Robots and Robotic Cars

Delphi Self Driving Car

Yesterday I hit the jackpot doing the Silicon Valley paparazzi thing. First off, I visited Intel’s “Garage” for their self driving car project. I read there was a media event there the day before. When I arrived it looked like the event was still in swing. Delphi’s self driving Audi was being demonstrated and another white vehicle with the give away Lidar setup on the roof was visible in the distance. Walking up the rather terse security guard asked if I had a badge. “No” – well than you can’t come in!

Delphi Self Driving Car

But alas, I had my new Sigma 150-600mm contemporary I purchased with this sort of thing in mind. Fortunately, Delphi’s “Intel Inside” Audi Q5s is plastered with logos of the various suppliers to the project, Intel, MobilEye, Vehicle 2 Everything, Ottomatika, and a big “Self-Driving Vehicle” notice on the back. Why that’s fortunate, is that unlike most other Self driving cars I’ve stalked, Delphi’s doesn’t have the big Lidar bucket atop. Instead, If you look closely at the full resolution photos, you can see cameras and sensors all over. Not only the more obvious ones in the rear view mirror assembly, but also in various subtle spots I would likely miss walking past this vehicle under normal circumstances.

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

After my parking spot expired, I moved on to Google in search of the ever illusive new Waymo Chrysler self driving minivan. And this time I found them! In fact, the new Pacifica minivans were so common- it’s my guess that was the reason I didn’t see a single one of those super-cute “pod cars”, perhaps all the “drivers” are busy testing the Chryslers?

Waymo’s Autonomous Chrysler minivan on the Streets of Silicon Valley

And last but not least, I stumbled upon the robot security guard at Microsoft’s Mountain View Campus.

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

The Knightscope robot is a bit overly cute, it even has a soundtrack with a futuristic sound. 

Autonomous Campus Patrol, Microsoft Campus, Silicon Valley

Greetings from Silicon Valley!

A Belated March 2017 Stock Photos in Revue

I’m hoping to make this a regular thing. I’ll put a month of stock photos up in a gallery, ideally at or near the end of that month. But alas, here’s last month’s edition. 

In this edition: 

Vacuum tubes, Cacti, a robotic barista, Alameda NAS at night, tugboats, Salesforce Tower, Union Square, MOAD, Pflueger’s Pacific Telephone Building, Pepper the Robot, Westfield Mall in SF, Yerba Buena, UBER self driving car, OTTO self driving truck, the Alameda Ferry, Alameda micro-brews, Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery, Santa Clara University and their self driving shuttle AURO, Salinas, San Juan Bautista, San Jose’s Main MLK library (including the Mozart room), and maybe some other stuff……

Words and photos are (c) Michael Halberstadt. Get permission if you wish to use anything please.

April 2017 Stock Photos in Revue

April 2017 Stock Photos in Revue- here’s a gallery of stock from April 2017. It includes my personal project of obsolete tech: vintage audio cassettes, micro cassettes, floppy discs, 16mm film reels etc. 

The gallery also includes San Jose under construction, Japan Town, train traffic at Diridon Station, UC Berkeley’s Botanical Garden and some other stuff. And don’t let me forget that there’s also a few of Stanford’s Dish, Vallejo’s Mare Island and much more.

I also included more Silicon Valley maps that have been very popular.

Thanks for looking! 

Words and photos are (c) Michael Halberstadt. Get permission if you wish to use anything please.

San Jose Back in the Day: A Contact Sheet of Downtown

San Jose Back in the Day: Downtown in the 80's
San Jose Back in the Day: Downtown in the 80’s

For decades now, I’ve been photographing Silicon Valley. In fact before it was commonly referred to by that name. Though this contact sheet is fairly boring on its surface, I thought what’s missing is interesting. Looking at the empty parking lots, I struggle to remember what is there now. In the spot where I took the photo where the St Joseph’s church is, I think is now the San Jose Museum of Art (?) The big parking lot might be where the 88 is now (?) The pawn shop is still there I think. And I forgot how bad graffiti was even back then!

San Jose Back in the Day: Lou’s Donuts

Lou’s Donuts (closed) Downtown San Jose contact sheet

My dad Hans Halberstadt was kind enough to loan me his fancy scanner. And I’ve been going through some old negatives. I found a whole roll of 120 of the old Lou’s Donuts original location at 772 East Santa Clara (across from the old hospital building) soon after it shuttered.

Growing up in downtown San Jose in the 1970’s and 1980’s Lou’s Donuts was a staple.

As I recall they moved to make way for the Walgreen’s that now fills that space. Briefly there was a Lou’s Donut “Museum” as I recall, presumably at the location noted on the window (1261 East Santa Clara.)

Mem-o-ries!

The Reel Deal

And speaking of vintage technology…. with the lightbox setup already in place, I figured there were some other vintage tech items to photograph.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

I’d recently purchased a 16mm film reel from Urban Ore as a prop. So I tried a few of the yellow/blue polarizing filter shtick like with the cassettes.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

The effect isn’t as dramatic, because there isn’t enough of the clear plastic to do the rainbow effect. But I did like the general hues given the background.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

I also really like the plain pattern of the film with the backlight peeking through and the slight curve of the lines.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

I also had a good time playing around with the film leader.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

Unfortunately, my light table is too small to show the entire reel.

