $15,000. But for those at home, who want to do something similar, he says there are cheaper alternatives.

"I went for the best and most expensive components because I didn't want to risk it failing mid-air," he says. "But you can get an RC helicopter for about $400 and put a point-and-shoot camera on it."

See Also:

Photo/video: Eric Austin

[via DIY Photography]


Monday, April 19, 2010

A manual system for paedophile detection

As a technologist there is always a lot of pressure to find a smart automated way to solve technical problems… but sometimes the answers lie in simple manual solutions. For example:

Facebook could easily make a condition of membership that the user supply a landline or cell number as a condition of the users account use.

If suspicious activity is reported against an account a security officer could talk to the suspect user and ask various questions to verify  the persons identity.

If the contact telephone number is not answered within a reasonable number of attempts then the account is placed on hold until the account owner is verified. This may mean that the next time the user comes online they would see a message telling them that they cannot send messages until their identity is verified by a security officer.

If the account says that the user is a 16 year old boy, then the security officer can ask the user for the school they go to or the telephone number of their parents to verify their age etc. Various security verification techniques can be used. For example if the user has a New York cell phone number but says they go to school in LA, there is reason to question the persons identity and query further.

If the user fails to supply enough information to pass the security officers questions, the account is tagged as “unverified”.

Another interesting twist that may be useful is the concept of referencing. I have been working on this concept for some time as the basis for a whole social network infrastructure. But in simple terms, as it relates to Facebook, the idea is to tag any inappropriate behaviour to a specific account and then use a weighted system of references to allow the user to get back their verified state. For example Facebook friends could vouch for a fellow  Facebook user to verify that they know the person and their age etc. Of course they would become legally bound to have ascertained the truth should an investigation show that the person under investigation was indeed lying about their age and turned out to be a paedophile.

A network wide system of reputation can help facebook security officers determine the credibility of each vouch.

A vouch questionnaire could be like this:

“Dear user, if you would like to help keep Facebook safe, please help us by verifying the identity of <username>”

  • Have you met this user in-person? Y/N
  • What is the age of <user>? x yrs
  • Is this an approximate age or do you know the persons birth date? approx or birthdate.
  • How long have you known this person? Xyears
  • What is their current cell phone number? <verify>
  • Please list two of your fiends on Facebook that may be able to help verify the identity of user? user1, user 2

An interesting side benefit of the referencing approach is that even if paedophile's do get other users to play along with them, over time anyone who vouches for a sexual predator (even by being tricked) will be discovered and dealt with making the online community more aware of their responsibility to protect children.

This article is not meant to be a comprehensive solution outline but more a hint at a couple of directions that haven’t been explored yet.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Project: Datekeeper Web service

Over the years I have been fascinated by the value of a countdown ticker for important goals and events. Calendars are good, but a countdown mechanism with an alarm system that escalates the event from normal to orange text to red text to red bold as the event draws closer seems a real powerful planning aid to me.

I am aslo experimenting with resorting the list based on importance. For example a maintenance payment on an important patent would take precedence over a project that is 3 months overdue simply because of its priority.

This kind of intelligence is what is being explored. Some of these ideas may be patentable but on the whole this project is about building an internal tool that may be useful to others so it will probably be published as public domain as it gets a bit more baked

Project: TheyRule Australia edition expanded

image is an interesting experiment by Josh On in social network visualization where a database of public company board members in the US can be searched to find links between companies via a network of shared directors. This was one of my first introductions to social software back in the 90’s.

