On the PMA Podcast: Imaging evolution at Entourage Yearbooks

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Tomcek CoryWhere once school yearbooks were made by a small staff, now mobile and social imaging have irrevocably changed the production: everyone on campus can be a photographer, and images can come in from a multitude of sites and services. On the output side, digital printing has allowed for much later production deadlines, but can also lead to more variation than is desirable.

On this episode of the PMA Podcast, Entourage Yearbooks director of strategic partnerships Cory Tomcek tells us about this $2 billion market, and how it’s adjusting to the changes in imaging.

You can download the episode or subscribe to the podcast here.

Or you can tune in now with the player below.

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Panasonic tilts and jumps for selfies

panasonic-lumix-gf7-2015-01-20-01

panasonic-lumix-gf7-2015-01-20-01

The three-inch touchscreen on Panasonic’s latest camera tilts 180 degrees upwards to “offer modern selfie shooting,” the company says.

When the display is tilted the camera shifts into “Self Shot Mode,” and offers face shutter, buddy shutter, and beauty functions. Shots can also be automatically transferred to a paired phone.

Also, the “Jump Snap” feature “lets users to photograph themselves jumping, as if they are flying in the air,” Panasonic adds, as the paired phone “detects the highest position when the user jumps and releases the shutter of the camera.”

The Lumix DMC-GF7 is a 16-megapixel interchangeable lens camera, with WiFi with NFC. It will sell for $600.

Business Success: Don’t die, dummy

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learn or die

Today, the only way to develop and sustain a competitive advantage is to create a “learning organization.” This week “Learn or Die” author and business professor Edward D. Hess shares four key ideas for transitioning your company into one that succeeds by getting smarter.

The Learning Curve

You know your business’ survival and success depend on maintaining a competitive advantage, so you’re constantly focused on reaching more of your target market, making your product that much better, and expanding your services…

Those are great strategies to drive your goals — if you have a time machine and are doing business in the previous century.

But today? Technology has reduced the capital needed to start and build businesses, reducing an historical barrier to entering the marketplace. And new competitors can reach your customers from thousands of miles away. Technology has also given customers tremendous power in comparison shopping, and telling the world how happy or unhappy they are with your product or service.

That doesn’t bode well for the staying power of the better mousetrap you’ve just built (or for the lifespan of your company, or for your job security). Standing still is a losing strategy in many cases.

To stay relevant, companies can no longer rely on traditional competitive advantages like location, capital, lack of choices for customers, and lack of market transparency; instead, they must transform themselves into “learning organizations.” Today’s technological and marketplace developments necessitate faster adaptation, and adaptation requires institutional learning processes such as critical and innovative thinking, critical conversations, and experimentation.

In other words, the only way to sustain a competitive advantage is to make sure your people have the tools, motivation, and support to learn better and faster than your competitors.

In my book Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization, I share my complete formula — and here, I spotlight four key points to keep in mind when building a learning culture.

1. Leadership must shift toward “coaching-ship.”

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that command-and-control structures — with leaders who think management’s job is to use rewards and punishment to direct, motivate, control, and even modify employees’ behavior in order to get organizational results — are on their way out. If we want adaptable learning organizations, we need to humanize our management models, and that requires many leaders and companies to fundamentally change their attitudes and behaviors toward employees.

Personal and intellectual humility, empathy, emotional intelligence, and self-management are now required leadership capabilities, because these qualities nurture the very human capabilities that are at the root of adaptation and innovation: the ability to ideate, create, emotionally engage, and learn — all while in conditions of uncertainty, ambiguity, and rapid change.

Instead of “knowing and telling,” which can cause progress-limiting dependence, leaders should work with employees as coaches, or even allow them to experiment on their own. I recommend following Intuit’s example by consciously choosing to bury the “modern-day Caesar”—the kind of boss who gives thumbs up or down on all decisions. In India, this policy allowed young Intuit innovators to conduct an experiment on helping farmers get the best price for their products, even though management initially wasn’t interested in the idea. The result: 1.6 million Indian farmers now use the successful program these innovators developed.

2. Your work environment must be an emotionally positive one.

Positive emotional work environments are no longer negotiable. They’re a requirement.

Positive emotions are associated with openness to new ideas, better problem solving, openness to disconfirming information, less rigid thinking, resilience, creativity, collaboration, better recall of neutral or positive stimuli, and mitigation of ego defenses.

Negative emotions inhibit all of these things. A positive emotional state is essential to developing employees who are motivated, productive learners.

If you feel building a positive workplace environment is too “soft” to suck up your organization’s limited time and energy, consider that none other than the U.S. Army has recently begun an initiative to promote positive psychology. The training includes learning about emotions and their effects on the body and mind, learning how to manage emotions, reducing the frequency of negative emotions, and increasing the frequency of positive emotions. It’s directed toward producing soldiers and leaders who can adapt to new and challenging situations and uncertainty — that is, learn. Your people may not be tested on a literal battlefield, but these skills will still be crucial in helping you maintain a competitive advantage as your organization navigates the cutthroat landscape of the global marketplace.

