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DIY Street-View Camera

Create Google Street View-like panoramas with cheap webcams and open-source software

4 min read
DIY Street-View Camera

If you use Google Maps, you're probably familiar with its Street View feature, which shows actual ground-level photos of many cities around the world. Google creates the images by mounting special cameras on vehicles and driving them around.

Now wouldn't it be great if you could have your own Street View–like camera? You could hike a trail and later share the photos with friends. The photos would carry GPS tags, so you could display them on Google Earth and include annotations—good water here, poison ivy there. Realtors could display whole neighborhoods to potential clients. A country club could offer a virtual tour of its golf course. Architects could monitor progress at a construction site.

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From WinZips to Cat GIFs, Jacob Ziv’s Algorithms Have Powered Decades of Compression

The lossless-compression pioneer received the 2021 IEEE Medal of Honor

11 min read
Photo of Jacob Ziv
Photo: Rami Shlush

Lossless data compression seems a bit like a magic trick. Its cousin, lossy compression, is easier to comprehend. Lossy algorithms are used to get music into the popular MP3 format and turn a digital image into a standard JPEG file. They do this by selectively removing bits, taking what scientists know about the way we see and hear to determine which bits we'd least miss. But no one can make the case that the resulting file is a perfect replica of the original.

Not so with lossless data compression. Bits do disappear, making the data file dramatically smaller and thus easier to store and transmit. The important difference is that the bits reappear on command. It's as if the bits are rabbits in a magician's act, disappearing and then reappearing from inside a hat at the wave of a wand.

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