I need an app for that

Today at lunch we were kicking around some ideas on connecting various content with other content or to a location in a user friendly way and I couldn’t get past the thought of a touch interface. The problem is that we are still tied predominantly to a few things in the tech arena that makes this a limiting factor for deployment. Some of the main issues are interface, hardware, and SDK/API.

Interface is fairly obvious since touch apps are fairly new on the scene, especially well designed interfaces. Apple iPhone OS has the ball rolling well on the mobile side with Android looking to catch up, but Windows 7 is the only route to go right now for a broad audience app for laptops or desktops, though there are some Linux options if you aren’t worried about wide distro. Either way, the Win7 and Linux interfaces aren’t necessarily the most robust at this point since developers are just beginning to take advantage of what is available in the OS. On the upside it means we don’t have to wait for devs to roll out a driver and app compatibility for their device since they can probably use OS native libraries, but now we have to wait for software manufacturers to roll compatibility into their software for more than mouse input.

On the hardware side, especially the desktop (aka large[r] screens), there is still a long time to wait for device manufacturers to add a touch screen across their product lines. Cell phones are there, the upcoming tablets look promising, but if you want more than 2 people to look at your screen at once you have to jump-up to research $$ to afford a device or expect folks to Make a multiuser, larger display themselves. We have really liked some of the interfaces like the MS Surface, Diamond Touch, or TouchTable we have seen at various conferences, but they have the same limitations as something like a VR Cave or other stereo viewing device…they are meant to stay in one place so that people have to come to them.

Looping back around to developers and native OS libraries…YAY! It is phenomenal that we have access to hardware and SDKs that allow us to create whatever touch apps our imaginations can think up. There are limitations in the software SDKs available in GIS applications. Just as above, we are limited to the input methods that applications and OSes allow. We have applications from Autodesk that support Windows 7 multitouch (Mudbox for example) and ESRI is demoing an iPhone app, but will we be able to build apps with these libraries or will we have to recreate the functionality of these types of apps? It is a question that we will soon see the answers to as more users acquire touch capable hardware which will encourage developers to create for them in ever more interesting ways.

Best US Government Blogs

Ran across this interesting post: the best government blogs and why they’re the best.  With the exception of NASA, none of these have a direct geospatial tie.  In fact, all but one of them are CIO’s of their respective organizations.  It sorta makes sense it would start there, but I’d like to challenge anybody in local, state, or federal government who has any stake in geospatial information to start blogging.  The points on what makes each of these blogs work are excellent starting points to use in your own blog.  I’d love to see more geospatial government blogs out there!

MapAction heads to Haiti to help with quake relief

After yesterday’s devastating 7.0 earthquake in Haiti, aid groups and governments from around the world are mobilizing to help out with relief efforts. As Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters have shown, mapping and geospatial technologies can be crucial tools in helping aid workers assess the situation and navigate an unfamiliar and changed landscape, identify and map damage and areas where people are in most need, and many other uses. One of the first geospatial organizations to send a team to Haiti is MapAction, a volunteer group out of the UK with extensive experience in mapping efforts for natural disasters from flooding in Albania and El Salvador to the Sumatra earthquakes back in September. As aid efforts gear up, I’m sure other groups and experts will be called on as well.

Every little bit helps in a disaster like this, so if you can spare anything, many organizations, including MapAction, accept donations to help fund their efforts, and could use every penny right now.

Twenty-two maps that will change how you see the world

On my twitter feed this morning, @geoparadigm tweeted this great link on tree hugger about Twenty-Two Maps That Will Change How You See The World.  The maps are pretty impressive, although I’m not sure it will change how many of us in the geospatial community sees the world.  Being tree hugger and all, most of them are environmental in nature.  However the thing that most interested me was that the vast majority of the entries are actually interactive maps, not static maps.  If you ask me, the fact that these world view changing maps are primarily interactive shows a whole new world in and of itself.  Perhaps the greatest change is the need to move from the static to the dynamic in our maps themselves.

Google’s Project 10 to the 100 – Vote for your favorite idea!

You may remember Google’s Project 10 to the 100, which invited everyone around the world to submit ideas that “to change the world by helping as many people as possible.” Over 150,000 ideas were submitted by the deadline in October 2008, and between September 24th and October 8th, 2009 (that’s right, voting is open right now), everyone is invited to head to the Project 10 to the 100th website and vote for the finalists that you think are the best. Google is committing $10 million for the winning idea(s) to help implement them, and many of the finalists are certainly projects where geography and geospatial technologies are probably going to be a part of making them happen. After the winning ideas are chosen, Google will be putting out RFPs or other means of soliciting organizations for the implementation phase.

So, head on over to the finalists page, and cast your vote by October 8th!

WorldGuy Erik Bendl – pushing the World for Diabetes Awareness

zajI saw the iReport on CNN today about Erik Bendl, AKA ‘World Guy’, who has taken one of his favorite pastimes, pushing his giant inflated Earth Ball around the neighborhood for exercise and fun, and is using it raise awareness and money for charity. Currently, he has undertaken a cross-country trek, pushing his Earth Ball, for diabetes awareness. You can follow Erik’s progress at his WorldGuy website or on the WorldGuy Walk for Diabetes Facebook Causes page.

Good luck, WorldGuy!

YouTube and Library of Congress team up to put early movies online

Although not strictly geography-related, I really wanted to post about the US Library of Congress utilizing YouTube to make digital versions of some of the earliest motion pictures ever recorded available online. The LOC’s collections are amazing historical treasures, and cover a wide variety of topics. You can find out more about the Library of Congress’s holdings at their website. Although many of the videos are also available directly on the LOC website, the YouTube partnership is great because it makes these motion pictures easily searchable by the huge YouTube user base.

I spent a few minutes checking out the LOC’s YouTube channel, and picked out one example, Native American members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show performing the Sioux Ghost Dance in 1894:

Our local area gets a little national attention

MSNBC has a short news special about our town, Morgantown, WV, as a bright spot in the generally glum economic picture here in the US. The video shows a couple of highlights of the local economy and geography, and while we do still have plenty of local issues to deal with, it was nice to see Morgantown get a little national attention.