Lego, Australia, and Build with Chrome

There’s a good 124 (ish) reasons I love this site – Building with Chrome and Lego. The most important are because it’s Lego and a Map. The basic premise is you can grab a plot of land and ‘build’ your lego construct virtually on that plot of land. It can be a house or an abstract sculpture or pretty much anything you can envision in Lego (except those weird Lego Bonicle things my nephew lovs so much). It is also great to see Google really pushing the envelope of what’s possible with Chrome and HTML 5. More ‘food for thought’ is a great thing for near future HTML 5 work that anyone involved in web stuff is going to have to embrace. My only real problem with the site is that even though it is tied to space, it is a space most people won’t know. The constructs are unlikely to represent Australian in any meaningful way. But hey, you can’t have everything!

Now if Lego would just move the experiment a tad South East and render all their Lord of The Rings Lego, we could recreate the movies in Lego on the map. Maybe that’s just too much awesome for one app 🙂

The Most Popular Street Names in the US

Cars and geography go hand in hand if you ask me. After all, transportation is one of our fundamental layers in GIS, right? So Jalopnik’s post detailing the most popular street names in the US really struck my interest. I guess its no surprise that numbers are the most popular names, nor that trees are second. Personally, I wonder the popularity of tree names in areas compared to the trees they grow. Do more cities in, say, the pacific NW like ‘Pine Street’ than the middle states? I’d also bet there’s a lot of spatial clustering of names so that the numbers and trees tend to group together. Its pretty interesting that most polls show Abraham Lincoln as the most popular US President, yet George Washington gets all the street names.

Wonderland Transit Map and other fictional places

Thinkgeek has a “Wonderland Transit Map” t-shirt, although they do add the caveat that static maps would probably be useless in the amorphous Wonderland.  It got me searching for t-shirts for fictional places that would be equally as useless for navigation.

I found a t-shirt for Neil Gaiman‘s “Neverwhere” which is a story set in a London Underground that is always changing. Of course, Terry Pratchett‘s Discworld is another constantly changing world, where maps don’t help.  A t-shirt map of Garrison Keillor‘s Lake Wobegon, a town so small it doesn’t need a map.   I couldn’t find a t-shirt but Catan from the Settler’s of Catan would be another place that a static map would be useless.

Tweet4Trees part deux…Like4Trees

Three years ago we decided to try to entice folks to follow us on twitter, and we used people’s love for trees to dupe convince them to follow us as we gave $$ to charity. Fast forward to the summer of 2012 when I decided to set up a new VerySpatial Facebook page (in addition to the already existing VerySpatial Friends group). I did this to allow for direct links to the podcasts from the FB page and to add one more place for me to visit at least occasionally. The downside is that with only a handful of page likes I feel that the FB page needs more attention (look at us, look at us).

I have decided (and I forced others to agree with me) that we will once again pull on folks heartstrings and their love trees, this time in exchange for Facebook Likes. I have dubbed this venture (sadly enough) Like4Trees*.

SO…for each person that Likes the new VerySpatial Facebook Page by Tuesday, 24 July (around our 7th Anniversary podcast) we will donate $1 to a tree related charity (no points for joining the Group, but why not make it a two-fer). Of course we are on a budget so we have a limit of $250, though hopefully that will not limit the number of followers.+

Last time, for Tweet4Trees, we made our donation to American Forests though we have not finalized who we will be giving to this time around so share your favorite environmental charities in the comments or on the Facebook page or in a tweet (@veryspatial) or in an email or in a boat or in a candygram (cupcakegram? Is that a thing? That should SO be a thing!!!)

If anyone is interested in matching our donations or making their own, let me know and we will give you special recognition on the podcast and blog.

We will provide the results of the Like4Trees drive during our show at the Esri UC in San Diego which will go up as Episode 367 on July 29, and of course on the blog.

*no imagination muscles were strained in the creation of this moniker
+if more than 250 folks like us and we have $$ left in the budget at the end of the year we will give more, though if previous years are an indication this isn’t likely

Insights Conference 2012

This year’s Insights Conference has come and gone this week. There seems to be little in the way of large announcements coming out of the event but I will point you to a few places you can catch on what happened down in the Big Easy.

  • The twitter hashtag was @InsightsCon
  • A list of the 2012 Meridian Award winners
  • Directions Mag has a summary of the changes in MapInfo 11.5 that you can look forward to.
  • And I have my fingers crossed that we might see some videos from the conference on the Pitney Bowes youtube channel.
  • Sim City 5 – Virtual cities like you’ve never seen them before

    When I saw the E3 trailer for the next installment of Sim City, due in February 2013, my first thought was – this would be great for an Urban Geography class….or a class on sustainable development…..or a class on government….or a, well you get the picture. Just the short preview that Sim City’s developer released shows a revamped engine for Sim City 5 with nice graphics, physics systems that bump up the realism, and simulation models that really let you see the consequences of your choices in building and managing your virtual cities. For anybody out there who still doesn’t think that the gaming industry has anything to contribute to education or exploring and solving real-world problems, watch this trailer:

    Watch Dogs – Hacking the virtual city

    Every year, the gaming industry teases us with the latest and greatest in new games and technology at shows around the world. One of the biggest shows, E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) recently gave us a couple of previews that really wowed. The first, Watch Dogs, is by major game studio Ubisoft, and explores the implications of controlling all aspects of city functions, sensor networks, and even monitoring the inhabitants’ personal technology footprint through a single operating system, a “City OS”, and what would happen if someone had the skills to hack that system. The short preview of the game from E3 showcases stunning graphics and real-time movement, and shows that not only can the gaming world be a great source of inspiration and technology for geospatial applications of 3D and real-time modeling, but the stories played out in games can also explore the questions that arise from implementing this technology. Take a look at the preview here:

    Several Scales of the Universe

    You have probably seen this everywhere by now. Cary Huang and his brother Michael Huang have an updated Scales of the Universe 2 which puts the scales of a surprising many entities from countries to geographies to planets, people, and protoplasm into perspective. I also enjoyed the many variations of their scales, such as the original Scales of the Universe with the ability to swirl objects or make them fall. It is like being on a roller coaster of scale. On their website, htwins.net, they have other interactive simulations like a Tidepool. According to ABC News, Cary and his brother Michael are brothers who created this projects as a fun activity. It took them a year and a half to collect all of their data and put together the graphics. They were inspired by their biology class teacher to do citizen science.

    One of the reasons I enjoy going to the ESRI plenary is the chance to see the great ideas and projects that young geographers pursue after being inspired by people around them. Many organizations have mentoring programs such as ESRI’s GeoMentor Program and the Annual Association of Geographer’s (AAG) Ask a Geographer and other mentoring programs.  When I first used the Scales of the Universe 2, I expected the creators to be college students or adults. The fact that they are young adults, who were inspired to do it by an educator, and then have it go viral, in turn educating many, many other people around the world who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in geography, science, or technology makes it bigger than the interactive simulation itself. It highlights the impact of readily available technology, the importance of mentors, and the one of the roles of citizen scientists in science diplomacy. The Huangs and other young people act as ambassadors for the fields that their projects touch on to the larger world.

    I hope that they think about attending the many geography programs for young adults that are available and one day see them up on the ESRI plenary talking about their next big project.