3. High employee emotional engagement is a necessity.

It stands to reason that if employees don’t have an emotional investment in your company and their future in it, they won’t be motivated to learn. But how do you transform “engagement” from a meaningless buzzword to a reality? The research of Edward L. Deci and Richard M. Ryan and their Self-Determination Theory shows us it comes down to meeting employees’ needs for autonomy, effectiveness, and relatedness. And these needs are most likely to be met when individuals feel respected, trusted, and cared for, and feel that they can trust the organization and its leaders.

These concepts are easiest to understand when you look at them in action, and UPS is one of the best examples out there for operationalizing emotional engagement. Founder Jim Casey viewed employees as partners, and maintaining his values over the decades has led to policies that are employee-centric and hold management mutually accountable to employees: an egalitarian “open door” policy for employee input, an employee “free agent” program that allows any UPS employee to move anywhere in the company and advance, mentorship and training programs, and more. As a result, UPS has maintained a high retention rate and built a deep bench of long-tenured, adaptive employees.

4. Employees need permission to TRY and FAIL.

Abraham Maslow aptly stated that an individual would engage in learning only “to the extent he is not crippled by fear, and to the extent he feels safe enough to dare.”

Building that type of environment requires many companies to adopt different mindsets about “mistakes” and about what “being smart” means. Learning is not an efficient 99 percent defect-free process — far from it. So mistakes have to be valued as learning opportunities. Employees must be given conditional permission to fail within proscribed financial tolerances, with the knowledge that they won’t be punished for their mistakes so long as they learn.

Some companies are already on this journey. Bridgewater Associates, the biggest and one of the most successful hedge funds in the world, is passionate about the power of mistakes. Bridgewater actually encourages employees to get excited about their mistakes because each error that employees learn from will save them time, energy, and stress (and the company money) in the future. Employees are instructed not to feel bad about their mistakes or failed experiments, or those of others. Acknowledging mistakes, confronting weaknesses, and testing assumptions, the company believes, is a reliable strategy for long-term success.

Another company that puts the permission-to-try-and-fail principle into action is W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., which is known for manufacturing innovative products like GORE-TEX fabric. All associates are encouraged to experiment using the “Waterline Principle.” There’s an understanding among the associates that if they see a need, and failure isn’t going to sink the entire ship, they should just go do something about it. If it does look to be risky, however, consultation with other associates is required before taking action.

Transformation at the Top

One final point to keep in mind: Transforming an existing organization into a learning organization requires the change starts at the top.

If you’re a leader or manager and you want to change your organization, the best advice I can give you is to change yourself first. Good intentions are not enough. Behaviors are what count.

So role model how to think and communicate better. Admit your ignorance and your mistakes. Be authentic. Act with caring humility. Engage people so they feel like they have some control over their destinies. Be honest, have high standards, and hold everyone, including you, to those standards.

Only then will you earn the enthusiastic buy-in of your learners, and set the stage to build and sustain a competitive advantage.

EdHess• Edward D. Hess is a professor of business administration and Batten Executive-in-Residence at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He is the author of 11 books, including Learn or Die: Using Science to Build a Leading-Edge Learning Organization — Columbia University Press (September 2014).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skydio’s smarter quadcopters see where they are going — funded $3 million

skydio

skydio

Start-up Skydio is making flying cameras that are almost impossible to crash — and the proof of concept has won them $3 million seed funding.

“Drones are poised to have a transformative impact on how we see our world,” the new firm says. “They’ll enable us to film the best moments of our lives with professional quality cinematography — and they’ll also change the way businesses think about monitoring their operations and infrastructure. This grand vision is starting to come into focus, but existing products are blind to the world around them. As a consequence, drones must fly high above the nearest structures or receive the constant attention of an expert operator. “Flyaways” and crashes abound. These problems must be solved for the industry to move forward.”

Skydio says it will offer “safe and intuitive” drones “for a much broader audience and a much broader set of applications.” Their flying camera will be “aware of its surroundings” and so be “far easier to control, safer to operate, and more capable.”

How will it work? By using it’s camera not just to record images, but to ‘see’ where it’s at. “Almost all the information a drone needs to be good at its job can be found in onboard video data; the challenge is extracting that information and making it useful for the task at hand. That challenge, and the incredible capabilities that are unlocked, are our focus.”

Here’s a cool video demonstration.

And TechCrunch has more on the company here.

 

Swarm of “incredibly cheap” camera drones

apex flyfrog

apex flyfrog

“A swarm of incredibly cheap camera drones is buzzing your way,” reports Quartz from the Hong Kong Toy and Games Fair. “2015 will be the year of the super-cheap camera-equipped drone, capable of traveling up to several hundred meters and priced so low that consumers could potentially buy them for $100 or less.”

