The spatial sound of the NY Subway

Treehugger has a an article that demonstrates the nexus of spatial technology, visualization, art, and travel. It was an interactive art piece crated by artist Alexander Chen turning the New York City’s MTA subway schedule virtual string instrument. In a more literal interpretation of virtual music, Wesleyan University hosts the World’s Virtual Music Museum which is a map of the origin of instruments in their collection, which is one of the largest in the world.

3D Street-style Mapping with Kinect

Almost daily, I see a new cool and amazing hack that someone has accomplished with Microsoft’s Kinect that tops the last one. I’m hoping to try my hand at some much more modest attempts this summer related to my immersive simulation project, but I couldn’t come close to what Martin Szarski has done: 3D street mapping with a Kinect, his Google Nexus One phone for GPS, and his trusty car. If you haven’t seen this yet, the results are pretty awesome. The Kinect captures images for real-world objects as he drives along the street, and his phone GPS allows him to tie the image data to real-world coordinates. Up till now, you had to have some pretty expensive equipment to pull this off, and he demonstrates that you can do it with fairly inexpensive hardware and some great coding ability, of course. Martin already has some plans on how to improve on his first setup which began as an indoor experiment, and you can read his explanation of how he did it over on his blog.

Via TechTree

Getting rid of all Left Turns

Some transportation engineers at NS State University have published a new study that shows left turns aren’t needed.  We can create what are called “superstreets” that allow only right hand turns.  This improves both travel times and safety, not to mention fuel economy.  This isn’t exactly a new idea.  Michigan already has this type of system (hence the “Michigan left” nickname) and it seems to invoke a love/hate relationship with drivers.  UPS implemented a virtual system of no left turns years ago to save fuel and increase safety.  There are a couple of things left out of the news reports on this, however.  A system like this would take more land for roads, not less.  Also, crossing 2-3 lanes of traffic to get to the U-turn can be problematic, I’d imagine, especially in rush hour.  I’d also imagine the British would suggest this problem can be fixed with a good old ’round about’, although they’ve not really caught on in the US.

What do you guys think?  Should left turns be a thing of the past we tell our grandkids about, like Atari and TV tubes, or do left turns make the most sense if you’re going left?

US Census 2010 data and redistricting

In about a month, the US Census Bureau will be releasing the 2010 Census data to states so that they can begin the process of redistricting for the House of Representatives, as well as state legislatures that use those boundaries for election districts. This process happens every ten years, and is a vital part of the process of governing here in the US. Redistricting is also an incredibly controversial political process, as political parties and other groups at all levels of government have a keen interest in how groups of voters are aggregated into districts. In the past, redistricting has often led to conflicts and lawsuits, as those with the power to make the redistricting maps can translate that power into electoral victories. Many people are at least familiar with the notion of gerrymandering, which is a term that dates back to the early 19th century, and refers to the deliberate drawing of electoral boundaries to try to increase a candidate’s or party’s chances of winning an election. There is even a new documentary film coming out called Gerrymandering, which is an in-depth look at mapping electoral districts and its impact on recent elections.

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Forensic modeling: then, now and on TV

While searching to find out how closely Bones TV show 3D rendering is to real life forensics, I ran across the history of Frances Glessner Lee and The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death models which are housed at the Maryland Medical Examiner‘s Office in Baltimore, MD. From the amount of documentaries, stories, articles, and books, as well as the number of fields she touched (medicine,law, law enforcement, education…)I couldn’t believe I had never heard of her before.

Frances Glessner Lee, an International Harvester Co. heiress in the 1940’s is often called the “mother of modern forensic science” because of her dedication and support of legal medical studies and her construction of miniatures to teach inexperiences law enforcement about crime scenes. A 1949 Coronet article from explains her contributions at a time when her techniques were the height of forensic technology. Frances Lee still contributes to modern forensics modeling through the Harvard Associates in Police Science, Inc. which she founded in 1945.

And back to Bones and modern day modeling… I found lots of exciting and surprisingly reasonably priced geospatial tools for forensics like PhotoModeler photogrammetry software that replaces time consuming surveyor measurements. Modern technologies aren’t the magic geospatial modeling bullet viewers expect from TV but I think Frances Lee would approve.