This latest project I have begun working on is designed to take this basic idea but expand it so that links between public business figures (firstly in Australia but eventually worldwide) can be explored. There is also an adaptation on this which i am exploring to enable communities of professionals such as the proposed AusInnovators site to be searched in a similar way. As such this project may end up merging with the AusInnovators project.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

21st Century Strategy for Newspaper business

I may only be an Inventor with a hand full of media centric inventions at the fringe of the media business, but I am also close to all the major technologies available to the newspaper business and have had some first hand exposure to people at the top of the newspaper business. Hopefully this gives me the credibility to make some pretty strong assertions regarding the future of the Newspaper business. And these are:

  • Rupert Murdoch is right “content should be paid for”.
  • Google needs to be stopped.
  • A media owned and operated search engine is needed.
  • Collaborative ubiquitous micropayment is key. A system that crosses all media, every newspaper and magazine.
  • The newspaper businesses need to stop using web pages and hypertext links (extreme?).

1. Rupert Murdoch is right “Content should be paid for.”

The modern news consumer is being trained by search engines that news is a commodity… that news is paid for by the adverts in its pages and therefore the customer should get the news free. Google’s mantra is that information on the internet wants to be free… and thus it should be.

However a fundamental concept of western law is that people who want to make a living from something they produced, be it a book, a piece of software or a newspaper article be allowed to have a say over how that work is used. This is the basis of copyright law… the right for the producer to control his own work.

The Google position sounds very generous to the Internet layman except that such a position is one sided and self serving. Google wants news provided free so it can be searched by their customers and so that Google can present advertisements alongside the search results. Their strategy also encourages 3rd parties who recycle and editorialize other news sources (ie most blogs) to run Google ads next to their content therefore leveraging even further opportunities to route control of income away from the originator of the news namely professional news gathering operations like newspapers.

So how is Google hypocritical? Because they are happy to abuse other company’s copyright but will stop at nothing to protect their own. The Google search engine algorithm and the customized operating system running Google’s search application are two of the most heavily guarded secrets (or rights not to copy) in modern history. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

2. Google needs to be stopped.

Not anti-GoogleCutting access off to Google for search results may sound dangerous, but not doing so is certain death. Google is eroding the newspaper business in two ways.

Firstly, it is making news available for free. True most people probably don’t pay 50 cents for a newspaper since they read a copy left on a train seat or in a coffee bar. But a lot of people DO pay. This, believe it or not, does offset some production costs and also it is valuable in a psychological way to establish that NEWS IS VALUABLE. There is something intrinsically important about making a decision to reach into your pocket or purse for 50 cents.

OK, it makes Mr Murdoch rich, but you have got to be kidding yourself if you think that is all it does. There are thousands of professionals delivering this news to you and 50 cents is a small way of saying “thanks for the effort”.

Secondly, Google is also relentlessly eroding away newspapers other main lifeblood… advertising. By claiming all the advertising space the user sees from the time they do a search, to when they see the news on someone's blog, to when they eventually see the original article in a newspapers web site, only a small fraction of the advertising has contributed to the production of the news you were originally searching for. The rest of it has gone to the company that copied the news and allowed people to search for it.

It’s like saying the neighbourhood delivery boy should get most of the advertising proceeds from the newspaper because he’s the guy who delivered it.  Sorry, that’s just not right.

3. A media owned and controlled search engine is needed.

So how do you stop Google? Well, you can’t stop people searching. That would kill the majority of the advantage that being on the Internet gives to both newspaper businesses and readers. The only alternative?

For media to setup its own search engine.

“That’s not our business” some might say. “It’s too complex” others may say. Yet others may be tempted to partner with one or the other of the search engine companies and profit share to get control over search.

Nonsense. Google itself sells enterprise search servers. Identical search code, identical results and best of all no ads leaving plenty of room for publishers to set up their own advertising systems.

These search “appliances” as they are called can handle incredible loads so there is no problem there. Secondly and most importantly Google is being dared to play anti-trust Russian roulette if they try to play games with newspaper companies that buy their servers as legitimate customers. 

So unless I have wildly underestimated the capacity of the Google hardware, it’s a good bet that this is a very real solution to the media companies dilemma.

4. Collaborative Micropayment is key.

 Another key strategy is gently educating users back into paying for content. It has to be convenient and easy. It also has to be cheap and great value.

