A VerySpatial Podcast
Shownotes – Episode 326
October 16, 2011
Main Topic: GIS and gaming revisited
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As you know, many of our discussions here on VerySpatial have touched on the increasing convergence between geography, geospatial technologies, and games and gaming technology. So you can imagine my excitement when I saw the announcement and trailer for National Geographic Challenge, a new console game that will be available for all 3 of the big gaming platforms – PlayStation 3, XBOX 360, and Wii. It will be released on October 25th, and is available for pre-order now. It’ll cost you $29.99 for the PS3 or XBOX 360 version, and $19.99 for the Wii. (The National Geographic Challenge webpage shows a PC version, but I couldn’t confirm that on any of the retail sites I checked.)
It’s a single or multi-player quiz/challenge game that asks players to explore and answer questions about the world, and will draw on National Geographic’s great multimedia resources. I know I’m going to be grabbing a copy for the VerySpatial crew, and we’ll let you know what we think!
Here’s the official trailer if you want to see a glimpse of the game in action:
OK, I’ll admit it, one of my favorite things about visiting relatives and friends in the Washington DC area is getting to ride the Metro. I’m sure for those who have to commute on its trains every day, the feelings are more mixed, but I always find it the best way to get around.
One of the most memorable images for the Metro is of course its iconic map, designed by graphic designer Lance Wyman back in the 1970s (Wyman is also involved in designing the update). Now that a new line is under construction and scheduled to open in 2013, meaning realignments to parts of the existing lines, the time has come for the Metro Map to get an update to help riders navigate these changes. Metro officials are already drafting maps, but they are also looking for input from the Metro’s ridership to help them design a new updated map that gives riders the information they need. It’s the dilemma faced by every cartographer really, how to balance design with function in representing information spatially.
If you’d like to give your input on how best to update the DC Metro Map, you can take their Metrorail Map Survey.
In the mad scramble to finish editing my PhD dissertation and graduate, I haven’t been following the latest and greatest tech in the geospatial realm as much as I should be, but I am definitely intrigued by the launch of Layar Vision. It’s an extension to the mobile augmented reality Layar platform that allows a smartphone with a Layar Vision app to recognize real-world objects and then trigger digital content based on that object. Developers can build applications that leverage this functionality for all kinds of uses, such as a user in a retail store who wants content on a potential purchase.
What is really interesting to me about Layar Vision, which has also been highlighted in a number of writeups about the launch, is that by giving the smartphone the capability to recognize real-world objects no matter where they are located, you can get around one of the big challenges in implementing AR. By putting the focus on objects rather than locations, you don’t have to create a database of geotagged objects with specific locations. If a user wants augmented content for a new video game, they can scan the game at any place and still get the content. By the same token, if you want the specials at a particular restaurant, you can just scan the menu, no matter where you are sitting in the restaurant. If a developer wants to combine that augmented content with location-specific info, they can link the Layar Vision functionality to other location-based data sets and functions.
Of course, Layar Vision as well as the Layar platform are really developer tools, and the goal is to get consumer applications out there that are built on the platform. To try to get developers working with Layar Vision, Layar is sponsoring the Layar Creation Challenge, which is offering cash prizes to developers who come up with the most useful and innovative concepts for Layar Vision centered around the publishing industry, which is an area where the Layar folks think the technology will really be effective.
What do you think? Is augmented reality finally going to hit the mainstream?
Augmented reality is one of those technologies that has seemed like it would be next big thing for the last couple of years, but it has proven pretty difficult to translate from WOW factor proof-of-concept prototypes to actual commercial implementations. When I saw this demo video of Sony’s Smart AR, though, I have to say I was pretty impressed with how good the AR model looks in the real-world environment it’s being projected into, and how responsive it is. The SmartAR seems to be able to handle movement in the 3D space really well, and the virtual object is not tied to the marker surface, which is really important in making the augmented reality compelling. Another aspect of SmartAR technology allows a user to capture an image of an object and then access additional information about that object through the device. For Sony, of course, implementing technology like Smart AR for gaming and other commercial uses is certainly a main focus, but I can see tons of other applications for markerless, high-speed augmented reality.