Checking out Google Earth in the CAVE

Our GIS Day Open House at Brooks Hall on the WVU Campus gave the public a chance to come in and try out our CAVE installation. It was a hit, and we had lots of people come by, including students, faculty from other departments at the university, and several staff members from a local engineering firm. One of the most popular features for visitors was the CAVE’s Conduit for Google Earth, which allows us to display Google Earth in stereo in the immersive environment. We explored a couple of 3D cities and even the new Ancient Rome project that was recently added and looks really cool.

Here is one of the photos I snapped during the Open House (The offset double images you see on the CAVE walls are for the stereo effect)

Space Race Heats Up!

Although the space race hasn’t been a two horse race in a long time, India certainly jumped a head this week with this bit of news – India launches first moon mission! The Chandrayaan-1 was successfully launched yesterday on a survey course of the moon. The mission is unmaned with the goal of developing a 3D model of the lunar surface. In fact, the whole mission is to develop a 3D atlas of the moon to help look for mineral resources that can be potentially mined and used in fusion reactors back on Earth. There’s a video at the bottom of the link showing the launch, which is fun to watch.

The Virtual Forbidden City is now live!

You may remember our interview with John Tolva (back in Episode 51) who has worked on some amazing projects with IBM, and now has debuted The Forbidden City: Beyond Space and Time. This project is exactly the kind of things we are working on in our research, and I have been waiting to finally get a chance to see it live.

The virtual Forbidden City is an online virtual world that recreates China’s Forbidden City, the historical home of Chinese emperors in Beijing. It combines some really nice graphics in representing the physical landscape with historically appropriate avatars, such as imperial guards or civil servants. Users can choose their avatar and then begin exploring the Forbidden City. In addition to being able to interact with other users, there is also embedded historical information that help tell the story of the Forbidden City.

I’ve already signed up, but the virtual Forbidden City does have some hardware requirements that my sad old laptop can’t deal with, so I will be downloading the app as soon as we’re back in Morgantown and I will have a more detailed review as soon as I get a chance to really try it out.

Digital Cities Interview

We spoke to Doug Eberhard of Autodesk on episode 158 this week about the Digital Cities Initiative. While we had a few minutes to speak with Doug, Matt over at Vector1Media recently had a chance to talk to Doug for a more in depth take on the initiative. We here at VerySpatial think this is a great idea since it ties together many of the technologies that we are excited by. It is one three directions in geospatial that I want to see more of and play with more (the other two being LBS and neogeography). Be sure to head over to Vector1Media to get more information on this interesting and exciting direction in the geospatial world.

V1 Magazine – Interview: Autodesk Embarks on a Digital Cities Initiative

Virtual Policy ’08 – UK conference on Public Policy and Virtual Worlds

Next week (July 22nd & 23rd), the Virtual Policy Network, a group focused on researching the public policy implications of virtual worlds, will be holding the first conference in the UK on public policy issues related to virtual worlds, dubbed Virtual Policy ’08. The event is co-sponsored by the UK government’s Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, and with all the recent news about virtual world investment, I think it’s really interesting that a government department focused on business development and regulation is playing a key role in the conference.

Here in the US, there are a number of debates about virtual worlds and their social and economic implications, including issues about appropriate content and crime within virtual worlds, but the US government so far has not taken a strong stance on public policy related to virtual worlds. That could change, however, if the potential revenue generation and social importance of virtual worlds continue to grow.

Via Terra Nova

Webkinz and Maps

I played Webkinz all weekend with my nephew. It’s a cute stuffed toy with a code to enter a virtual environment with tons of interactive games. Many schools use Webkinz as an educational tool or as a reward for good behavior. Gantz, the makers of Webkinz list the reasons why virtual world is educational but they left out one component – you have to use a map tool to add rooms to your virtual house. If. like my nephew, you have almost every room configuration possible, you definitely need the map to find your way from your beach room to your space room without getting lost. You can see all the different types of Webkinz animals at Amazon.

