Sunday, 18 November 2012

Forrest Place water feature

What a pleasure to discover this new water feature yesterday. It was created by artist Jeppe Hein and is part of the City of Perth Forrest Place Masterplan.

The water sprays change in an irregular pattern to squeals of delight and laughter from the young children. Teenagers and adults were also getting into it, happily sharing the space with the little ones. It was a beautiful warm day, 34 degrees, and some people found it so inviting that they just kicked off their shoes and ran through wearing normal clothes.

Considered by most people as the centre of the city, Forrest Place was a short street in front of the General Post Office that was pedestrianised in 1987. It had a long history as a place for parades and political meetings and after being closed to vehicles enjoyed some success as a venue for a range of public events. However, a few design flaws prevented the area reaching its full potential. A rarely used elevated walkway which was built across the northern end of the plaza in 1988 has now been demolished and the pedestrian flow to Perth Railway Station, which is directly opposite, has been significantly improved. And now we now have a great fountain.



Sunday, 11 November 2012

Dutch safety research

There have been a lot of improvements to motor vehicles to reduce the risk of injury to the occupants. Improvements like headrests to prevent whiplash, then seat belts and radial tyres were early additions. Now the list of protective devices seems endless.

Anti-lock braking
Electronic stability control
Collapsible steering columns
Tyre pressure monitors
Seatbelt pretensioner
Lane departure warnings
Active rollover protection
Daytime running lights
Traction control
Front airbags
Side curtain airbags
Head and thorax airbags
Driver's knee airbag

 Finally there is an airbag for the people on the outside of vehicles. Cyclists and pedestrians.
"Thursday, November 8 saw a successful demonstration of a special cyclists airbag at the Automotive Campus in Helmond. This airbag is the result of a study commissioned by the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the Dutch Cyclists' Union to improve the safety of vulnerable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. Under considerable interest from international audiences, including several car manufacturers, a car equipped with the airbag hit a crash test dummy on a bicycle at 40 miles per hour. The airbag activated successfully so that the head and torso of the dummy were properly protected." (TNO company website)

Thanks to Amsterdamize for the link.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

GoPro camera - first test

I got myself a new toy a few weeks ago. A GoPro Hero 2 camera. Yes, that's right, I bought a Hero 2. I didn't know that GoPro were about to release a Hero 3 version which is smaller, lighter, sharper and probably better at everything. For the same price. 

Anyway, here are my first impressions using the old model. 

Why did I choose the GoPro? It was mostly to do with the shape. The main competition in this market seemed to be the Contour which is basically a long cylinder with the lens on the end. The GoPro is a little rectangular box. I thought the GoPro would be more suitable for what I had in mind.

I wanted something that could be used on a bicycle, but also, Mrs PB is often coming home with stories of crazy motorist antics from her walk to work and we thought it might be useful to record some of these. The GoPro will be able to be mounted to the shoulder strap of her bag fairly easily. She usually does a four kilometre commute into the city and it seems that every week there are dangerous situations that occur during what should be a pleasant walk.

Here is the camera inside its waterproof housing. It is possible to use the camera without the housing but there is no tripod thread in the base and the housing is used as the principle method for securing the camera in various positions. You can see that it is quite small by comparing it to my even more outdated iPhone 3. 

Recently I got together with a good friend for a Sunday breakfast. We met near the University of WA in Nedlands and traveled around the river to a little cafe at Garvey Park in Ascot. It was a beautiful day, perfect for riding. Breakfast was good, the conversation even better. On the return journey I gave the GoPro its first test using the head strap that comes with the Outdoor Edition package.
If you live in Perth you will have seen it all before but for others you might be interested in seeing one of our more attractive paths by the river.

This footage was recorded using the 1080HD 25 fps setting. There are no exposure adjustments with the GoPro, and no viewfinder with the standard camera. You just point it in the general direction of what you want to record, switch it on, and that's it. You can adjust the field of view electronically. This is done by a menu option but I decided to stay with the widest setting for this first test. 

I think the images are quite good for such a tiny package. The main problem seems to come from a softness around the over exposed highlight areas. The files are recorded in MP4 format. For this film I imported the file into Apple's iMovie software to do some basic editing but the files can also be viewed using Quicktime (or similar software) directly from your desktop.

I think I will have a lot of fun with it. There is a wide range of mounting gadgets and being waterproof it can be used in a lot of interesting situations. For those people considering using one to record vehicle number plates there is a good demonstration of this at the end of the film.