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:

Minute Physics and Geography

I have this thing where, when I am stuck on a Cultural Geography idea or thought or, more commonly, writing a paper one of the best ways to kick my brain into gear again is to feed it a few pages of a popular Physics book (preferably something quantum’y or maybe a little chaos theory). For me, there are so many similarities between quantum physics and phenomenology that it just gets me be on track…maybe not on the same one, but, you know, Newton’s first and all that.

So as I was recouping from Maymester (1 semester/10 days) I found that not only had Ze Frank started a new show, but that there is a great illustrated video podcast called Minute Physics. It is a weekly show that walks you through a concept from physics in around a minute with a nice twist of humor (great for physics teachers I would guess). I am only up to the beginning of this year, so I still have plenty of episodes to watch, but they have sprinkled in a good deal of content about the world so far. The GPS episode is a good example from the geospatial side of things:

But there is even a few episodes for the physical geographer (so far my favorite is Hairy Ball Theorem which is more math than physics, but what are you going to do).

A little recognition for the GeoBee

If you have watched the GeoBee then you probably feel as though you need to spend more time with your globe and atlas. It was great to see President Obama ask one of the questions showing that someone at the White House gets the importance of Geography and its impact on the world.

Affordable Virtual Reality?

A big part of my research for about a decade now has been exploring the development of immersive virtual landscapes, and how evolving technologies continue to make impressive strides toward creating compelling and believable virtual worlds. One of the issues that has always been at the forefront is the cost of virtual reality hardware, whether it was early attempts at head-mounted displays or immersive rooms, such as CAVE environments. These technologies can give you amazing simulations, but most users can’t afford to buy the hardware, let alone have the space to set up multi-walled immersive environments. Now, virtual reality technology is increasingly moving toward a consumer experience, with 3D TV’s, smartphone VR and augmented reality apps, and interface devices like Microsoft’s Kinect and even Sony’s Playstation VITA with Augmented Reality (AR) capabilities.

Here’s a cool project that I had to share as well. Earlier this month, USC researchers participating in the Off-the-Shelf Virtual Reality Workshop, held in conjunction with IEEE Virtual Reality 2012 and organized by the Mixed Reality lab at USC, debuted FOV2GO, a portable fold-out smartphone viewer for iPhone and Android (sadly no Windows Phone love) that turns the screen into a 3-D virtual reality system. The viewer is made of cardboard and is easily assembled to look like an old-school ViewMaster, and you insert your smartphone into the FOV2GO and look through the eyepieces for a stereo 3D effect. To create your own 3D virtual environments to explore, there are downloadable software tools that are part of the project as well. I’d really like to use the FOV2GO in my class, so I’ll have to find out if they’ll be available in larger numbers.

This short YouTube video illustrates the FOV2GO in action:

Engaging Cities raffle can get you into the Where Conference

The folks over at Engaging Cities are offering up a free registration to this year’s Where Conference. The catch? They want to hear how you have used GIS or LBS to engage citizens. From their post:

Have you been involved with a project that utilized GIS or location-based services to engage citizens? We want to hear details about which app was used, and how the public was engaged using maps and technology. The more creative, the better.

Please share links to projects, research, news, a blog post – anything that documents your story.

All you have to do is share your activities as a comment on their post to be entered in their raffle. Get to commenting as the deadline is Friday, February 24th.

You know you have some great examples to share, so get out there and get involved and get a chance to attend a great conference.

Video games continue to build on spatial data

As I have said before, fan of geo and fan of games, so when they come together it is better than the sum of the parts. The (long awaited) next installment in the SSX series will bring together one of my favorite franchises with real world elevation models. This preview video released by the creators talks a little bit about how they are doing this. We will let you know more after we get our hands on the game when it comes out on February 28th.