It’s HERE! It’s Finally HERE!

Just in time for my switch to the iOS platform. ESRI has finally released ArcGIS for Android! If you’re on the Android platform, head over to the Android Marketplace and you can download this free app. If you’re familiar with the iOS or the Windows 7 Phone version, you should know what to expect – mobile mapping, location based information, data collection ability, the ability to link to your own Arc Server installation, etc. All great stuff and it’s wonderful to see it finally here! Guess what I’ll be playing with this morning?

Search For Life on Mars

Ok, not Mars. Not just yet, at least. Researchers have created really cool science project called MAPPER. The idea is to leverage citizen scientists to comb through data and find signs of life on far away planets. For now, they have tapped into a couple of DeepWorker bots currently exploring the depths of two lakes in Canada. It’s more or less a groundwork (or more like underwater groundwork, I guess) project to lay down the foundations for a system that could be used on other planets. The system uses a cool web interface that should be immediately recognizable to anyone who plays games. Taking a clue from modern gaming, the scientists have built in social media and achievements. Let’s be honest – who DOESN’T want to unlock the ‘Found Life On Other Planet’ achievement?

Via Gizmodo

National Geographic Challenge for PS3, XBOX360, and Wii

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:

A Post of Extremes in Mapping

Artist Yataka Sone has created what may be the heaviest map ever – a marble carving of Manhattan, called ‘Little Manhattan’. The 3D model map of the Big Apple was carved out of a block of white marble that weighs over 2 ½ tons. The artist used photographs, helicopter rides, and Google Earth to make the model.(Visual News)

If that’s a bit much for you to carry around, then a company called Fluid Forms will make a nice silver pendant of any location you desire (not just Manhattan). The company takes a satellite image of the place you desire to see in a pendant then individually crafts the jewelry for you. You’ll get a copy of the source image with your jewelry so you can compare. They’re not cheap (especially for silver jewelry), but they’re way cool and much easier to cart around than a 2 ½ ton block of marble.(Gizmodo)

Transportation… OF THE FUTURE!

If you’ve ever heard me chatting with Elvin of the ArcPad team, you’ll know that I can wax poetic about cars almost more easily than I can about GIS. I think an awful lot about transportation (mostly old cars, but still…) It always fascinates me to think how well all get around in the future. How we move about our urban and suburban spaces has a large impact on our cultural and social development, so keeping tabs on this sort of thing could be important. Luckily people who actually have the power to make things happen share this same fascination.

Two European car companies have recently tossed their hat into the ring for personal transportation of the future. Last week Volkswagen showed their NILS single seat electric car. Obviously it’s just a prototype, but I can get behind any moving vehicle that features gull wing doors. Neither the speed or range is anything to write home about, but it might be attractive to those with relatively short commutes. Volkswagen says it could actually go into production. Renault has launched a slightly sexier (at least to my eye) vehicle that has no doors at all! The Twizy will come in two different models, what I’m going to call the ‘slow’ model and the ‘SUPER slow’ one. Unlike the VW, this isn’t a prototype – it’s going on sale in Europe in the not too distant future. One interesting feature of the Twizy is you won’t own your batteries; you’ll rent them from Renault instead at the price of $68/month. At European gas prices, that’s probably a pretty good deal.

VW and Renault aren’t the only one’s exploring this market, as you’d imagine. Check out a slightly old but still interesting video from the British series Top Gear where they explore Toyota’s concept vehicle iReal. Of course if you really want a historical perspective, check out this other Top Gear video showing the smallest car……… in the world!

Architect or Grad Student?

With many popular sites picking up on Barbie’s new architectural design (the house) I finslly took a look at this year’s “I Can Be…” Barbie. You may recall that last year was the computer geek Barbie which was, quite honestly, awesome and can of course be called the GIS Barbie if you so choose. This year’s Architect Barbie offers Geographer’s the same opportunity to abscond with the credit. The main accouterments’s on Barbie are a tube for her blueprints and a hard hat. I say we ditch the hard hat, keep the map tube, and we have Geography grad student Barbie getting ready for this year’s poster session at the AAG in New York (I mean, come on, who other than a grad student is going to be crazy enough to wear those heels to a conference. Right?). Since the dress has a building theme I assume she is an urban geographer.

We should know by next February (if Mattel keep’s to their timeline) how we can abscond with next year’s “I Can Be…” Barbie.

Group Me and Group Texting

The Wall Street Journal has an article on GroupMe, an Android application that allows multiple users to text together at the same time as a group. According to the article, “The secret behind GroupMe is that it assigns one phone number to a group, so the most basic cellphones will be able to send text messages to this number, like it’s one person’s phone when it really represents several users. People can also call this single number to initiate a conference call.” While the article naturally focuses on the business benefits of the application, I was more interested in the geospatial and family benefits. Many times my family members from ages 10 – 90+ like to use conference calling to keep in touch as if we were at the kitchen table together. I can imagine using group texting in situations such as coordinating efforts at huge places like the ESRI User’s Conference or Disney World.

ESRI EDuc Plenary Session – ArcGIS Online Improvements

At the ESRI Education User Conference Plenary this morning a few things struck me as significant for GIS use in the classroom.  Bern Szukalski reviewed some of the revisions that occurred last Wednesday and these are what I thought could enhance the use of GIS in the classroom:

Intelligent Mapping – Essentially pop ups that display data in graphical formats about the feature selected ( fun stuff like pie, bar and line charts).

Time enabled mapping – The ability to connect to time aware services and bring them into the mapping environment and have a time slider available.

And what I feel is the most significant advance, “Drag & Drop Mapping” where a text or Excel file can be dragged directly into the mapping environment to add features and their associated data.  Remember creating an Excel sheet with Latitude and Longitude fields, displaying events, and then exporting that event as a layer?  Not anymore, just drag that excel file over the map and drop it!

While the emphasis of the plenary was to enable GIS education, the undertone was that of increasing the capabilities of web mapping and the continued integration of cloud services.  The Pennsylvania State University also announced today for the first time publicly that it will be offering an open course tentatively titled “GEOG 8xx – Cloud/Server GIS“.  Enrollment for this course will be open on November 7th 2011.