16mm Movie Reel
16mm Movie Reel

Dropping a color gel behind the setup added a bit of drama.

16mm Movie Reel

Looking at some of these, I thought they might work well as book covers, so I made up a simple mock book jacket as a sample of how I think these images could be used.

Salesforce Tower and Alameda NAS

Truth be told, I was really out testing a new lens. I had just received a Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary lens and wanted to get a few test photos with my Sony A7RII and MC-11 kit. Uncharacteristically the weather here in Silicon Valley has been very wet and I had little chance to play.

Port of Oakland
Port of Oakland

So I made a quick trip to the Alameda side of Oakland Estuary, a spot with great views of the Port of Oakland with all the containership and tugboat traffic.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

But being a weekend- there wasn’t too much going on.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

So I headed over to Alameda’s “Booze Alley” a row of alcohol themed businesses facing past the old NAS runway with spectacular views of the San Francisco skyline. I was just in time for the sun to drop past the almost finished Salesforce Tower (tallest building on the West Coast- or so I have read.) Standing on a bit of concrete debris I was able to get my new large lens over the fence in the Faction Brewing Company parking lot.

Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline
Salesforce Tower -San Francisco Skyline

I made a point of framing for type- leaving room on the sides or top hoping for a future magazine or book cover.

Alameda, California
Pier with San Francisco in the Distance, Alameda, CA

After the sun went down, I drove further along the waterfront on the old decommissioned base and managed to get a few long exposures in.

Alameda, California
Former NAS, Alameda, CA

Rock Me Beethoven

(with my apologies to the late Falco and the even later Amadeus….)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

San Jose has a wonderful newish Library. I’ve visited the MLK Library a few times already. But until now managed to avoid visiting the Beethoven Center.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

The MLK Library is somewhat unique as I understand it as it is both the City of San Jose’s Public library and is shared as part of San Jose State University. In addition to having some of the best publicly accessible views of the city, it is home to a number of special collections. In addition to the aforementioned Beethoven Center, there’s also a Steinbeck center, California Room various special ethnic collections on the fifth floor.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

As I arrived the Beethoven Center just a few minutes before closing. The gentleman there told me that he plays some of the historical pianos – but he was wrapping up to close so I’d have to come back another day.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San Jose, California, USA

And so I will!

Aura – An Easy to Follow Self Driving Vehicle

My step-mom April Halberstadt attends church on the Santa Clara University Campus. Knowing my proclivity for chasing self driving vehicles down the Streets of Silicon Valley, she made a point of letting me know that there’s a self driving shuttle on campus.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

While recently in the neighborhood, I went to see what’s going on in Santa Clara and swing by the university campus. Most of what’s interesting to see is in or around the university. The city and university are centered around the mission. While on campus, I typically swing by the De Saissat museum- but I was too early on this visit.

Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Mission Santa Clara

In any case, there was no sign of the self driving shuttle actually, I noticed there literally was a sign, literally (!) that I passed. But in any case, there I was minding my own business checking out the Mission building when up pulled the Auro. A young man seated  in the Auro (guess we can’t call him the driver) was asked by a lady passing by, so if you have to choose between hitting a pedestrian or a skateboarder what happens. At that point I chimed in suggesting the Auro should hit the skateboarder because they are more annoying. They then went on to discuss the “Trolley Problem” and I kept photographing.

Auro Self Driving Shuttle, Santa Clara University, Silicon Valley, USA
Auro Self Driving Shuttle

What was nice, from my perspective at least, is that the Auro is very slow. And that it has a route and stop right in front of the iconic mission. So after a few photos close up, I sat and relaxed at the fountain a ways back to get a more distant view. After getting a few sans vehicle photos eventually the Auro drove slowly towards me. In fact, another little similarly configured electric powered utility vehicle zoomed right past the Auro. The series of photos fit nicely into an animated GIF (see below.)

Auro Self Driving Car Race

Salinas and Steinbeck

Salinas, California
Salinas Train Station

Returning from the Monterey Peninsula, I opted to go straight inland this time. All I ever hear on the news when I’m down in the Monterey Area is crime dramas from Salinas. Yet there had to be more.

Salinas, California
Salinas Rail Station

And I was pleasantly surprised!

Salinas, California
Downtown Salinas Stock Photo

The small tiny core of downtown Salinas was nice and tidy. The built environment was rich in architectural details. Regrettably I didn’t have too much time, but it looked like there were a number of nice eating (and drinking) establishments.

Salinas, California
Antique Salinas Soda Bottles

The main road runs right in to the National Steinbeck Center. Salinas was Steinbeck’s home town and a major influence on his writings (or so I have read.)

Salinas, California
National Steinbeck Center (stock photo)

A historic Bank of America building is being given a new life as a giant antiques shop. Like many small towns, the people seemed particularly nice and had time for small talk, like the lady at the antiques shop. Photographically, I really like the glass in the window thing. I took a few other snaps inside the shop. One thing that freaked me out as I sorted my photos and looked a bit closer was that the military garb I had taken photos of had swastikas. I’m surprised and freaked out as to how many Americans have a fascination with the NAZI’s!

Salinas, California
Nazi hat in antique store