Geospatial and Marketing Gimmicks

Many popular news sites, such as the Telegraph, have picked up the story of Nestle UK’s  campaign that embeds GPS trackers in candy bars, comparing it to the Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Using geospatial technologies as part of a marketing campaign has been around as long as the technologies themselves.

In 2006, The Charlotte County Visitor’s Bureau used a geocaching campaign to start a word of mouth marketing campaign by reaching over 3,000 geocachers, according to an article in the Herald Tribune.  A 2011 article in The Drum: Modern Marketing & Media, cites a Google study that found mapping and geospatial technology were one of the fastest growing types of marketing and were a major part of marketing strategy. Many marketing and public relations firms such as Blast Companies are using GPS enabled target marketing to reach customers. Specialized companies such as GoldRun focus on geospatial technologies such as GPS-linked and augmented reality environments. Popular types of geospatial campaigns include social media, QR codes, geocaching, and GPS-tracking.

 Using geospatial technologies in promotional campaigns hasn’t been without its hurdles. According to the Google study, like in many industries it has been difficult to introduce GIS and geospatial technologies for marketing and analysis because it requires a lot of work and a different mind set about how things are done. NetworkWorld raised questions about the security implications of GPS campaigns, while several other trade journals were skeptical about the effectiveness of the campaign. Only time (and sales numbers) will show how effective the Nestle UK campaign will be and determine if there will be an increase in GPS marketing campaigns in the future.

 

 

The Lightsquared Saga Continues

Lightsquared is not prepared to go gently into the night.  They have hired Theodore Olson (among others) to help argue their case.  Olson is most famous for having successfully argued for Bush in the Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case that settled the 2000 US Presidential election.  In other words, Lightsquared brought out the big guns.  Olson argues that government encouraged Lightsquared to invest in a startup technology then slammed the door in their face when final approval was sought.  I’m not enough of a legal expert to know if Olson’s argument holds water, but it is rather telling a relatively famous attorney would take up the case.

As I’ve said in nearly every post in this ongoing saga…. we’ll keep you abreast of the situation as news becomes available.

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:

Lightsquared Pretty Much Out Of The Fight

Lightsquared, who last month received a conditional waiver from the FCC on its products, looks like it might be in trouble as the FCC has withdrawn that waiver.  Obviously the FCC acted in response to concerns over GPS interference.  This officially ‘kills’ Lightsquared’s proposed solution to rolling out a 4G-LTE network over the spectrum it owns, baring some sort of miracle intervention from who knows where.

However, I think they’ve made an interesting counter argument to the GPS interference test results – the GPS industry is too big to fail.  What they’re effectively arguing is that industrial GPS manufacturers use equipment that over listens to signals, meaning it’s paying attention to a portion of the spectrum upon they never were licensed to listen.

I’m not personally knowledgeable enough about spectrum use in general (and GPS spectrum use in particular) to know if the argument holds any water.  I do think it’s interesting the FCC chose – wisely in my opinion – to preference navigation over cell communications.  However, I believe more knowledgeable heads than mine should certainly investigate Lightsquared’s claims.  The license of the spectrum really only works if everyone obeys the virtual fences properly.  That’s true whether GPS is encroaching on Lightsquared’s territory as Lightsquared believes or whether Lightsquared is encroaching on GPS territory as testing has suggested.

Warrantless GPS tracking unconstitutional

Based on a syllabus from the Supreme Court released on January 23, the use of GPS tracking outside of a warrant is a breach of the Fourth Amendment. As stated in the syllabus:

the Government’s physical intrusion on an “effect” for the purpose of obtaining information constitutes a “search.”

There seem to be quite a few implications that come out of the decision that attaching the device is tantamount to trespassing due to the fact that the action was taken outside of the warrant period (11th of 10 days) and location (Maryland vs DC). There seems to be quite a bit of import being placed on the judgement in the couple of articles I have seen so far, however the wording of the syllabus suggests that the key is the actions and information from outside of the warrant’s parameters as opposed to the collection of location information. I think there will quite a bit of debate this week as to the role of the decision on GPS tracking that we will talk about this weekend on the podcast…check back Sunday for our response to others’ responses.

via Gizmodo

Lego and Augmented Reality

I’m going to cop to this not being an overtly geographic post… but it’s Lego. And augmented reality. If I may indulge to my inner child for a moment… SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!! In all seriousness, it’s a pretty need implementation of augmented reality in that it doesn’t require any special printing on the box. They simply take the picture in 2D and create a 3D model from its pre-configured library, adding in animation and sound. That works pretty well if you have a set number of known models. I also really like some of the navigation techniques they’ve used.

Via Engadget

Layar Vision – Is mobile AR finally knocking on the door of relevance?

In the mad scramble to finish editing my PhD dissertation and graduate, I haven’t been following the latest and greatest tech in the geospatial realm as much as I should be, but I am definitely intrigued by the launch of Layar Vision. It’s an extension to the mobile augmented reality Layar platform that allows a smartphone with a Layar Vision app to recognize real-world objects and then trigger digital content based on that object. Developers can build applications that leverage this functionality for all kinds of uses, such as a user in a retail store who wants content on a potential purchase.

What is really interesting to me about Layar Vision, which has also been highlighted in a number of writeups about the launch, is that by giving the smartphone the capability to recognize real-world objects no matter where they are located, you can get around one of the big challenges in implementing AR. By putting the focus on objects rather than locations, you don’t have to create a database of geotagged objects with specific locations. If a user wants augmented content for a new video game, they can scan the game at any place and still get the content. By the same token, if you want the specials at a particular restaurant, you can just scan the menu, no matter where you are sitting in the restaurant. If a developer wants to combine that augmented content with location-specific info, they can link the Layar Vision functionality to other location-based data sets and functions.

Of course, Layar Vision as well as the Layar platform are really developer tools, and the goal is to get consumer applications out there that are built on the platform. To try to get developers working with Layar Vision, Layar is sponsoring the Layar Creation Challenge, which is offering cash prizes to developers who come up with the most useful and innovative concepts for Layar Vision centered around the publishing industry, which is an area where the Layar folks think the technology will really be effective.

What do you think? Is augmented reality finally going to hit the mainstream?

Via FastCompany

Animated Maps on Memorial Day Weekend

On this memorial day weekend the History Channel is kicking off a week of Civil War themed shows.  While watching I thought I’d see if there were any interesting maps available on the intertubes.  What did I find? Some wonderful animated maps from the Civil War Trust ! The maps are flash based and progress through some key battles of the war.  The site also provides users historical maps and new digital maps that are static.

Additionally, the site has available BattleApps. The BattleApps are virtual Civil War tour guides for the war or specific battles for the iPhone or iPad.  The apps are location aware and throughout the tour one could view video clips from the national park service and see locations of troops of both the North and South.  Another great example of giving old paper maps a new lease on life with digital innovation!

Fredericksburg Gets Civil War App: MyFoxDC.com

 

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

Emergency Location to the Centimeter

It makes sense that emergency response can be quicker and more efficient if they know exactly where to go. GPS is ok, but being off even 10m can be too much. Australia’s Ergon Energy has teamed with Nokia and Samsung to create a system that’s cheap and versatile enough to find callers down to the centimeter. It involves a series of pole mounted GPS stations in a local area working in conjunction with special chips located in cell phones. Being LBS nuts here at VS, it’s obvious to us the commercial applications of this technology beyond emergency response. Knowing exactly where something is happening down to the centimeter is the last major domain to realizing LBS, I think. Look for this to eventually reach US shores, I would imagine.

Via Engadget