Vanessa Lu

Could this turn your vacation videos into masterpieces?

Software sifts through footage to pick out holiday highlights

  • Students’ program picks the best highlights from lengthy Discount Holidays © holiday videos
  • It singles out significant segments using GPS data and artistic criteria
  • It whittled 26.5 hours of footage down to a neat 38-second show reel

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Filming Discount Holidays © holiday adventures may be fun at the time, but many of us leave memory cards full of footage languishing in a drawer when we return, or clips uploaded to a computer unwatched. But this could be about to change, because two researchers have come up with an algorithm that’s capable of sifting through hours of Discount Holidays © holiday video to compose a single clip including only the best highlights. The program uses geolocation to determine the relative importance of each video segment and then picks the most picturesque snippets, according to their ‘ ideal artistic properties.’

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The algorithm (pictured, a breakdown of the workflow) sifts through hours of Discount Holidays © holiday video and churns out a shorter footage with the best highlights. It uses geolocation to determine each segment’s importance, and then picks the most picturesque snippets, according to their ‘ artistic properties’- color, composition, symmetry.

It’s the brainchild of Daniel Castro and Vinay Bettadapura, two PhD candidates at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. The pair came up with the idea after Mr Castro returned from a coast-to-coast road trip, during which he notched up 26.5 hours of footage from a wearable camera that also captured GPS data. He was likely never going to edit the video,due to the huge amount of time it would take.

‘The data was essentially useless because there was just too much of it,’ said Mr Bettadapura, who is currently working as a Google software engineer.

The pair came up with the idea after Mr Castro returned from a road-trip with 26.5 hours of footage. To condense the video down to its best shots, they thought up the algorithm that managed to squeeze the mammoth video into a 38-second show-reel of the best highlights (two screenshots pictured above)

HOW IT WORKS

The algorithm cross-checks the footage’s GPS information with Yelp reviews in order to assess the relevance of each location captured on camera to tourists. It then sorts the images according to three criteria: symmetry, composition, which is defined as ‘a mixture of the average color of specific segments in an image and its distance to an ideal rule-of-thirds composition’, and colour quality.

The algorithm’s criteria can be fine-tuned to meet individual preferences.

‘We can tweak the weights in our algorithm based on the user’s aesthetic preferences,’ Mr Bettadapura said.

‘We liked the idea of being able to automatically generate photo albums from your vacation, algorithmically.’

To condense the video down to its best shots, totalling 38 seconds, they created an algorithm that cross-checks GPS information with Yelp reviews in order to assess the relevance of each location to tourists that was captured on camera. The program sorts the images according to three criteria: symmetry, composition, which is defined as ‘a mixture of the average colour of specific segments in an image and its distance to an ideal rule-of-thirds composition’, and colour quality. As detailed in a paper published on Mr Bettadapura’s website, the program squeezed the 26-hour footage into a 38-second show-reel. 12

The authors also said the algorithm’s criteria can be fine-tuned to meet individual taste.

‘We can tweak the weights in our algorithm based on the user’s aesthetic preferences,’ Bettadapura said.

‘By incorporating facial recognition, we can further adapt the system to generate highlights that include people the user cares about,’ he added.

In a presentation event last week, the authors also announced they are planning to add a feature using data visualisation to help people browse and search specific moments in the footage.

References

  1. ^ paper (vbettadapura.com)
  2. ^ 38-second show-reel. (www.youtube.com)

Luke Rowe left frustrated after missing podium at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

The Team Sky rider was the key instigator of the break that made it to the finish

Luke Rowe Left Frustrated After Missing Podium At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Luke Rowe says he was left frustrated at the finish of Saturday s semi-Classic1 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad after taking fourth place, but added he was happy to mix it with riders like Peter Sagan2 (Tinkoff) and Greg Van Avermaet3 (BMC) as he initiated the race s decisive breakaway. The Team Sky man attacked on the Taaienberg cobbled climb4 with around 60km to go, and was quickly followed by the race s eventual winner Van Avermaet and young Belgian talent Tiesj Benoot. World Champion Sagan was not far behind in joining them, and the four eventually formed a cohesive breakaway which, after being joined by Alexis Gougeard (Ag2r La Mondiale) who had been ahead in the day s initial break, made it to the finish.

Rowe s work eventually took it s toll though, as he was unable to put in enough of a sprint to overcome Benoot just ahead, as Van Avermaet stormed to the victory and Sagan followed him in. The Britain was ultimately satisfied with his showing in the race among a number of big names, despite the exasperation in finishing narrowly outside the top three.