Pay per view is old news. And unfortunately getting financial types to  successfully pay for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal does not constitute a likelihood that an everyday Joe will do so. Financial types already pay for stock data and myriad other data services by subscription. They have been broken into the idea.

So how do you get everyday people to start subscribing again? Well, you make it cheap. If an average reader pays 50 cents for a newspaper and views 20 pages of a 70 page newspaper, that is 50 cents times divided by 20 which is 2.5 cents per page. But internet consumption is a lot higher and also a newspaper reader may skim all 70 pages to find the 20 they want to read, so the real cost is 70 pages at the skim cost of 0.7 cents per page.

Yet another problem is that no one wants to go thru the credit card payment guff for a 50 cent newspaper. And only a small percentage want to be roped in to a subscription committing readership for the next 6 months or a year?

Solution? How about this. A News Corp wide micropayment system. Every site published by News Corp anywhere in the world thru one multi-currency micropayment system. Whether you are looking at  The Australian, New York Post or the Sunday Times in  the UK, each page view gets recorded against your device/ subscription. Each publication advertises it’s own page rate.

For example The Australian could charge AUD 0.5 cents per view and the NYPost USD 0.3 cents per view. To make it fair abstracts could be used to display content prior to delivering the full paid content to allow browsing.

Another thing that could be done to make it all palatable is to offer readers a free AUD$20 or similar account kick start. This would allow people to see how it works and make a value calculation before committing to an ongoing pay as you use subscription.

If I were Mr Murdoch, I would also include a bulk rate that discounts the per page rate by a percentage as the user consumes web page views at a rate higher than the average user.

For example.  An average user reads the newspaper 5 days a week, that is $2.50 per week  ($10 per month or so). If another user doubles this consumption in terms of pages, a 50% discount may be instituted so that heavy and loyal readers are rewarded and encouraged.

Even better, what if News Corp, Fairfax, Hearst and all the rest use the same micropayment system. Pricing fairness would be encouraged and the value proposition would be excellent.

Maybe there is room for a cooperative search and micropayment company serving all the big media companies in the same way that Visa serves the worlds big banks and has most of them as shareholders.

5. The newspaper businesses need to stop using web pages and hypertext links.

This is probably the most controversial thing this article will state but I think strongly that hyperlinks need to be limited in the viewing of news articles.

Newspaper advertising and online departments will say I’m crazy, but strangely I think the publishers and editors will side with me.

Hyperlinks make the news experience a hop-here-and-there exercise. Proactive news searching allows readers to follow a story from publication to publication all over the web. But is this what an everyday news reader wants?


Reading a newspaper supplies an edited, tuned contextual experience to reading news. A news item is given a relative heading size and position relative to other big news of the day (ie page 3 articles are less important than page 1 etc).

Answer this honestly, when was the last time you researched something on the web only to find out later that the page that helped you form an opinion was written years ago.

Information frequently has a use-by date. The advantage of a newspaper is its ability to not only give importance context (based on a trusted editors ability to prioritize news) but also date context (based on the time and events that surround the article being read).

This thinking along with the rigid constraints of web page design is a big part of why I designed zkimmer. A physical newspaper can deliver at a glance (by the use of various headline sizes and pull-outs) and tell me the relative importance of news items as I browse or skim (why I called the technology zkimmer) a photographically identical version of the newspaper.

Everything is there. The headlines, the ads, the pull outs, the nice  narrow column widths and the highly legible text.

In the early days of zkimmer we looked at including hyperlinks. Everyone at the newspaper companies we spoke to said it was a deal breaker NOT to have them, EXCEPT THE PUBLISHERS and EDITORS.

They realized a visitor to a zkimmer publication, does the same thing as a real newspaper reader… they stay, they read, they browse… they don’t want to hyperlink everywhere. And funny enough, if the advertisers think about it, they don’t want people hyper linking out of the newspaper either. Yes, they want customers buying but they also want time and exposure for their product or brand.

Maybe it’s time online publishers rethink how they view the web.