Stonehenge gets the Photosynth treatment

You know I just love Photosynth (although I wish Microsoft would finally make it available in some form other than a technology preview), so I had to check out the video National Geographic has posted of Stonehenge as seen through Photosynth technology and photos by Rebecca Hale. Even in the short video, the virtual tour of Stonehenge is pretty cool and I’d really like to see the Stonehenge collection added to the Photosynth page so you can explore the collection on your own.

Virtual Worlds. Pubs, direction, and just plain cool

Virtual MorgantownGeography is just as important in virtual worlds as it is in the real world. While the users of these technologies (e.g. Second Life or World of Worldcraft) may inhabit distinctly different locations IRL (in real life) they interact with a distinct landscape and within very real communities when they are online in virtual worlds. In the US we are oddly behind in certain areas such as mobile technology (mostly thanks to carrier limitations) and virtual worlds (in some ways related to our mobile limitations). Why am I rambling on about this (again)? Well it is because GeoMullah himself twittered (indirectly) about a new journal that has been announced, the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research. As you might imagine from our discussions on the topics of Virtual Worlds, Serious Games, and Virtual/Augmented Reality (not the same thing, just didn’t want to type Reality twice…DOH did it anyway) we here at VerySpatial are all about how these technologies will flow back into the real world. There were a few examples at Where 2.0 this year (hopefully we will see more integration of VW and IRL geo next year a la Sue’s work with XNA) but it is just the tip of the cliched iceberg . Just this week we received the registration announcement for the next Virtual Worlds conference (this time in LA) and we even saw David Wortley of the Serious Games Institute at Where this week (just saw him walk by while we were interviewing someone so we couldn’t grab him and talk unfortunately, SGI is really creating a presence). All of this (to me) seems to come back to the need for a publication like the Journal of Virtual Worlds Research which shows the potential to become a great communication tool. I hope that they will have New Media content to support the journal. Screencasts of new projects as well as industry and research news would be great communication tools between issues of the journal.

But wait! There’s more. Great things have a way of being simultaneously developed in different locations so there are other journals that are on the way in this arena including the Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds (targeting a 2009 release), The Yale Law Journal’s Pocket Part has a call for papers on the legal and economic impacts of Virtual Worlds, while Wiley’s Computer Animation and Virtual Worlds is up to Volume 19 this year. This is a rich area, full of potential with a wealth of research moving out of some of the traditional arenas thanks to an invigorating shot from commercial interest. Just as the geoweb has kicked off great ideas and amazing innovation, geographic data and representation will get another boost from virtual worlds and serious gaming at some point (heck the globes already have opened the door). You know that we will talk about this again on the podcast, but if you are working in Geography and virtual worlds and will be either at the ESRI UC in August, SEDAAG in November, the AAG in March (09), or just want to connected with like minded folks contact us so we can talk about how we can move from being a few scattered voices in geospatial research to a group with a shared vision (and maybe reduce a little duplication of effort while we are at it).

PS apologies for all of the (parenthetical) statements…its just a side thought type of night

Map of Popular Social Sites Throughout the World

The map is in French, so the details are a bit hazy if you don’t speak the language (which I don’t). However, if you’ve ever wondered how popular various social networking sites were around the world, it’s a map you need to see. To me, at their base functionality of socially networking people, I don’t see a humongous difference in each of these tools. Clearly different regions around the world strongly disagree with me, as sites like My Space, Friendster, Facebook, and Live Journal have different distributions around the world. If you live in South East Asia, it looks like you’re more likely to have a preference for Friendster. Whereas we in the US apparently eat up My Space more than any other site.

I’m sure there’s some sort of International Relations/Psychology/Sociology dissertation potential here. Then again, when it comes to social networking on the Internet, I’m the proverbial old guy asking the proverbial kids to get off his darn Internet, so what do I know?

It was only a matter of time…..

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.