Apple denies Steve Jobs ninja star story

Apple Inc. has denied a widely circulated story that CEO Steve Jobs was stopped at an airport in Japan after throwing stars were found in his carry-on luggage. But if it had have happened, it might have looked something like this. First light sabers, now ninja stars. What’s next?

Download the animation here. You can also watch the Apple TV report (in Chinese) here. The clip starts at the 2 minute mark.

Bin Laden’s surrogate attacked, loses twins

Osama bin Laden, the Al-Qaeda leader and mastermind of the September 11 attacks had been expecting twin grandchildren, but British surrogate mother Louise Pollard suffered a miscarriage after she was attacked in Syria. Louise Pollard had been carrying the children of Omar and his British wife, Zaina. Omar is Osama bin Laden’s fourth son. He has said he would like to be the ambassador of peace between Islam and the West.

Do you think Omar, Zaina and Pollard should try again for another baby?

surrogate Bin Ladens surrogate attacked, loses twins

Air Force officer sets fire to F-16 base

Last week, an Air Force commander was sued for cheating on his dying wife then coning her parents out of their savings. This week, we give you the depressed Air Force officer who tried to set the base on fire.

An officer at Taiwan’s Air Force tried to set his superior’s office on fire last month. The officer is said to have difficulty adjusting to life in the military. He felt ostracized by his peers, and he did not know how to cope with the pressure from his superior. He has been sent to the military court for the crime of public endangerment.

Leave a comment and let us know about the counseling resources available at your country’s military branches.

Air Force officer sets fire to F-16 base

Carjacked woman saved by skinny frame

In addition to looking attractive, a Kaohsiung-area woman’s slim figure got her out of a tight spot when she was carjacked at gunpoint. The woman managed to roll down the window partially and exit the moving vehicle. She remains hospitalized from abrasion wounds. The police has tracked down her car and identified the suspect.

Let us know in the comments if you think you can squeeze through a half-open car window if you were carjacked…

Carjacked woman saved by skinny frame

Police discovers suspect in secret room

Stock speculator “Antique Chang” was wanted by the police, who suspect that he has fraudulently driven up the prices of some stocks. Chang designed his house with secret passageways and hidden rooms so that he could evade arrest, but sharp-eyed investigators caught him with the help of his own CCTV cameras.

We’re not sure whether Chang should have built a secret pocket within his secret tunnel that’s his way out of the secret chamber of his not-so-secret house. Meanwhile, see what UK was planning on doing with CCTV surveillance videos back in July.

Police discovers suspect in secret room

Love rat busted by pet parrot

English love cheat Andy Thomson was caught out after his pet parrot Harvey repeated amorous phrases he had used while cheating on his partner with a colleague in front of his girlfriend Rachel Harrison.

Harrison kicked out Thomson and eventually had to get rid of Harvey too as he would not stop calling out the name of her love rival.

Besides “I love you, Claire”, what other things do you think the parrot might have repeated?

Love rat busted by pet parrot

England’s ‘most haunted’ house up for auction

Wymering manor, which some consider to be England’s ‘most haunted’ house, will be going up for auction. In addition to the property, the house’s 30 resident ghosts will be included in the sale. The spooky property is more than a thousand years old and used to be a monastery. Fortunately, it seems the ghosts are of the friendly variety:

The building has gained a reputation among ghost hunters for high levels of paranormal activity, including sudden drops in temperature and strange apparitions. A former resident, David Scanlan, found the living and the dead got along fine.

He said the spirits ‘seem to be quite nice and quite friendly and it’s almost like we get on with them and they tolerate us’.

Will you ever consider staying in Wymering Manor if it gets turned into a hotel? Let us know in the comments!

England’s ‘most haunted’ house up for auction

Doctor indicted for mixed baby scam

A Taiwanese doctor and two friends were indicted for violating reproduction laws after police found they had arranged fake marriages with Uzbek women in order to satisfy their fascination with mixed-race babies.
Prosecutors requested a two year sentence for the ringleader, while lighter sentences were sought for his two accomplices.

Interesting Fact: Many people in Taiwan are fascinated by mixed-race kids because they are different. Why? Think about it. Every kid born here has black hair and brown eyes, so when you come across a kid with blond hair, or different colored eyes they immediately stand out from the crowd. It’s understandable, but these guys took the phenomenon to its extreme.

uzbek pic Doctor indicted for mixed baby scam

Lingerie thief mistaken for ghost

A Taipei-area woman thought she saw a ghost in her storage room. The “ghost” turned out to be a lingerie enthusiast trying on her bra and panties. When the woman found out that the intruder was a pantie thief rather than a malevolent spirit, she was furious. “I just bought those,” she said, “now I don’t want to wear them.” In his haste to flee the scene, the lingerie enthusiast left behind all his clothes and a bag with his ID inside.

