First Bird’s Eye imagery, now Fish-Eye views

Japanese company ALPSLAB has come up with a new function for zooming in to an area on its online mapping interface – a “Fish-Eye” view that acts like a magnifying glass being held over a particular area on the map without having to zoom the whole way. I tried it out (after taking several minutes to figure out how to engage it, since the site is in Japanese), and it’s a handy little way to get a closeup view without having to zoom the whole map. It does make it easier when you can see one area in closeup and still see the surrounding area at a coarser resolution.

Fish-Eye view from ALPSLAB

Via techradar

Maps As Art and Fashion

These cool artworks by a French artist living in London, Elisabeth Lecourt, show that not only can maps tell us where we are and help us find our way, they can also be a fashion statement. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find them anytime soon at your nearest Gap store, but they definitely give a whole new meaning to the idea of functional fashion….

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Digital Storytelling – Places

Digital StorytellingOver on iTunesU there continue to be additions that are of interest to spatial folk like ourselves. The next one on my list to check out combines two areas that I am interested in, location and digital narratives. The Digital Storytelling series is out of the College of Education at the University of Houston and offers up focuses on ‘Historical Events’, ‘Cultures and Religions’, and of course, ‘Stories of Place’. So far Stories of Place only has 6 video entries, mostly from Texas, but it is interesting to see how different folks capture and present their stories of places.

KidsGIS – open source GIS tools for kids

KidsGIS is a cool project from a group of professionals and educators out in Oregon, who have been using MapGuide Open Source tools to create an open source geospatial portal as a tool for educating kids about environmental issues and about using open source software and open data standards. The project has an impressive group of sponsors, including the Open Source Geospatial Foundation, Autodesk, the San Diego Visualization and Supercomputer Centers, URISA, local governments and schools, and private companies such as Spatial Integrators and SPATIALinfo. They’ve been working on the project since 2005, I believe, and now have a protoype up and running, using data from a project where students collected their own data from a study area along the Willamette River and its tributaries. The plans are to improve and expand the functionality of the prototype GIS applications as they move into the next phases of the project.

I really like seeing project like this that really bring together a lot of partners in education, government and industry, and promote important initiatives, like better understanding of the environment. Plus, exposing kids to open source software and letting them participate in building the tools they are using is a great educational tool in itself. So, when you get a chance, check out the KidsGIS project and see what they’re up to, or even think about how you might be able to start a project like that in your own area!

Common Craft – simple explanations of techy stuff

I ran across this great site, Common Craft, which has a great collection of short videos that offer simple explanations of a lot of the technologies that we talk and hear about a lot, like RSS, Twitter, Wikis, etc. and even some non-techy stuff like zombies. The Common Craft people call their videos “paperworks” because of their cool, paper cutout style. Here’s the video Common Craft put together for Google Maps Mobile My Location:

Mobile Eye-Trek from Olympus – augmented reality for the masses?

The concept of augmented reality, utilizing technology such as mobile displays and portable devices that can superimpose data onto your view of the real world, has been around for awhile in various forms, but now the technology really is starting to catch up to the vision with the development of tools like Olympus’ Mobile Eye-Trek. It’s basically a set of glasses with a tiny LCD panel in the right eyepiece, which simulates a viewpoint approximately 50cm in front of the user. GPS tracks the users location and wireless functionality allows the device to send and receive data from a server which is hosting the local data. A prototype of the mobile Eye-Trek and an associated data service will be undergoing testing in early March using students from Chuo University in Japan

Olympus has been making Eye-Trek head mounted displays for a few years now for the consumer market, so it is possible that a version of this device and the necessary data services may actually make it onto the market, with 2012 as a target date.

Via UberGizmo

Web design and geospatial

An Event ApartApparently there is a “traveling” web design conference called An Event Apart that will be hitting New Orleans April 24-25 and then Boston, Chicago and others every month or so. Of course it caught my attention since it is going to be in New Orleans. I am not sure if the speakers or topics change by location, but it looks like a pretty interesting set of topics. While most of the geospatial web companies have a pretty good handle on the mix of tech, content and design, I think there is still plenty of room for design in may home brew or tech focused projects. I will be the first to say that most of my web map projects over the last 10 years have been fairly design void (though I thought they were great at the time I was creating them). There is definitely a different aesthetic sense used for cartography than for publication (web or hard copy) design that I have really begun to think about more as I sink back ever further into the cult of Mac. There are a few “good site” and “bad site” design websites out there that you can get ideas from, but I have to say that while it can be a pain in the butt, designing by committee will often produce a more tempered, accessible design than an individual’s personal vision.

Walking on Steep Terrain

Researchers have verified what you probably do naturally on a steep slope – walk zig-zag. According to MSNBC, researchers at University of Southampton UK, found that zigzagging is the fastest way up or down a steep slope. Appropriately the university has its own hillwalking club. Deputy Dog has a list of the steepest streets in the world. Canton Avenue in Pittsburgh topped the list. Does this remind anyone else of the fun marble run game where you race marbles?

Microsoft Announces “Community Arcade”

In more Microsoft news, they’ve announced a new “community arcade“. The idea is pretty simple – end users and budding game developers can now “launch” their titles on Xbox Live for end users to download. I think this has the potential for use as a teaching mechanism for science. Sue will be the first to tell you that the XNA development environment is fairly easy to get up and running, and it can be used to display/manipulate GIS stuff. Being able to deliver “fun” applications that can teach geospatial technologies and concepts directly to kids is a fairly attractive idea, I think.

It was only a matter of time…..

HelloKittyOnline
It seems that the cute, cuddly feline who loves all things pink (yes, I am talking about Hello Kitty) has finally gotten together with her friends to create their own MMORPG, HelloKittyOnline. And lest you think that this is not big news – the closed beta was announced on Wednesday (February 13th), and in a little under a day, there were over 30,000 subscribers who had signed up to the beta. So, if you to take a look at the cutting-edge of online virtual worlds, head over to the HelloKittyOnline website to take a look around or even sign up. But, be warned, the site has an obnoxiously catchy little theme song that will start to drive you crazy after about a minute…..and then it will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day.