A touchable interface

Always amazed by the great flickr images...
A year ago, the weekend after Where 2.0, we headed up to San Francisco to hang out with friends, to check out WonderCon, and for me to wait in line for the awesomeness that was the original iPad launch at the flagship Apple store. After getting up early and wandering a few blocks I stood in line with my fellow geeks to spend the $500 bucks on the shiny box, I went back to the hotel and synced the shiny new toy with my laptop. I didn’t spend a lot of time with it that first day since I was in San Francisco and there were things to do and places to go, but right away I had the sense that the new toy was in fact magical and revolutionary as advertised. The next day on the flight home I jumped in and got an idea of what the apps that had already been updated could do, along with doubling up some iPhone apps. It was exactly what I wanted, a really big iPhone. I had started with an iPod Touch and had decided I would need to have the connectivity of the iPhone. Once I had the iPhone I decided that while it was a go anywhere device I wanted a bigger screen for many uses.
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World’s First GLONASS Smartphone

In a world where GPS enabled smartphones are as passe as intermittent wipers on cars and coffee makers with clocks in them, it’s neat to read some exciting new location based technology news. It’s inevitable that phones would begin to launch with alternative location infrastructures than GPS, but I have to say I’m slightly shocked it was this early. Obviously the phone is only available in Russia for now, but there’s nothing inherent to say US phones couldn’t start supporting the system in the future, although that’s highly unlikely anytime soon. What will be interesting is when Europe gets their Galileo system up and running and China gets their Compass system as well. I wouldn’t be shocked to see tri-band phones that support more than just GPS coming in our future.

Welcome Home, Discovery, and Thanks for the Memories…

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.

Shuttle Discovery set for its final launch today

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!

Project Galileo

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.

One of my favorite pre-SuperBowl commercials

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.

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

More holiday treats for the geographer in your life

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!