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My skin is brown so sometimes I look weird in photos.

Usually, I'm rendered virtually invisible, either by my surroundings or poor light.
Or thanks to filters and edits, I'm completely washed out — an ashy or jaundiced version of myself. It's not a good look.


With a few friends ahead of the Rose Bowl in 2011. At least my glasses and shadow showed up.

If you're taking pictures while brown — and there are a lot of us — there's a good chance you've experienced this too.

47% of African-American and 38% of Hispanic people online use Instagram. (The figure is around 21% for white internet users.) However, the filters and features that make the tool so fun to use often make the skin of black and brown people look pale, aged, or washed out.

Except you, Hefe. You never let me down. Filters by Instagram. Photo by the author.

That's because the film photography aesthetics Instagram mimics weren't created with people of color in mind.

It all dates back to something called the Shirley cards, named after a former Kodak studio model. Decades after the original Shirley left Kodak, the cards featured a white woman often in a brightly colored dress.

GIF via Vox/YouTube.

The technician would adjust the colors of the printer to match the model's skin tone. And this color balance was applied to everyone's film, regardless of their complexion.

So for decades, people of color were quite literally edited out of the pictures.

While the original Shirley card gave way to more diversity and eventually to digital photography, the resurgence of this classic aesthetic means the problems of early film are back with a vengeance.

But all is not lost. Not even close. Because now, there's Tōnr.

Conceived by product engineers and designers of color for Vox Media's Hackathon, Tōnr is a new web application with filters that showcase and highlight the richness and beauty of darker complexions.

"I haven’t been lucky when using filters in the common photo apps: they wash me out, add to much contrast, and are generally unflattering," said Pamela Assogba, full stack engineer at Vox Media and member of the Tōnr team, via email. "I think my skin tone is great, and deserve better treatment, so working on a solution made sense, especially because a lot of people could benefit from it."

Image via iStock.

The team of Vox engineers and designers came together for two and a half days of intense work, creating melanin-flattering photo filters using JavaScript and Photoshop.

"When I first started formulating the filters, I made sure to start with darkest skin first and work my way backwards," said designer Brittany Holloway-Brown. "It's important to pay attention to the margins of marginalized communities and to let them know that their faces, their bodies, their thoughts matter. It's a very small push against the heavy status quo."

Holloway-Brown researched fashion spreads, photography, and plenty of selfies on social media to see how people of color were lit and portrayed. "My focus was on emphasizing the color, enhancing undertones and heightening the saturation of the skin," she said via email.

On desktop or mobile, users can apply one of Tōnr's 12 filters to their photograph.

There's no upload required, so the photo never leaves your device. Once it's edited, users can upload their pictures to Instagram for additional edits or share them with their networks as they are.

"Tōnr is an act of love, expression, resistance, and passion because this is an application that tells me and people that look like me that we matter, even if society tends to say different," said Assogba.

Image via iStock.

As a woman of color with a fondness for the occasional selfie, I decided to try Tōnr out for myself.

While none of the filters made me look like Kerry Washington (technology is only so powerful), most of them did bring out the warm tones in my skin. If nothing else, I had more options and starting points than ever before.

I'm not a Sorbet girl, but consider Strut my filter of choice for summer '16. Filters by tōnr. Photo by the author.

Though Tōnr is still in its infancy, the team is all about reaching more people of color, both as users and creators.

The team hopes to add more filters, and a mobile application for iOS and Android is on the table. But for now, they're reaching out to other developers and creators for their ideas and input.

"We made the app open source so that others who are down for the cause can make contributions to this project," said designer Alesha Randolph.

Assogba added, "I’m really excited to see other people of color dig into the open source code and build filters or propose features for an app built with them in mind."

Everyone, regardless of complexion, deserves to look and feel their best. Here's hoping this tool, and others yet to come, help all of us do just that.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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True

You could say Marine biologist, divemaster and National Geographic Explorer Dr. Erika Woolsey is a bit of a coral reef whisperer, one who brings her passion for ocean science to folks on dry land in a fresh, innovative and fun new way using virtual reality.

Images courtesy of Meta’s Community Voices film series

Her non-profit, The Hydrous, combines science, design, and technology to provide one-of-a-kind experiential education about marine life. In 2018, Hydrous produced “Immerse 360”, a virtual underwater journey through the coral reefs of Palau, with Dr. Woolsey as a guide.

Viewers got to swim with sharks, manta rays and sea turtles while exploring gorgeous aquatic landscapes and learning about the crucial role our oceans play—all from 360° and 3D footage captured by VRTUL 2 underwater storytelling VR cameras.


Hydrous then expanded on the idea to develop two more exciting augmented adventures using Meta Quest 2 technology: “Expedition Palau,” a live event where audiences can share a “synchronized immersive reality experience”, which includes live narration from Woolsey, and “Explore,” a “CGI experience” to enjoy the magic of the ocean at home.


www.youtube.com

“I’ve been extremely fortunate to explore and study coral reefs around the world,” Woolsey said, sharing that it was “heartbreaking” to see these important habitats decay so rapidly while the latest scientific reports did not clearly lead to widespread compassionate action.

“How do we care about something we never see or experience?” she reflected. As she discovered, virtual reality would be a powerful solution for eliciting empathy. “VR has the ability to generate presence and agency and make you feel like you’re there. It's that emotional connection that can bridge scientific discovery and public understanding”

The combination of virtual reality and the ocean’s natural breathtaking beauty is, as Woolsey puts it, a “match made in heaven” for getting people more engaged in ocean education. “When you’re floating you can look up and down and all around you…seeing a school of fish surrounding you and reefs in these cathedral-like structures. Rather than watching a video of a scientist, you get to become the scientist.”

Hydrous also has special kits to provide middle school students hands-on learning about ocean life. In addition to a journal, activity cards and a smartphone VR viewer, each kit includes lifelike 3D printed model pieces of a coral reef so that middle school students can try building their own.

These reef models even turn white when temperatures rise inside the aquarium, which mimics the real “bleaching” that corals endure when they die due to higher than normal ocean temperatures. Students really do become scientists as they figure out how to bring color back to their reef.

While it’s true that the health of our oceans affects us all, the growing threats our oceans face—pollution, overfishing, climate change—don’t always affect us on an empathetic level. Through the use of technology, Woolsey has created an innovative way to connect hearts and minds to one of the Earth’s most important resources, which can inspire real and lasting change.

“We can’t bring everybody to the ocean, but we’re finding scalable ways to bring the ocean to everyone.”

To learn more about Hydrous, click here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


Dr. Daniel Mansfield and his team at the University of New South Wales in Australia have just made an incredible discovery. While studying a 3,700-year-old tablet from the ancient civilization of Babylon, they found evidence that the Babylonians were doing something astounding: trigonometry!

Most historians have credited the Greeks with creating the study of triangles' sides and angles, but this tablet presents indisputable evidence that the Babylonians were using the technique 1,500 years before the Greeks ever were.


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