BBC collaborating on new Photosynth collections

In conjunction with their new series “How We Built Britain”, the BBC is collaborating with Microsoft Live Labs Photosynth team on a new set of collections called Your Britain in Pictures (Jesse tells me that this was mentioned briefly during the virtual globes session at ISDE5 last Friday) that will feature some of Britain’s most well-known buildings. So far, Ely Cathedral, Burghley House, the new Scottish Parliament Building, Royal Crescent, Blackpool Tower Ballroom, and Trafalgar Square are available. I’ve been a fan of Photosynth ever since I first blogged it last year, and this is one of the main reasons why, since part of my research interests are focused on virtual reconstructions of historical landscapes.

Wi-Fi geographies – analyzing Wi-Fi infrastructures

Paul Torrens, a professor at Arizona State University (who did his PhD work at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at UC London), has already put together an amazing body of research in modeling surburban sprawl, and urban behavior and phenomena using geospatial tools. He recently received an NSF CAREER grant to work on a project for using immersive 3D/4D environments for modeling urban crowd behavior, which sounds pretty amazing. While looking over his site, I cam across another project, Wi-Fi Geographies, which will be published in an upcoming issue of the Annals of the AAG.

The project website includes some excellent animations showing geovisualizations of the wi-fi environment in Salt Lake City, UT, including signal strength, data rates, security, and public v. pay access. The goal of the research is to look at the geography of wi-fi and its impact.

Glasgow Urban Model – amazingly detailed 3D virtual city

The launch of the city of Glasgow’s 3D virtual map, called the Glasgow Urban Model, got some press from the BBC. The virtual mapping project cost 450,000 pounds, and was actually led by the Digital Design Lab at the Glasgow School of Art, as opposed to a GIS or mapping entity. The model was built to be used with TerraExplorer, which is available from SkylineGlobe, which you can download from a link at the Glasgow Urban Model site.

The screen capture images show the amazing photo-realistic detail of the model. According to the BBC article, the images of the building facades are accurate to 5 mm. While there is no way to really test that by viewing the model, the detail is impressive. According to the Glasgow City website, the goal of this 2-year project, “is an interactive 3-D, digital model of the City Centre and River Clyde accessible via the Council’s website that will allow the public greater access to and understanding of the development of the city.” So, the Glasgow Urban Model will be used in practical applications as a tool for planning, tourism and promotion, and other city functions.


Fotowoosh – more ways to go from 2D photos to 3D models

A week ago Friday, I saw that the fotowoosh site had gone live, and I haven’t had a chance to sit down and blog it until today. Licensing technology that was developed at Carnegie-Mellon, fotowoosh is similar to Photosynth, from Microsoft Research. fotowoosh will also allow you to generate 3D models from a 2D image, and the site currently features only demo videos from the alpha version, but there is a link to sign up for a beta invitation.

I am really looking forward to using these technologies (hopefully having 2 potentially competing products will spur both of them to try to get releases out sooner!), mainly because our research focuses on the representation of information in virtual environments, and some of the hardest work goes into developing the actual features of those environments, which often leaves little time and grant money left to do the really interesting work, which is to use the virtual landscapes as platforms for displaying and integrating other types of data. If we could have a tool, like fotowoosh or Photosynth, that could also us to generate the 3D models automatically from photos, then that would significantly reduce some of our development time.

And beyond that, the technology is just really cool! Now I guess we just wait and see who can get an actual beta up and running….

Microsoft announces Virtual Earth and SensorMap grant competition winners

Microsoft has awarded over $1.1 million in grants to winners in their Virtual Earth and SensorMap grant competitions. The SensorMap project include work on Harvard’s CitySense project, which will utilize a network of 100 sensors aroudn Cambridge, Mass. that record various types of data related to local conditions, such as current weather and traffic levels. The data will then be published on the SensorMap platform. There are a number of other interesting projects related to various types of sensors and data collection, as well as dealing with issues of integrating different types of data into the SensorMap platform.