Howard Hughes – the cost of success

After a year or so of getting things together to roll out my next few projects, there has been plenty of time to chew over what personal and corporate development strategy to use.  Having tried a few different models over the years, I find myself reviewing the strategies of many of the people in my space who have been really successful.

One person I have looked at a  lot is Howard Hughes. He got an amazingly lot done in a very short time. From my perspective what can undeniably be said is that he was a top down boss. Every person who worked with him was a hired gun. Most of them were good, loyal workers but still very few if any of them had equity. Their only buy-in was a salary check.

Not having to share his thinking or strategy with others allowed Howard to move very quickly and decisively. But this approach is a double-edged sword. It also meant that decisions fell heavily on Howards shoulders and that he could not share the load of decision making with others because they had no skin in the game.

Continuing to build the Hercules (also derisively called the “Spruce Goose”) after the war had finished and purely to make a point with the US government must have been a terrible strain. I for one would hate to be in such a position without an army of supporters who understood my moral position and supported it.

It makes you wonder how much this contributed to Mr Hughes mental deterioration later on in life.

On the other end of the scale you have Thomas Edison. Although he always had enough money to run and fund things himself, he almost always worked with investors who were also astute business men. To me this helps share the load of making decisions.

If you have good, experienced and knowledgeable people as partners who also have skin in the game and you help mitigate the possibility of failure.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ric’s Project Priority List

Below is a list that Ric try's to keep updated on the projects he is currently working on. This does not mean that he is not working on other projects it simply means these are the most active and arranged in the order in which he is focussed at the moment.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

2SER FM – Interview on Soundtracks

This is an interview with Ric discussing the two film soundtracks he had written at the time, how the tracks were selected and the film soundtrack writing process.

Included in the interview are two of the songs he wrote called “Move It” and “Drive like hell”.

National Radio Uniloc Interview - 1992

Within a few weeks of patenting Uniloc I did this interview with Robyn Williams of the popular Science Show on Australia's National Public Radio.
The way Uniloc was used is explained as well as a lot of personal questions such as my deep hope of being able to do international business with Uniloc without leaving Australia.
It is a thorough interview asking all the obvious questions. If you are interested in the Uniloc story this is an informative 5-6 minutes of listening.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Its a bit confusing for people to hear about a guy winning a $388 million dollar law suit against Microsoft, then having it reversed by the judge, and then going to appeal. The everyday bloke probably thought it would be like having it in the bank and then having it ripped out.

But big business is not like that. Firstly it's a team of people that win court cases. For the little percentage that comes to me to actually arrive takes years if at all given that most companies in the States never pay dividends.

So where does this leave Ric.

Well, I like to see justice done. If someone wrongfully takes advantage of another person, especially illegally, then they ought to be made to pay. As the inventor of Uniloc, I like the satisfaction of getting some of the proceeds from a court win. But this does not mean that i want to change what I do every day.

I have been privileged to do a job I enjoy to make a living. And until I retire, if ever, I intend to keep doing the same thing. Karen and I have a cause that is first priority in our lives and whatever resources we have over looking after our immediate family, and to some extent our extended family, will be directed towards the interests of the cause. We prefer to keep the nature of the cause we support to ourselves. It's not for everyone to know about and discuss. It is our private business.

Also being a philanthropist is hard work! Trying to keep people from abusing money. Trying to make a difference is so hard where there is so much corruption and mismanagement even when there is sincere intent in the most part.

Unfortunately I have also learned that money rarely solves any real problems. It can be handy to get yourself out of a bad situation, but you also have to be real smart just to make sure that money doesn't get you into trouble.

So for these and many other reasons, Ric Richardson has decided not to be a philanthropist.

Ric’s Songs: Black Mountain Woman

This song was written by my good mate Steve Cox. He also did the lyrics on this. He’ll probably throttle me for making it public as he is now professional vocalist and guitarist. I think he did great for one of his first vocal recordings.

