Virtual Globes go UltraMobile

OQOI finally got tired of lugging my Thinkpad around, and decided that I needed to somehow get an even smaller, lighter portable device, yet with full laptop capabilities. So, I managed to spend all my money on an OQO Model 02, which is the ultimate in geeky tech. It is part of a new family of devices known as UMPC (UltraMobile PCs). My OQO is a mere 5.6″ x 3.3″ x 1.0″, but packs in a 1.5GHz VIA processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. It runs a full installation of Windows XP (and you can buy models that come with Windows Vista), and is basically a laptop PC in a tiny package that weighs just around a pound.

The OQO is really for the techie on the go. It has built-in wireless and Bluetooth and you can pay more for integrated Wireless WAN and other options. If you want to know the specs in more detail, the OQO website has everything. Now, on the more cool part. I decided to see what the OQO could really do in terms of letting me do my work on the go, so we installed a full ArcGIS including extensions (see ArcGlobe and ArcMap running on a 5 inch screen is a little weird). Then, during one of the morning breaks at ISDE5, I decided to take advantage of the wireless in the room and see what I could play with. I downloaded ArcGIS Explorer, Google Earth, and the plugin for Virtual Earth 3D. Then I decided to see if I could in fact run them. I was a little surprised that ArcGIS Explorer seemed the least fazed by the little screen and so-so resolution, and the only real slowdown I noticed was in relation to the network. I had no real trouble navigating around in Virtual Earth 3D, although the 3D buildings in San Francisco did not have time to load fully, and I don’t know if the OQO display graphics are really capable of handling the textures. Google Earth was the last globe I had time to try, and it of course told me that I might not want to run it on such a low resolution screen (I believe 800×480), but when I actually went ahead and started, we did OK and I tried out a few info windows and such.

Overall, I love my OQO and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s not for everyone, however. The tiny screen and lower resolution might bug some people and the keyboard is small, so effective typing pretty much has to be BlackBerry-style. So, even though I didn’t really intend this post to be a review of the OQO Model 02, if mobility and connectivity matter to you, you should definitely check it out.

Microsoft Surface – table top surface computing

Amidst all the Where 2.0 news, there is another conference going on in Carlsbad, California called “D:All Things Digital” where Microsoft had an announcement about the debut of Microsoft Surface, which is an outcome of their Project Milan to develop the idea of surface computing, basically user interfaces that are completely touch-driven. The project was apparently kept relatively secret until its debut last night. What does this have to do with geospatial technologies, you ask? Well, there are a number of videos and photos out there on the internet that demonstrate these types of devices in action, including the very cool TouchTable (which we’ve seen a couple of times ourselves at the ESRI UC). For displaying and navigating mapping and GIS applications, especially in a collaborative environment, these touch-sensitive devices could be really useful.

Microsoft will be offering Microsoft Surface branded devices to 4 partners in November, including Starwood (Sheraton) Hotels, which is planning on installing them in common areas as virtual concierges. Apparently, there will be consumer units in the next 3-5 years, with the initial price to partners at around $10,000 and likely dropping as the devices enter the consumer market. It seems pretty steep, but I believe the price for a TouchTable is more than 6 times that, so maybe not so bad. All I know is, I want one……

Via PC World and Gizmodo

The NanoMetro Map – mapping nanotechnology hotspots

I haven’t posted about a Google Maps mashup in awhile, but this one, called Putting Nanotechnology on the Map, offers an interesting perspective on where nanotechnology research hotspots are located in the US, including universities, private companies and government facilities. Some of the centers, like the San Francisco Bay area, are no surprise, but I was kind of amazed by the number of companies and universities that are engaged in nanotechnology research and business in places I wouldn’t necessarily think of, like Montana or Idaho.

Via Nanotechnology Now

Scanning and printing 3D Objects

The New York Times has an article on the use of laser scanning and ‘printing’ 3D objects that is pretty interesting. It is amazing how much the prices on 3D scanners have dropped given the relative increase in features. We have worked with an old Cyrex that the Virtual Environments Lab at WVU has and you can buy a new Leica (who bought Cyra a few years back) with better everything for less than half the price. Aaahhh, technology.