The Virtual Earth winners hint at some of the research priorities Microsoft is interested in, including local search, building 3D models from photos (a winning proposal from Steve Seitz of the University of Washington, one of the people behind PhotoTourism, which is part of the Photosynth project), and utilizing StreetSide imagery to help generate models. Basically, all the winning projects are looking to further refine the ability to representate and navigate 3D virtual representations of the world around us.

I’ve only really touched on a small portion of the winning proposals, so for a full list of winners of these and other Microsoft Research grant programs, head to the Research Funding Opportunities page, and click on the individual grant competitions.

Via InfoWorld

PS3’s folding map

As part of the PS3’s continuing evolution Sony has made a Folding@Home client available. As part of this there will be a map that will show all of the PS3s that are running Folding@Home. One of the interesting parts of this is the fact that they are going to use a ‘world at night’ feel so that users will show up as lights on the surface of the globe. Kind of cool.

Residential Wi-Fi spots Mapped

Slashdot is reporting an interesting article that claims AOL and Skyhook Wireless have mapped “the majority of residences in the U.S. and Canada” along with their wireless service (or lack there of). It is supposedly part of their “Near Me” service which allows AOL IM users to see people physically located near themselves.

I’m of multiple minds on this issue. One the one hand, it’s pretty cool to see the virtual linked to the physical. On the other hand, I don’t want people knowing about my personal WiFi. On the third hand, considering our state is going through some major address mapping issues, how the heck do we get that residential mapping data?

Sony’s PS3 upcoming online services to feature 3d virtual world

At the Game Developers Conference yesterday, Sony offered a preview trailer of its new 3d virtual world, which will be part of its PS3 “Home” online services. The trailer has been posted at (search under PS3), which can be slow to load and contains ads. Mark over at 3pointD also has a link to the trailer in his post. Mark was also able to get some additional info about the PS3 Home 3d world, including a potential beta launch data in April. The virtual world will have many similarities with other virtual worlds out there, with customized avatars, social spaces for interacting, and private spaces which users can customize and invite selected avatar friends to visit. In addition, users will be able to interact and invite virtual friends to participate in other online PS3 games with them.

All I can say is, I’ve wanted a PS3 since well before they were launched, since I am a long-time PS and PS2 gamer (yes, I am a Final Fantasy fan), and now I want one even more, but still can’t manage the $600 price tag.

But, on a more serious note, this spring is bringing news on a number of fronts of increasing investment in online virtual worlds and new players getting into the game, and I’m sure the heavy hitters who will be speaking at the Virtual Worlds 2007 conference later this month will have much more to say on the growth of virtual worlds and their expansion into many areas of business and entertainment.

Shameless Plug – Our immersive visualization lab featured in ArcNews

The Winter 2006/2007 issue of ArcNews arrived today, and we were excited to see that WVU GeoVirtual Lab’s newly-installed CAVE system with a custom connector for ArcScene and ArcGlobe, was featured. I was especially happy that they printed the photos of the project I sweated and toiled over all last summer and fall with our student workers.

Using SketchUp, custom ArcGIS style galleries, and ArcScene, we generated a 3D model of downtown Morgantown in 1900, with historic maps, photos, and other info as our guides. In the end, we generated over 350 unique structure models, which really put ArcScene to the test.

New 3D virtual world Kaneva getting ready to launch

While catching up on virtual world and metaverse news, I found this interesting little article about a startup virtual world called Kaneva, which is in beta testing. Its creator, Christopher Klaus, notes in the article that he is expecting Kaneva to go live in the first half of this year. Klaus previously founded a company called Internet Security Systems, which was bought by IBM last year for $1.3 billion US.

According to Klaus, Kaneva is “a modern-day world, and it’s completely online. What we’ve done that’s innovative is brought social networking and media integration together. There’s both a browser-based interface and a 3D interface into the world. What that does is allow you to socialize and connect with others and get content purely with a browser. But if you want to get more engaged in an immersive experience, there is a 3D interface.”

Mark over at 3pointD also has a more in-depth post about Kaneva, and it seems that he actually had a chance to talk to Christopher Klaus and a couple of others from Kaneva and get some detailed info.

Via Digit Online