Innovative new camera system for tracking fast-moving objects

I just read about an amazing new camera system that certainly falls squarely in the domain of ‘science photography’.

The system, called the Dynamic Target Tracking Camera System, is currently under development at the University of Tokyo’s Ishikawa Uko Laboratory. What makes it newsworthy is its amazing ability to track fast-moving objects, as shown in this impressive demonstration video:

From a design point of view, this is one of those wonderful examples where innovation is achieved by taking a novel approach the problem at hand. Instead of trying to develop a system that can move a (rather heavy) camera quickly enough to track an object, the system contains two mirrors, one panning and one tilting, which can, through their combined movement, track objects moving at very high speeds. The camera system used with the mirrors can film objects at a rate of one image per 1/1000th of a second, allowing for great slow-motion playback.

Beyond its ability to track ping-pong balls in a lab environment, the Dynamic Target Tracking Camera System has massive potential in the real world, particularly in fast action sports such as tennis, cricket and baseball. In addition to being a great tool for umpiring, it could potentially enable some very interesting and unique slow motion playbacks.

As a second, equally impressive, application, the system can also be used to project images onto an object, as shown to very amusing effect in the above video. I am sure this also has huge real-world potential, particularly in the marketing and promotions space – imagine a sports brand projecting it’s logo onto the ball in a basketball game, for example.

No doubt a system like this can also potentially enable be a whole new dimension in computer gaming – just imagine all the potential applications!

I just love the concept – definitely an innovation worth keeping an eye on!

Walter Diemer, the accountant who gave the world bubble gum.

Today we celebrate the birthday of Walter E Diemer, who was born on this day in 1905 and, incidentally, also died on this day 93 years later. In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Diemer is the guy who gave the world (wait for it…) bubble gum!

He never set out to invent bubble gum, to be honest. Working as an accountant for the Freer Chewing Gum Company, he experimented in his spare time with different recipes for new chewing gum bases. During one of his attempts, in 1928, he accidentally managed to create a base that was less sticky and much more elastic than typical chewing gum.

Bubble gum - creating a whole new way to play with your food.(© All Rights Reserved)
Bubble gum – creating a whole new way to play with your food.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Realising he had something quite unique on his hands, he decided to try his invention in the market. He sold a batch to a local grocery store, where it was sold out in the first afternoon. Leveraging Freer’s distribution networks, he started marketing his bubble gum nationally, using salesmen who were specially taught how to blow bubbles with the gum, so they could serve as product demonstrators when they sold the new Freers bubble gum (named ‘Dubble Bubble’) to stores.

Diemer eventually became Senior Vice-President of Freer, thanks largely to his bubble gum invention. Many years later, he still found it amazing that his five pound batch of gum started a global craze, becoming one of the most popular confections in the world.

Diemer’s original batch of bubble gum was pink in colour, mainly because this was the only food colouring he had available at the time, and after almost a century, this still remains the standard colour for bubble gum.

Asa Candler and Coca-Cola’s rise to world dominance

If I say ‘carbonated soft drink’, what is the first beverage that comes to mind?  If you answered ‘Coca-Cola’ (and the chances are very good that will be the case), you have our birthday star, Asa Griggs Candler (30 Dec 1851 -12 Mar 1929) to thank.

Candler was an American marketer and manufacturer, who took the Coca-Cola soft drink invented in 1886 by pharmacist John “Doc” Pemberton, and turned it into the biggest carbonated beverage in the world. When Pemberton died, Candler bought his secret formula, and proceeded to invest obscene amounts of money ($50k per year – a crazy investment at the time) into the advertising of his product. His goal was to move Coca-Cola from a local beverage, sold from a soda fountain, to a bottled, national drink.

Coca-Cola - after more than a century still untouched as the most recognised carbonated soft-drink in the world.(© All Rights Reserved)
Coca-Cola – after more than a century still untouched as the most recognised carbonated soft-drink in the world.
(© All Rights Reserved)

His efforts were hugely successful, and his beverage became a national hit, but the success brought with it numerous copy-cats – producers who sold similar looking beverages, with similar names (only different enough to avoid patent infringement cases). His solution to this was another stroke of marketing genius – patenting a uniquely shaped bottle. The shape of the Coke bottle became an integral part of its marketing campaigns, successfully differentiating it from other, similar cola beverages.

Candler was president of the Coca-Cola company for almost 30 years (1887-1916) and under his leadership Coke cemented it’s cult status among carbonated soft drinks. Relentless and intense marketing and advertising remained the backbone of Coca-Cola’s success, even after Candler’s death, and to this day no other soft drink has been able to come close to Coca-Cola’s level of market dominance.

Samuel Colt, creator of an American icon

Today we celebrate the birthday of Samuel Colt (July 19, 1814 – January 10, 1862). He did not grow to be very old, but in his lifetime he did establish an American icon, Colt’s Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company (now known as Colt’s Manufacturing Company). Through his company, he developed the first viable mass produced revolver.

After a number of unsuccessful attempts at getting a gun-making business off the ground, Colt got his break when the Texas Rangers ordered 1000 of his revolvers in 1847, during the American Civil War with Mexico. His guns were also used by both the North and the South during the American Civil War. The 1872 Colt Single Action Army revolver (also known as the Model P, the Peacemaker and the Colt 45) has become one of the best known sidearms in history.

Colt’s Manufacturing Company – still going strong 150 years after the death of its founder.
(© All Rights Reserved)

Even though he did not invent the revolver, he did contribute meaningful practical adaptations to the design. Samuel Colt’s real innovation, however, lay in his use of an assembly line approach to manufacturing and using interchangeable parts in the construction of his guns. This approach, enabling him to be more efficient and cost-effective than his competition, placed him at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution.  In Colt’s words, “The first workman would receive two or three of the most important parts and would affix these and pass them on to the next who add a part and pass the growing article on to another who would do the same, and so on until the complete arm is put together.”

Colt was also an advertising and marketing pioneer, employing techniques like celebrity endorsement and corporate gifts to promote his wares. He may at times have gone a bit too far in terms of ‘marketing’, however, having often been accused of promoting his weapons through bribery, threats and monopoly.

Reading up on the man, its clear that Colt was a larger than life character who thought big, lived extravagantly, and didn’t shy away from conflict and controversy.

In 2006, Samuel Colt was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.