Beaming Up 3-D Objects on a Budget – New York Times

GPS Poll Results

Well the Holux’s have it. The vote was 6-2 for the Holux with the other two votes going one each to the Pharo and TeleType. The Holux has been ordered and should be here before AAG…

“The Last Mile” on the cheap

The Last Mile problem is a well known issue in wireless broadband circles. Running between, say, cities is easy… getting it the last mile to individual houses is hard. Most of the solutions thus far have focused on rather expensive technologies (like tower based WiFi) that have limited utility. Enter these gentlemen. They are using low cost equipment that originates inside a dwelling, as opposed to outside on the pole, to spread WiFi Mesh networks. The idea is pretty intriguing and might have a great deal of utility, particular in low income areas. The one example the article cites indicates one landlord has rolled out Internet access at the expense of something like $1/month per household. That’s pretty darn impressive!

To be honest, I’ve wondered for a long time now why more companies haven’t been using more traditional router solutions. They’re cheap, they’re easy to configure, and they everywhere. I figured I was missing some key bit of information if everyone else was using boxes that cost hundreds of dollars each. Apparently I wasn’t.

FakeSpace, VRCO and GIS

CAVE-stCAVE-OvToday on Directions on the News there was an item about how VRCO has released their next version of Conduit for Google Earth. The Conduit software is a translator that allows COTS software (OpenGL based) to pushed through a graphics cluster to be projected onto multiple screens. WVU tasked FakeSpace/VRCO to implement Conduit for ArcScene and ArcGlobe (and hopefully AGX soon) a year ago as part of our CAVE hardware installation for our GeoVirtual Laboratory. Click on the picture to get a larger version of the image to get an idea of how GIS information (in this case a historic reconstruction of Morgantown, WV in 1900 created by Sue and our undergrads) can be viewed on multiple 8×10 ft screens running active stereo to give you a 3D experience. It is great to be able to zoom from a landscape overview (shown), down to street level where you are immersed in a nearly 1:1 representation of the area. We are still working on a VSTV episode that will highlight the technologies used to build and display the project from creating the buildings in SketchUp Pro to showing the final ArcScene project in the immersive environment.

Starting MacWorld early

Other World Computing put out a teaser for their product the ModBook that will be announced Tuesday. It is supposed to be a slate style tablet solution that will even offer a GPS add-on. From the press release

The ModBook is also the only portable Mac solution that features an optional built-in Global Positioning System (GPS). The Axiotron ModBook GPS Module was developed in cooperation with GlobalSat Technologies Corporation utilizing the industry leading SiRFstarâ„¢ III chipset for shorter first location fix times and improved tracking capabilities.

I am a huge tablet fan (just upgraded the Toshiba M200 to Vista) so I am pretty curious to see how this goes.

Breakthrough in Solar Cell Efficiency

The EETimes is reporting that there has been a major breakthrough in the efficiency of solar cells. Up until now, solar cells have only operated at between 12-18% efficient. Through a grant from the DOE, Boeing-Spectrolab has managed to over double or triple that to 40.7% efficiency. That’s pretty impressive. This means solar cells can be deployed in more and more areas. I know that in WV, solar power doesn’t really work well. Maybe these new cells can change that.

The coming of the Zune

While we are making our way through Geography Awareness Week, don’t forget that tomorrow the 14th is the release date for Microsoft’s new Zune, their attempt to compete with the iPod. While there has been quite a bit of discussion regarding the lack of podcast support for the Zune, please keep in mind that the Zune will play both MP3 and AAC files just fine, they just aren’t providing a built in podcatcher. Just use your RSS aggregator of choice to grab your podcasts and upload them to your Zune.

While the first incarnation of the Zune looks to be pretty much run of the mill for modern PMPs (Portable /Personal Media Player) there are some pretty interesting possibilities for future upgrades and versions.

Send us a photo of you with your Zune if you get one. | Zune Home Page