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March 12, 2007

Demonstrative Animation


In an article which appeared in the February 19, 2007 Richmond Times-Dispatch, Doug Childers wrote about a Richmond-based company called CrossPlatform DeSign which creates computer-generated animations of crime scenes for presentation in court.

A still from one of the company's videos appears up top.

The field is relatively young (company founder Jeffrey C. Taylor started his business in 1999) but is likely to explode in coming years as courtrooms upgrade their technology and the cost of computing continues to decline.

Here's the story.

    Demonstrative Animation

    The video is disturbing, even without sound.

    As it begins, a police officer chases a man across a dark parking lot.

    The man jumps into the back seat of a sport utility vehicle, and the driver of the SUV turns it around to face the police officer. The police officer retreats to an unmarked police car. Moments later, the police officer and his partner step out to confront the SUV with their guns drawn. The SUV surges toward them. As he leaps out of the way, one of the police officers fires shots at the SUV's driver as it passes.

    It looks like the working file of an expensive, computer-generated sequence in a Hollywood movie. In fact, it's a demonstrative animation created to help illuminate a key moment in a criminal case now pending in Atlanta.

    The incident took place in 2002. The man driving the SUV was suspected of breaking into cars. The shooter was an Atlanta police officer, who is now facing murder charges in the shooting of the driver.

    "They just finished the hearing," said Jeffrey C. Taylor, whose company, CrossPlatform DeSign, made the animation video for the lawyers representing the police officer. "The judge has not ruled on whether to go forward with the matter."

    The Atlanta case is one of more than a dozen on which Taylor has worked since starting Richmond-based CrossPlatform DeSign in 1999. In addition to the police-shooting case in Atlanta, Taylor is working on an excessive-force case involving a police officer in Connecticut.

    As Taylor points out, demonstrative animation differs from accident reconstructions, which are based on scientific data.

    "It's very hard to get an accident reconstruction into court because it can be heavily scrutinized, and most judges in Virginia won't allow it in court," Taylor said. "By contrast, demonstrative animation is simply a tutorial tool because it demonstrates testimony."

    Before creating demonstrative animation movies, Taylor conducts interviews and peruses evidence gathered in the case. As long as the demonstrative animation is substantially similar to the witness's testimony, it's admissible in court.

    The technical elements of the animation are impressive. The computer software Taylor uses to create virtual environments is sophisticated enough to put in shadows and ambient lighting.

    "Basically, it's the same software Hollywood uses for special effects," he said. "I work with animators from across the world."

    The cost for most of the animations that Taylor's company produces starts between $7,000 and $15,000. "But it's based on the length of the animation and its details, and whether or not I'm called in as an expert in the field of demonstrative animation," he said.

    Today, demonstrative animation is in its infancy. Although a few companies are creating accident reconstructions for courtroom use, "I'm the only one I know of doing this type of work" as a communication art, Taylor said.

    In fact, Taylor may have developed the first demonstrative animation used in a Virginia courtroom. The video illustrated the testimony provided by David Melvin, a Richmond police officer charged with second-degree murder.

    Melvin said in court that he shot Verlon Johnson, an unarmed robbery suspect, because he believed Johnson was pulling a gun from his pants pocket.

    Taylor interviewed Melvin and used that information along with witness statements and data collected at the scene of the shooting to create the animation video that was shown during Melvin's three criminal trials.

    After two mistrials, Melvin was acquitted in 2004.

    "I have a 100 percent win ratio in criminal cases I've worked with," Taylor said.

    In addition to working on criminal cases, Taylor has worked with trial lawyers on civil cases, including one that yielded a favorable $1.8 million verdict. In that case, the Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen law firm hired CrossPlatform DeSign to develop an animation to accompany testimony offered by medical experts.

    Malcolm P. McConnell III, the lawyer who hired Taylor to develop the animation, said Taylor's work played an important role in winning the case.

    "It's very important that concepts you're attempting to explain to the jury be explained in such a way that they can understand them and remember them some days later when they have to decide the case," McConnell said. "It's an explanation, and it's memorable. These trials tend to last several days, and I think it's important that the jury understand the case early. If you just talk, they won't retain it."

    A study conducted by the American Bar Association underlines the importance of memory prompts such as demonstrative animation in courtroom settings. It found that the use of visuals during a trial increases juror memory retention by 600 percent as opposed to a verbal argument alone.

    While CrossPlatform DeSign is a pioneer, Taylor expects to see demonstrative animation show up more often in courts as courtrooms upgrade their technology.

    McConnell agrees. "I predict that it will grow, particularly as it grows less expensive to develop."

March 12, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

LED Faucet Light — Episode 2: Hot and Cold


Episode 1 back on May 4, 2006 featured this then-novel technology meant to look cool and guide you to the fount.

Now comes an even more tricked-out version that visually displays water temperature as hot (red) or cold (blue).

From the website:

    LED Faucet Light — Own The Keenest Faucet On The Block

    Now available in a temperature-sensitive display version!

    Tired of that same old monotonous water?