Did you know that the seventh month of the lunar calendar is traditionally the Ghost Month here in Taiwan? For one month out of the year, the gates of the underworld are open ghosts are free to roam among the living. Although not all ghosts are bad, it’s just as well to appease them to be on the safe side. Every year before the doors to the underworld close again, we throw the ghosts a huge party to send them off.

Are you afraid of ghosts? Let us know in the comments!

Lingerie thief mistaken for ghost

Australia goes to the polls

The Labor Party swept to victory in 2007, with Kevin Rudd coming into power as Prime Minister. For a while, Rudd was enormously popular, but his plans to institute a new tax on mining companies and his failure to implement the government’s emission trading scheme caused his popularity to plummet. The Labor party rose up against their wounded leader. In the end, he was replaced by his deputy, Julia Gillard. In this weekend’s election, Gillard’s toughest rival is Tony Abbott, leader of the Liberal Party. Abbott promised to be tough on immigration if he becomes Prime Minister. Although polls show Abbott way ahead of Gillard, the Labor/Green party coalition still has more support when counted together. ‘Crocodile Harry’ has predicted a Labor victory. This is the closest election in Australia in 50 years.

Google’s domination of the world and loss of mojo

Has Google gone evil? Sergey Brin and Larry Page co-founded Google Inc., one of world’s most successful and loved corporations. Or is it? One of its most criticized services, Google Street View, has been scanning pictures of streets and alleys across the globe. It admitted to accidentally collecting 600GB of fragmented personal data from Wi-Fi networks in 33 countries, raising worldwide concerns over personal privacy. The latest upheaval involved a partnership with Verizon, where the two proposed a two-tiered internet system. Critics call it “Schminternet.”

China knocks out Japan to become No. 2 economy

China’s GDP surpassed Japan’s in the 2nd quarter of 2010, making China the 2nd largest economy in the world. Some expert believe that China could overtake the US as the largest economy in the world by 2027. However, because the Chinese population is so huge, GDP per capita remains low despite the large overall size of the Chinese economy.

“Smart Pill” reminds patients to take their meds

“Smart Pills” embedded with computer chips can help patients stick to their medication regimes in the future. The “Raisin” system, already approved in the EU, has a sensor patch on the patient’s skin that communicates with the computer chip swallowed with the pill. The patch will send an SMS message to the patient’s phone of they neglect to take their meds.

smartpill Smart Pill reminds patients to take their meds

Michelle Obama’s Spanish Vacation

American first lady Michelle Obama has caught a lot of heat for taking a luxury vacation to Spain while the American economy languishes.

Michelle traveled with her daughter Sasha, leaving President Obama to celebrate his 49th birthday shooting hoops with his friends. Malia is away at camp.

JetBlue drama: flight attendant quits via escape chute

Steven Slater, 39, a flight attendant for US airline JetBlue, dramatically quit his job on Monday after arguing with a passenger and fleeing via the plane’s emergency exit slide. Slater had argued with a passenger who struck him in the face with a bag. After launching an expletive filled tirade over the public address system, Slater grabbed a beer from the beverage cart and fled. He drove home, where he was consoled by his boyfriend.

Snooki in the news

Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi shot to fame as a cast member of the hit reality show “Jersey Shore”. The self-described “Guidette” has got a big personality in a petite package and her antics are always in the news. Between criticizing Obama’s tanning tax, proclaiming her love of pickles and getting arrested for disorderly conduct, Snooki has been keeping her profile high. But what will she be up to next and when will her 15 minutes of fame finally be up?

snooki Snooki in the news

King of Swaziland’s 12th wife in Adultery scandal

While on a state visit to Taiwan, Swaziland’s King Mswati heard news one of his wives allegedly cheated on him. Nothando Dube, his 12th wife has been linked with justice minister Ndumiso Mamba. Under Swaziland Law, Mamba could face a death penalty.

swaziland King of Swazilands 12th wife in Adultery scandal

Lindsay Lohan out of jail, heads to rehab

LiLo was once a promising Hollywood starlet, but a series of drunk-driving arrests, drug charges and court troubles have wrecked her career. A judge sentenced her to 90 days in jail for probation violations. Her father, Michael Lohan, immediately sought help from other celebrities who had also done time in prison. Michael attempted to cheer Lindsay up with a song. He’s also facing potential prison time because ex-fiancee Kate Major is accusing him of assault. Lohan’s sentence was cut short to just 13 days. She will now spend 90 days in rehabilitation. This animation tells it all.

lindsay Lindsay Lohan out of jail, heads to rehab

Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo-cap

We like to experiment here at NMA. The Obama clip you’ve just watched above was produced using a technology known as facial motion capture (or mo-cap for short.) Motion capture involves using a computer to track the movements of a series of reflective dots attached to the body, or in this case, the face.