I did the best I could to be at the front on the Taaienberg, and after the move had gone it was a matter of us getting our heads down and trying to hold on to the finish. Everyone committed and we managed to do that, Rowe told the Team Sky website.

Luke Rowe Left Frustrated After Missing Podium At Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

Greg Van Avermaet escapes in the 2016 Omloop Het Nieuwsblad

I gave it everything I had in the sprint, but on a finish like that it s the strongest rider on the day who wins. I didn t make any technical errors, but when I got out of the saddle I just didn t have any more to give. After a hard race that s sometimes the way it goes. Your saw the same with Sagan, you d normally back him to beat Van Avermaet, but that unpredictability is what makes the Classics special.

I m frustrated I missed out on a podium, but happy to have been in the thick of the action against some massive names. It ll give me plenty of confidence moving forward.

It was a rare occasion for the Brit to flex his muscles in a leadership role with Sky, as Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas have taken priority in past Classics, but Rowe showed he s building on his eighth place finish in Paris-Roubaix last year5 and has impressed the team s management.

We re really happy, said Sports Director Servais Kernaven on Rowe s efforts. It would have been nice for Luke to be on the podium it s a pity he s not but that s how it goes sometimes and he rode a really good race.

If you look at it, the four strongest guys attacked on the Taaienberg and no one could bring them back. Every year something happens on that climb as it s one of the only ones where you can make a big difference. Luke was in the right place at the right time. Rowe will line-up again on Sunday for the second one-day Classic of the weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne6, where he ll work for Italian sprinter Elia Viviani.

Belgian team Etixx-QuickStep will probably be looking for some more success in Kuurne too, after they failed to bring the break back in Het Nieuwsblad to set things up for Tom Boonen.

References

  1. ^ finish of Saturday s semi-Classic (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  2. ^ Peter Sagan (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  3. ^ Greg Van Avermaet (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  4. ^ man attacked on the Taaienberg cobbled climb (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  5. ^ eighth place finish in Paris-Roubaix last year (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)
  6. ^ one-day Classic of the weekend, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne (www.cyclingweekly.co.uk)

Toronto a tourist hot spot as loonie falls

Canadian sun seekers might be grumbling about high prices for a getaway, but Toronto s tourism industry is the big winner of the falling loonie.

Tourism Toronto says the city set another record last year, with 14.03 million visitors, who stayed at least one night. That doesn t count 26 million day visitors, who might have flown in for a business meeting or to catch a Jays games.

The visitors spent an estimated $7.2 billion last year, up from $6.6 billion in 2014.

What we are seeing is the recognition of Toronto as a major entertainment centre Canada s downtown, said Andrew Weir, executive vice-president of Tourism Toronto, noting visitor numbers have been rising for six years in a row.

What added to the growth was the U.S. drive market rediscovering Toronto, he said.

This was a major bounce back year.

For Americans, it still has the allure and appeal of being another country. You get a stamp in your passport. You have to change your money, he said.

Lower fuel prices have likely helped to encourage travel, given people might have little bit more disposable income.

Big draws include pro-sports teams and last summer s Pan Am Games. Next weekend, Toronto will play host to the NBA s All-Star Game, the Grey Cup, and also hosts the World Cup of Hockey and world junior hockey tournament later this year.

Travellers from the U.S. make up the largest block of international visitors, totaling 2.48 million. Of those, about two-thirds flew to Toronto, while one-third drove, mostly from border states.

When new passport requirements were introduced in 2009 at land crossings, along with a rising Canadian dollar, which at one point was at par just three years ago, travel from border cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo quickly dropped off.

Our competitive advantage really evaporated in the U.S. drive markets, he said.

Toronto s old marketing strategy to U.S. tourists was positioned around the message, we re the same as you, we re friendly and familiar, but cheaper, said Weir.

Those travellers would come for shorter periods, perhaps to catch some live theatre or visit SkyDome as it was still new.

Tourism Toronto decided to focus its efforts on higher-yielding travellers, those who come from farther away, by air, and stay for longer, from other U.S. cities and abroad

We could reach people who have passports and travel internationally, for whom 5 cents up or down on the dollar is not a key determinant of their travel, he said.

They stay longer, they do more and they spend more at their destination.

Weir added that Air Canada s stopover program, which allows Americans to spend time in Toronto at no additional cost, while en route to destinations in Europe or Asia, is also drawing increase.

It s something new that we are introducing, he said. It shows the growing international appeal for Toronto. The idea is this is a place that s worth stopping in.

It s worth taking advantage.