Steve always came out of a completely different place from me with his song writing, but looking back it was some of the best fun I ever had capturing songs on the little 4 track. This was recorded some time in the 80’s.

A link to the mp3 is here.

Ric’s Songs: Lonely in the City

This song has been recorded multiple times and ill add the earlier versions to this one if you are interested in hearing its progressive treatment.

Although the song has strong feelings for me as the songwriter it still doesn’t seem to work except for the guitar solo which I’m ashamed to say is out of tune! But I’ve got the resources to do it right so ill keep trying.


The song is about loneliness and how you can be as lonely in a city as you are in the desert. A bit negative but a great starting point for a guitar solo full of angst.

This version was recorded in a studio that housed a great old desk owned by a good friend Buzz Bidstrup. The desk was from Air Studios in London and had a real sweet authentic sound not that you could tell from this recording… unfortunately all I have from the sessions was a quick master I did to tape so its as good as it can be for the moment.

An original recording done with a mic stuck up high on a wall in as room can be heard here.


Ric’s Songs – Rock n Roll (B52’s-ish Zep Cover)

This was recorded around the time that the B-52s “Love Shack” was popular. Steve and I had just listened to it and started to get back into our Led Zep music when the idea came up what if the B-52’s did Zep?

Making a hamer-ing 4/4 pounder lilt into a swing shuffle sounds like a no-no but it still comes across as a fun idea.

Steve on programmed drums and background party noise. This was really fun to record on 4 track.

Ric’s Songs – Freedom (Hendrix Cover)

This cover of a Hendrix song came about due to hearing Hendrix’s original as I was messing with a grungy sampling keyboard bass sound. It just shouted for a heavier remake.
Its only a 4 track and with me singing (and a bit out of key often) its a wonder that it still sounds interesting. But I’ve always liked the direction of this arrangement/ approach.
Steve Cox programmed the drums and generally acted as a taste director!

Click to listen

Maybe it’s worth a remake?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Song No 13: How I feel

Sorry but it takes a few seconds to start as I don’t have any handy editing software at the moment.

This song was written back in the eighty’s  using a drop G tuning and was one of my first attempts at writing a “lovey dovey” song. This song only had the first verse and chorus written at the time but it coincided with the putting together of a bunch of pretty good players to make it more special.

Sven Knudsen is singing the vocals. He had been doing Led Zeppish work in Europe before this and his strong  character of vocals matched with Steve Cox’s lyrical drumming and a good mate of his on bass, made it turn into something more special than I had imagined.
Since this I have completed the lyrics (it only took 20 years!) and am know waiting for the right band members to be available to record it properly.


Here are the lyrics as they stand at the moment:

Verse 1
How I feel, I don’t know, If you love me
And I cant, No I cant, Let it go
All the dam-,-age it does, Cuts so deeply –
Right down in my soul
And I cant sit down, And let it all roll by

The moment I saw you there, I knew what laid in store
What craziness drives me, You wont let me know for sure
And I cant take any more

Verse 2
All the time, That I cared, Seems so useless
Sure don’t seem, To have done, Much at all
Now your there, Just don’t care,If I’m aching – my heart is so cold
And I cant back down, And let it all pass by

The moment I saw you there, I knew what laid in store
What craziness drives me, You wont let me know for sure
And I cant take any more

Guitar break

Verse 3
To live life, without you’ – d, be so lonely
and it’s real, that I may, never know
What its like , To be loved, really deeply
for the man that I am
But I cant take this, And later wonder why

The moment I saw you there, I knew what laid in store
What craziness drives me, You wont let me know for sure
So im walking right outa that door

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Solar driven circumnavigation catamaran

When I first saw this photo I thought I was looking at a mock-up of the proposed craft but no… look closely on the forward quarter of the deck and you will see two people standing there. Amazingly this thing is built and already near sea trials. It uses an interesting boat-on-dual-hulls type design. I wonder how the design will go travelling around Cape Horn? R

Link to story…..

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