GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine

Take the way back machine to the first GIS Day in Spring of 1999. ESRI ARC News Online announced GIS Day 1999 Slated for November!  According to the press release, ESRI told users to “Get ready to learn more about GIS and geography. The National Geographic Society, the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and Esri are announcing the first annual GIS Day to be held November 19, 1999–the Friday of Geography Awareness Week (November 14-20, 1999)”.  According to Jack Dangermond, “The idea behind GIS Day is to create a single, worldwide event that effectively communicates the benefits and significance of GIS to the rest of society. There are about half a million GIS users in the world, but most of the public is unaware of this growing technology.”  It is difficult to comprehend that in the span of a little more than short years since that inaugural GIS Day, the world has experienced what Penn State calls the geospatial revolution significantly impacting the number of GIS users worldwide. Continue reading “GIS DAY 15th Anniversary: Take the way back machine”

San Fran Bay Bridge: The most spatial bridge in the world

According to NPR, when the newly completed San Francisco Bay Bridge reopened, “There was little fanfare, but the gleaming white and newly built $6.4-billion eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge reopened to the public as vehicles began crossing it after more than a decade of construction delays”. This lack of fanfare is surprising because for the past several years the Bay Bridge has been an ubiquitously geo-spatially explored bridge construction project owing to its proximity to innovative government, company, and residents and its importance in their lives. It is also the World’s Largest Self-Anchored Suspension Bridge.

To list a few spatial projects from over the years:

EarthCam released a time-lapse video of six years of construction on the bridge.

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:

Trimble to acquire SketchUp and 3D Warehouse

I am floored! We talk all the time about the use of SketchUp in building out virtual worlds and have just taken for granted that it was tied in to Google’s draw for Earth and Maps. Apparently that was not such a given.

Trimble will be adding SketchUp and the 3D Warehouse to its growing pantheon of applications. There are of course short and long term questions from a users perspective regarding the availability of the free version, the licensing costs for the Pro version, the terms of use/copyright rights for 3D Warehouse content, and of course the direction of the software in the future. On the other hand, I am excited about the potential for a tool with the easy to use UI of SketchUp with a better/tighter coupling with GIS applications. Or, how about the ability to use data from existing Trimble hardware and software to streamline model generation.

The SketchUp acquisition is just the most recent in a line of notable acquisitions that include eCognition for Remote Sensing and PeopleNet for logistics, as well as others that link to SketchUp’s potential such as BIM and StruCAD.

These software trends have been on top of Trimble’s growing GNSS and a related hardware offerings.

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:

First Annual Sketch Up Halloween Challenge

Sketch Up has announced their first annual Halloween Challenge. You can pick three categories: 1:Jack 0’Lantern, 2: Haunted House, 3: Both together. You need to fill out a challenge submission form and upload your model to 3D Warehouse in publicly downloadable format. The SketchUp team will judge the entries on October 28th. Here is a link to Googlemeister’s Amazing Haunted House Walk Through Collection from last year in 3D Modeler.

If you need some inspiration, here is a link to the Haunted House (real and fictional locations), traditional Halloween, Halloweentown type locations, and popular Halloween episodes in TV Tropes.

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

Sony SmartAR – markerless augmented reality

Augmented reality is one of those technologies that has seemed like it would be next big thing for the last couple of years, but it has proven pretty difficult to translate from WOW factor proof-of-concept prototypes to actual commercial implementations. When I saw this demo video of Sony’s Smart AR, though, I have to say I was pretty impressed with how good the AR model looks in the real-world environment it’s being projected into, and how responsive it is. The SmartAR seems to be able to handle movement in the 3D space really well, and the virtual object is not tied to the marker surface, which is really important in making the augmented reality compelling. Another aspect of SmartAR technology allows a user to capture an image of an object and then access additional information about that object through the device. For Sony, of course, implementing technology like Smart AR for gaming and other commercial uses is certainly a main focus, but I can see tons of other applications for markerless, high-speed augmented reality.

Via Engadget

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.

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