We’ve had more space posts than usual in the last week or so, but I wanted to give a shoutout to the Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew, for the safe landing and the successful completion of its final mission. I’m one of over 80,000 viewers watching the post-landing video stream on NASA TV over at uStream, and I think that the approaching end of the shuttle program has really reminded everyone of its amazing achievements over the past 30 years.
If any of my students have found the blog this semester…they now know how I am going to start class on Friday.
It’s the beginning of the end of an era for NASA’s shuttle program, as Discovery is set for its final launch at 4:50pm EST today, with Endeavor’s final mission currently scheduled for April, and Atlantis’ possibly the summer. I have always been a huge fan of the shuttle program, and can remember when I got special permission to get out of class and go to the school library to watch the very first shuttle, Columbia, launch on its maiden voyage.
The shuttle program accomplished so many milestones, and there have been reports that the shuttle fleet may be sold for private use after their missions for NASA and the US government are complete. Other private initiatives for space flight are pretty exciting as well, so hopefully we will see more amazing innovations in the next few years.
To commemorate Discovery’s last mission and the shuttle program, CNN put together this great compilation of 132 seconds of shuttle launches – enjoy!
Since I seem to be highlighting software that I am interested in getting time to work with lately, I thought I would return to Project Galileo, a great project that is currently going on over at Autodesk Labs. Building on many Autodesk desktop technologies (such as LandXplorer) and labs projects, Project Galileo is:
an easy-to-use planning tool for creating 3D city models from civil, geospatial and building data, and 3D models. Galileo also enables users to sketch conceptual infrastructure ideas within the 3D city model.
Only so much can be said about a technology, so instead of fumbling over a description I will point you to Autodesk Labs where Project Galileo will be available for your hands-on experience through mid-August, 2011. And of course there are always the videos that software manufacturers are providing to tempt us with their (soft)wares. This particular video looks at Project Galileo’s potential in GeoDesign.
I know this has already made its blog rounds, but after using it as a PSA in class this week I just wanted to share it again.
Just remember, while your in car navigation system is a wonderful thing…it doesn’t actually think, just a lot of math.
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.
I know I have been scarce on the blog recently while I try to balance the whole new professor thing with all the other fun stuff in my life, but I had to add my picks for your holiday shopping this year.
My first pick is a great resource that I have already used to get some cool gifts this year – Zazzle’s Library of Congress collection. This is an amazing collaboration between the Library of Congress, who have made parts of their digital collections of historical photographs, maps, and other documents available, and Zazzle, which is an online retail site that lets you custom-design your own t-shirts, mugs, posters, ties, sneakers and tons of other products using images available on the site or your own. For my own gifts, I created posters from Civil War photographs that I’ve previously only seen in books, and they turned out beautifully. There are also tons of maps that are crying out to be made into posters, iPhone and iPad case, aprons, mugs, you name it. If you’d like to make your own stuff, you can upload any kind of image and customize it on Zazzle’s products. It’s pretty inexpensive, too, so check it out!
My second pick is a cool product that I found out about from a recent Facebook post by James Fee, so thanks to James! It’s Pistil SF’s Map Styles map blankets, cool fleece blankets with prints of city maps using OSM data, in collaboration with CloudMade and Stamen Design. The two styles, Midnight Commander and Candymaps are both cool, but I definitely prefer the dark blue look of Midnight Commander. You can get them customized to any address, and you just specify what you need during the order process. They’ll even send you a jpeg of your chosen location for final approval. The only possible negative to these beautiful blankets is their price, which is a hefty $175 for a 62×50 lightweight fleece blanket. They’re amazing, though, so if price is no issue for you, definitely snap one up!
My third recommendation is to check out cool map and geography-themed gifts from a number of online retailers. For example, Uncommon Goods has about 30 map-themed products that are reasonably priced, including a scratch-off map that shows where you’ve visited, a necklace of the world’s continents and other map jewelry, and city and country themed pillows. Cafepress, which is like Zazzle and offers personalized products like t-shirts, hats, mugs and other goodies, also has lots of fun geography-themed merchandise. My favorites – the Eat, Sleep, Geography t-shirt and I have to throw in our very own Got Map? wall clock
There are also great geography themed gifts out there in cool little shops, so venture out beyond the interwebs and the malls, and who knows what you’ll find!
It is that time of year again, Black Friday is behind us and Cyber Monday is here and everyone is thinking of the holidays to come that get us in the giving mood. To honor this time of year, and to talk about some cool stuff, we will spend this week talking about some of the geotoys we like and may even have. I, clearly, am starting things off with my Jacob Marley impersonation and Barb, Frank and Sue will each take a turn through the week. I am going to harken back to our first holiday gift guide episode of VerySpatialTV and break my selections into three tiers: Stocking stuffer, in a box, and in a big box.
Affordable is good in the current monetary reality, whether because of general economic conditions or trying to dig your way out of grad school debt, so I have a few choices in this category. The first geotoy is the Hugg-A-Planet series that started out with the great plush globe and has extended to include other celestial bodies (Mars, Moon, etc), a plush map of the US, and other great options. For that person in your life that needs a map on the wall, desk, cufflinks…you get the idea, you may want to look at some of the handmade options at etsy. These great gift options are dangerous though because while you start looking for others you will invariably end up with more in your cart for yourself than for others.
In a box
The last couple of years have seen the rise of the in-car nav system, the question of whether they would be replaced by smart phones, and resounding answer of ‘no’. It is clear that, for the majority of folks, a simple interface that lives in their vehicle is the better option. It used to be that when you gave a GPS you were giving a gift that had to be paid for again by the recipient when the maps grew out of date, luckily those days are drawing to a close. TomTom, Garmin, and other manufacturers are now offering units that come with lifetime map updates and traffic updates, just make sure to look for product names that include M or T for maps or traffic.
The big box
This is more of a ‘for us all’ holiday wish. While the Landsat Data Continuity Mission is ongoing with the satellite launching in late 2012 or so, let’s start the discussion of Landsat 9 right now. It would be great (in my opinion) to see the program achieve redundancy so that we wouldn’t be faced daily with concerns of an aged constellation and issues with sensors. If we start the discussion and planning now, by the time it gets to the engineering phase the economy will probably have righted itself.
So those are my thoughts on some of the toys out there that might make the location aware person on your gift list happy. What are you giving this holiday season?
I want one! It’s a multi-touch spherical display that you can make for around $1,000. Oddly enough for such a high tech device, it’s got a bit of a steampunk vibe to it. The first example they use is the obvious Google Earth example, but they do show using it in other contexts. I’m not convinced the photo viewer or music making device really needs a globe surface. If you’re interested in making your own, the directions for building one can be found here. WARNING: The directions aren’t exactly the simplest to follow and I’d imagine there’s a lot of winging it involved.