May 6th, 2009
In today’s interconnected world both the physical and digital worlds collide. There is no ignoring those on the the other side of the world. We share one place, this place called Earth and today’s geospatial technology makes this so readily apparent and seamless that it is almost taken without notice. Its hard to imagine an age when we did not know what lay beyond the horizon, just as those ages ago would have a hard time believing in something called Google Earth. But the connectivity and the technology that makes it possible should be noticed. The new golden age of geography is upon us and its nothing like what you might have learned in grade school. This is all about connections, and seeing how those connections can send shockwaves around the world just like an insect caught in a spider’s web. Move one part and we’ll know you are there… Bringing the geospatial revolution together nicely is a new project by Penn State University Public Broadcasting project. Dubbed the Geospatial Revolution Project it is one of the first I have seen to bring together what geography truly means in the 21st century, explaining how new technologies have revolutionized our relationship with the planet. It will be brought to viewers via the web in eight installments and will have outreach and educational components. Its seems to be a broad, bold project that highlights this new revolution and evolution of our connectedness. I strongly suggest you check this new series out when it launches.
May 1st, 2009
Photos, photos everywhere! The world is awash in digital photos so its nice that some researchers have taken the time to look the numbers for the most popular (at least in N. America and Western Europe) photo sharing site, Flickr. The study, which has some interesting results, was done by David Crandall, a doctoral student at Cornell in Computer Science. One surprising result (or not so surprising perhaps) is that the Apple Store in Manhattan is the 28th most photographed place on earth. The Sydney Morning Herald posted a story about this today as well as a link out to the researcher’s PDF if you are interested in diving into the details. Some 35 million images were examined in Flickr. The most photographed place in the world (at least on Flickr)… drum roll please…NYC. Seriously, this is an great study and should be of great interest to those who are interested in what people geotag and what this says about what we find interesting to photograph in the world. Of course there are many caveats and bias to consider in something like this but the researcher is well aware of these. Hopefully we will see more studies like this in the near future!
February 5th, 2009
I recently noticed an update for a little plug-in app from the venerable GPS maker, Garmin recently released. The plug-in is called the Garmin Communicator and what it does is pretty nifty. It allows a website, any website that uses the Communicator API, to communicate with your Garmin GPS receiver and handle Garmin GPS files. While notably making closed systems, this approach Garmin has taken is quite open and its yielding some very interesting applications. For instance, at the site TakItWithMe, one can upload their Google MyMaps for use on their Garmin device. That’s a pretty nice capability. This plug-in and the websites that use it can open up the door to more creative uses of GPS data especially for educational uses where GPS data may come into play. For a list of innovative sites using the plug in, visit Garmin’s webpage here. Its pretty cool. The Garmin Communicator plug-in is here. And the API for developers is here.
May 27th, 2008
This apparently is part of an ad campaign for DHL, but nonetheless, it is a very creative (theoretical) use of technology, fusing GPS and art together to create the largest drawing in the world. Again, this story is fictional, but worth writing about because I think it opens up the options for what one could conceivably do with technology and art. The story has been posted on a number of blogs if you care to read more about what others are saying here, here, here and here… The main site is at this link and the artist’s site (apparently an advertising student) can be found here. Real or not, this story helps fire the creative juices to imagine just what can we do with all this technology that is just a little bit different. It makes no sense to actually fly this route, not to mention it would be wildly inefficient fuel and time wise, not to mention expensive. The point is that this person and DHL were thinking out the box of little when they came up with this idea.
Another project that I think would be interesting is to take hundreds of Ambient Devices’ Ambient Orbs configuring them to pull weather data in for the continental US and then arranging the orbs in the shape of the US and watch as the weather changes by seeing the orb’s colors change. Mesmerizing to watch, it could help people visualize weather in ways that go beyond just the traditional weather map.
Nintendo’s Wii remote game controller is another example of technology that people are tapping into for uses not originally planned by the manufacturer. And all of this is just the beginning.
What is happening with projects like these is that the captured data is becoming the art form by being visualized in new ways that could not have been done a few years ago. The visualizations transform the imagery from being raw data into something more qualitative in scope. The ability to visualize more and more types of data in artistic ways is being helped along by effort such as Processing, which is a programming language designed for visual artists who would like to try and visualize information in creative ways. It is a programming language designed to be fairly easy for non-programmers to pick up. Develop at MIT, it is starting to become a little more widespread. A panel at this year’s SXSW Interactive here in Austin talked specifically about Processing and also the Wii remote and how it can be used beyond entertainment for e-learning.
I think these areas of technology are interesting because they open up new doors of expression that were not possible before and move the technology beyond what the original creators perhaps envisioned. Hey, I have an iPhone and could put it on a roller-coaster and then using the accelerometers in it could create… something, just not sure exactly what.
Keene Haywood (University of Texas@Austin – DIIA)
May 22nd, 2008
One of my first posts talked about why I would choose an iPhone over the iPod Touch despite the need the have an AT&T contract. Cellular connectivity is my main argument for the iPhone. With the new, faster 3G iPhone arrival imminent, this only bolsters the iPhone as the tool of choice for a constantly connected communication and information device (assuming you have access to 3G networks). But there is one other thing that I failed to mention in the earlier post. This is the fact that the iPhone has a camera. Granted, its not a very good camera, but a camera nonetheless. Its terrible in low light, you have to be very steady to get a sharp image, no zoom, no flash, etc etc. Its about as bare bones as one can get and its only a 2 megapixel image. But the Touch does not have a camera at all… As meager as the iPhone camera is, there are still a few tricks you can do with it. With the SDK out it looks like Apple will be adding a geotagging feature to the camera. Speculation is that the new phone will have true GPS capabilities giving users a much more accurate fix than the current cell and wifi triangulation it currently uses, thus making accurate geotagging possible. Geotagging is a big deal these days and it would be great to have it on the iPhone. This would open up some new possibilities for the device, especially for field based education and research. The rivals out there such as Nokia and Garmin’s Nuviphone (which is still vaporware but should appear later this year) offer full fledged GPS chips in their phones. So once again, I think an iPhone wins head to head against the iPod Touch despite the Touch having larger storage capacity. Now if someone can just come up with a battery that lasts longer than the lifespan of gastrotrich (which is three days btw) to power the gps, the wifi, the bluetooth, etc…
Keene Haywood (The University of Texas@Austin – DIIA)
May 9th, 2008
With all the talk of virtual worlds, and Second Life in particular, its easy to forget that there is a real world out there that also beckons attention beyond our monitors. Actually, it would be nice to marry both the virtual and real worlds together, because then you can really get some interesting things happening. This has not been lost (forgive the geo-pun) on the founders of Geocaching.com who have recently released a software platform called WheriGo (pronounced Where-i-Go) that enables one to overlay virtual world data onto the real world using gps technology as the bridge between the two. Currently, the software works on handheld PocketPCs running Windows CE (it will need a GPS receiver installed or attached) and on Garmin’s new Colorado line of GPS receivers. The software is built with Microsoft ASP.net framework, but the developers will be porting it over to a web based platform (I assume Java) in the very near future. Check out WheriGo and see for yourself what its all about. Its a new game in town and it just might stir things up a bit. For educators who want to mix things up with some field trip experience might do well to check out WheriGo and see how this new platform works with their teaching and research.
From WheriGo’s glossary comes the actual definition of the platform: a toolset for creating location-based games and other real-world experiences using a combination of GPS-enabled handheld devices and the Internet. The Wherigo family includes two main applications, the Wherigo Builder and the Wherigo Player. I think this will be very cool. The About page has some nice suggestions related to educational uses (at the bottom).