    Bored with water that doesn't look like futuristic alien mouthwash?

    Need to make your midnite bathroom appointments more exhilarating?

    Then you need to get the LED Faucet Light attachment.

    You can turn any faucet in your home into a streaming fantasia of techie-bliss in just minutes.

    How does it work?

    Just attach to the end of your faucet (universal adapters included)


    and when the water flows through the magic chamber, it turns on the LED array and illuminates the stream with soothingly powerful hues.

    But wait — there's more!

    You get to choose between two different Faucets.

    • Blue LED — Always Blue LEDs

    • Blue/Red LED — Normally Blue LEDs until the water temperature hits 89 degrees after which the LEDs turn Red!

    Not recommended for faucets outside of the USA.

    2.25" tall, 1.25" diameter.

    Here's what you get with either version:

    • Batteries pre-installed plus a set of spare batteries (uses G13-A style watch batteries)

    • Two universal adaptors (fits most standard faucets in USA)

    • Chamber with LEDs

    • Instruction Sheet




[via Ray Earhart, who wrote, "Hi Joe: Do you remember when you had this featured on your site? I made a comment wishing that it changed colors when the temperature changed. Well, here it is. This is a must-have for little kids and the elderly (like me)."]

March 12, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Not all who read bookofjoe are TechnoDolts™


How do we know this to be true?

Look at the idiotstick graphic above.

Brian Nelson, one of my readers who knows a capstan from a caps lock key, sent me this link.

He added, "Maybe you could title this exercise "Vanity Fair" (hee hee). While you're there just click on the bookofjoe title box and enter what you like."

It took me about 15 minutes but I finally figured it out, and then I added my first thought (top).

I don't know whether to marvel at Brian or feel sorry for him: about 95% of the stuff he sends me goes right up.

That's scary.







March 12, 2007 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Grill Pepper Roaster


"Pepper roaster roasts peppers to perfection."

Say it five times fast without stumbling and qualify for the finals of the first annual bookofjoe Diction Prize™®.*

But I digress.

From the website:

    Pepper Roaster — Roasts Peppers To Perfection

    Stainless-steel roaster sits atop your grill or stovetop.

    Heat comes up through the pan's grate, allowing peppers to fire-roast to perfection.

    Great for warming tortillas, too.


    9-1/2" dia.


A bit pricey at $39.99.

*More on this great new addition to our extensive array of awards and suchlike real soon now.

March 12, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Why isn't food priced according to its 'sell-by' date?


Tim Harford, in his "Dear Economist" column in the February 23, 2007 Financial Times, explored this interesting subject; his thoughts follow.

    Dear Economist

    Q. When purchasing perishable food items I look for those that have the longest “use by” date, even if I intend to consume them immediately. As a result I often bypass items that will be within their “use by” date when I intend consuming them, in preference for items with an even longer shelf life. Can I be accused of being wasteful by not purchasing items with the shortest acceptable shelf life, since I am increasing the likelihood that they remain unsold?

    A. I hardly think the blame can be laid at your doorstep. The fault, instead, is with the unimaginatively static pricing on the part of the food retailers. They are presenting you with two different products at the same price, and you are simply choosing the better, fresher offering.

    It is true that if you plan to eat the food immediately, the value you place on the fresher product might be lower than the value to someone who planned to buy it and leave it sitting around for a couple of weeks.

    On the other hand, many people don’t check the dates because they don’t care. It would be a shame if they got the fresher product at your expense.

    Ideally, then, retailers would adjust their prices to reflect the staleness of the food, with the price declining very slightly over time, before being slashed as the “use by” date approaches. Freshness fetishists like you would gladly pay more, while students, pensioners and computer programmers would scoop up the cheapest products and scrape off the mould.

    Products would be allocated efficiently according to preferences for freshness. It can only be a matter of time before the supermarkets catch on.


Watch "Expired" (the movie) here.

March 12, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

The Slow Cook — 'An urban insurgent's guide to real food made by hand with care — and sometimes a little humor'


It's the creation of Ed Bruske.

The Washington Post featured his new website, www.theslowcook.blogspot.com, in the February 28, 2007 Food section as follows: "Washingtonian Ed Bruske, a personal chef and former contributor to the Food section, celebrates food from local farms, what's growing in the back yard and recipes whose focus, as his URL name suggests, does not involve the quick route. Cultural tangents and recommended food-related reading are included."

They had me until the "tangents" bit — I abhor digression.

March 12, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

World's Scariest Tights — Episode 3: New York Times Magazine Centerfold


In the February 25, 2007 New York Times Magazine Women's Fashion Spring 2007 supplement, Balenciaga's sequined metal tights were featured in a two-page spread (above).

You may recall Demi Moore's February 15, 2007 appearance in Episode 2 and Episode 1 introducing them back on February 8 of this year.

Finally, without actually venturing into a Balenciaga store and asking, we learn their price: $19,500.

March 12, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

CogNews.com — 'What's on your mind?'


Food for thought.

March 12, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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