The model, for this video President Obama, is then driven using the recorded movement of the nodes.
The following series of photos shows how the nodes are attached before the motion capture takes place.

Photo 1 shows our mo-cap model (we used an English-speaking model for this job) having the locations of the nodes drawn on his face by our mo-cap experts.

obamamocap1 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 2 shows the model’s face with half the reflective nodes in position.

obamamocap2 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 3 shows the model with all nodes in position. He is practicing the poses needed to record a full set of facial expressions.

obamamocap3 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

Photo 4 shows the model’s face as seen by the mo-cap cameras. As the voice model reads the dialogue, the computer records the movement of the modes using in this case 10 mo-cap cameras.

obamamocap4 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

The Obama model is then integrated with the recording of the node positions. The finished product is what you watched at the top of this post.

Hope you enjoyed this introduction to motion capture technology. If you are still curious, you can read about another cool gadget we have in Taipei. Keep your eyes peeled for the next episode of Inside NMA.

Thanks for your support,
The NMA team.

mocap4 Inside NMA 1: Adventures in facial mo cap

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Asian pop star gets a facial (scan) at NMA

Singapore-born pop star JJ Lin (林俊傑) stopped by Next Media Animation’s studio in Taipei last week to get a full facial scan using the newest Light Stage X system. Lin, who speaks Mandarin, English, Hokkien and Cantonese, has fans in all regions of the Chinese-speaking world, including Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and China. Based in Taipei, he was here to prepare videos for his upcoming world tour.

Light Stage X at the NMA studio is one of a kind. Developed by the Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) at University of Southern California (USC), the system is the newest model designed to capture facial scans and render them for characterization in animations. Previous models, which vary in size and capabilities, have been used to film the movies Spiderman, King Kong, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Avatar and more.

The system includes a computer set connected to a sphere that measures 2.5-meter wide and tall. There are 331 light units connected to the computer, each composed of 12 LED light sources. That’s 3,972 LED lights. 4 sets of scans are recorded during each session. Each set of scan consists of 4 seconds of sitting very still, while 2 cameras take 15 consecutive scans of the face. Characterization models that result from this can look so realistic it’s difficult to tell the difference.

“JJ Lin is the world’s first Chinese-speaker to use Light Stage,” he proudly proclaimed, speaking about himself in the third-person.

Read about our other cool gadget, facial motion capture, here.

lightstage Asian pop star gets a facial (scan) at NMA

‘Invisible monkey’ stars in Dodge car commerical

American car company Dodge, made an advertisement with a monkey. When animal rights group Peta saw the video they were very angry and contacted Dodge. Peta said that any use of apes could promote mistreatment, and asked Dodge to not use the monkey in the commercial. Dodge immediately agreed to remove the monkey, and apologized because they had not known about the history of monkey mistreatment. To solve the problem, Dodge agreed to switch out the monkey, and use an invisible monkey instead. That way, Peta was happy that no real monkeys were used, and Dodge was still able to show their commercial. The invisible monkey solution left everyone happy and made the ad popular on the internet.

Reality distortion field remains strong with Steve Jobs after antennagate

Apple founder Steve Jobs have been busy defending the iPhone 4, which has been mired in problems since before its launch. The latest scandal to crop up, dubbed ‘antennagate’, is so-named because the phone’s antenna gets poor reception if the phone is held the wrong way. Watch Jobs try and convince the world it’s not a big deal in this animation.

Is Islamophobia sweeping the US?

A proposal to build a US$100 million Islamic center two blocks from Ground Zero has sparked controversy in the US. While opponents say they are not against Islam, protests against similar mosques far from Ground Zero have raised fears that intolerance toward American Muslims is growing. One church plans to burn the Koran. 20% of Americans and 46% of Republicans believe Barack Obama is Muslim. A taxi driver in New York City was attacked after telling his passenger that he is Muslim.