The report notes the Flyfrog quadcopter will be sold by manufacturer Apex Toys in Shenzhen to distributors for just $27 — and it can fly up to 50 meters, controlled by a phone, and take 10 minutes of video.

“This flood of inexpensive, camera-carrying drones is sure to be welcomed by tech enthusiasts who don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a professional-grade aerial photography kit,” the report concludes.

The full story is here.

 

Construction to begin on world’s largest camera

lsst camera

lsst camera

A 3,200-megapixel camera will provide “unprecedented details of the universe and help address some of its biggest mysteries,” Stanford University reports.

The construction of the world’s largest digital camera received key “Critical Decision 2” approval from the U.S. Department of Energy, Stanford adds. It’s the centerpiece of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory.

Construction is a long process: science operations are scheduled to begin in 2022, the university notes, “with LSST taking digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce the widest, deepest and fastest views of the night sky ever observed. Over a 10-year time frame, the observatory will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will catalog more objects in the universe than there are people on Earth—and will create movies of the sky with details that have never been seen before.”

The LSST will generate approximately 6 million gigabytes per year.

lsst observatory

Selfies from Fujifilm

fujifilm xA2

fujifilm xA2

Fujifilm says its latest compact system camera is “selfie-ready” with a display that tilts back 175-degrees as well as face and eye detection “for candid and fun selfies.”

The X-A2 has a 16-megapixel APS-C sensor, and WiFi. The $550 interchangeable lens camera comes with F3.5-5.6 lens that zooms from 24-76mm with optical image stabilization. Fujifilm adds that the “newly-developed Eye auto focus, Auto Macro AF, and Multi-Target AF achieve easy and accurate auto focus performance.”

Also:

• The new XQ2 couples an F1.8 4x zoom lens with a 12-megapixel X-Trans sensor that is “designed to control moiré and false color generation by using an original color filter array with a highly randomized pixel arrangement.” Also, the sensor has more than “100,000 phase detection pixels… to deliver astonishing images.” The camera is $400.

• The FinePix XP80 is waterproof down to 50 feet, shockproof from 5.8 feet, and freezeproof. It has a 16-megapixel sensor, a 5x zoom lens, and WiFi. The Action Camera Mode turns the lens “into a fixed 18mm and enables hands-free shooting so the camera can be mounted on your body or a piece of sporting equipment to get right to the heart of the action,” Fujifilm says. It’s $230.

 

“A Network of Eyes” — help the blind to see with a phone app

be my eyes 1

be my eyes 1

An app connects blind people with volunteer helpers via a live video chat.

“Be My Eyes” lets a blind person request assistance for “anything from knowing the expiration date on the milk to navigating new surroundings,” the developer says. The sighted volunteer “receives a notification for help and a live video connection is established. From the live video, the volunteer can help the blind person by answering the question they need answered.”

Imaging Resource calls it “one of the most incredible uses of camera technology and crowdsourcing we’ve ever come across.” We agree. Check it out here.

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Google’s Translate app sees and speaks

google sees translate

google sees translate

Google has improved its Translate  app’s ability to translate street signs: point your phone camera at a sign and translated text is overlaid on the screen.

The app integrates feature Quest Visual’s Word Lens app — which Google acquired last May.

“The Translate app already let you use camera mode to snap a photo of text and get a translation for it in 36 languages,” Google says. “Now, we’re taking it to the next level and letting you instantly translate text using your camera—so it’s way easier to navigate street signs in the Italian countryside or decide what to order off a Barcelona menu. While using the Translate app, just point your camera at a sign or text and you’ll see the translated text overlaid on your screen—even if you don’t have an Internet or data connection.”

There were also several improvements to the spoken word translations. More than 500 million people use Google Translate every month, the company adds, “making more than 1 billion translations a day to more easily communicate and access information across languages. Today’s updates take us one step closer to turning your phone into a universal translator and to a world where language is no longer a barrier to discovering information or connecting with each other.”

More information is here.

Night photography from way on high

VV above NYCs

VV above NYCs

How high? Try 7,500 feet over New York City — leaning out the open door of a helicopter on a dark night.

That’s high enough to be looking down on not only the city — but other aircraft. It’s higher than a chopper should go…
Daredevil shooter Vincent Laforet says it was “both exhilarating and terrifying all at once… the scariest helicopter photo mission of my career.”

Why the trip? “These are pictures I’ve wanted to make since I was in my teens,” he says, “but the cameras simply have not been capable of capturing aerial images from a helicopter at night until very recently. Helicopters vibrate pretty significantly and you have to be able to shoot at a relatively high shutter speed (even with tools like a gyroscope) and that makes it incredibly difficult to shoot post sunset.”

You can read the full story and gander at the images here.