Crunch Gear offers up the next LBS device. The SPOT Communicator is a GPS unit that can send your current position via satellite. The press release shows that the target market is the outdoor enthusiast and field workers who are often outside of cell range. Battery life is pretty good given the lack of screen, just four buttons: Help, On/Off, OK, and 911. Given its orange case, it is great if you want to add a bit of safety in hunting season.
Microsoft Research Cambridge has come up with a new device that is reminiscent of the Weasley’s family’s clock in the Harry Potter books – dubbed the Whereabouts Clock – which lets you see whether family members are at home, work, or school. What makes it science and not magic, though, is that the device uses cell phone data to get each family members location. Basically, when you arrive at a location that you want the software to recognize, you input that location and the software searches for the nearest cell towers and uses them to get a general fix. That data is then associate with work or home or whatever. Right now the Whereabouts Clock is only a research prototype, but there are plans to test a home version in selected households in the Cambridge area.
via Discovery News
Nokia is taking an interesting twist with their acquisition of Navteq – they want to focus on pedestrians. At a time when people are working hand over fist to get money into in-car navigation systems, Nokia apparently sees a hole in the market. Clearly Nokia has a delivery mechanism at hand for this as well. The other interesting twist is that Nokia is expecting it’s customers to help keep the maps up to date. It’s sort of the ultimate consumer level participatory GIS! It will be interesting to follow this to see if Nokia is ultimately successful.
Engadget is reporting the breaking news that NYC cabbies have officially gone on strike over GPS units in their cabs. We mentioned this item briefly in the past as the cab drivers have been threatening to strike for a couple of months now. I think this is one of the first large scale protesting of geospatial technologies I’ve heard about. This event could set a precedence for future location based disagreements and legal issues.
The MIT Media Lab and Maine Audobon are working on a project that uses cell phones to help study bird populations and habitat. The Owl Project researchers actually use cell phones placed within the forest to call owls, play owl sounds, and then record the responses. Following the success of a pilot project in Connecticut, the researchers are going to expand their work to areas of Maine. The Owl Project site also features some educational information and a Google Maps mashup showing the cell nodes for the project, and you can click on the pushpins to hear what sounds the speakers are sending out. I am sitting in a brightly-lit lab far from the forest and I’m still a little creeped out by all the owl sounds.
OK, first off, I am not a fan of Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, but they have a cool online game as a companion piece that combines virtual online gaming with real-world, real-time data. In Sharkrunners, you are a marine biologists, and your goal is to track down sharks and collect data about them. Based on the data you collect, you can earn more “funding,” which will of course allow you to get more equipment and get better data.
I only had a few minutes to play around with the game, but it’s a pretty neat way to illustrate how real and virtual data can be combined into a game application, where you can see just how much fun science can be!
Yes, that is right. A British designer, Gail Knight, has invented rings with embedded GPS that vibrates to help its wearer find their way in unfamiliar places. While stylish, they come in a pair, and you have to wear one on each hand, as well as a device controller (either around your neck or clipped on). The left or right rings buzz for turns, with a separate buzz for forward or back. When you’re going the wrong way, they both buzz to let you know.
No word on whether Gail has any plans to create a consumer version, so for now I guess we will all have to stick with our less-stylish paper maps, GPS receivers, smart phones, etc.
Via BBC News
The new TomTom GO 520 and 720 models will feature a new functionality called “Map Share” will allow users to update their maps to reflect changes in the road network and use them for route planning and directions immediately, instead of waiting for updates from the company. In addition, the new system will allow users to sync their unit with their PC and upload changes to the Internet via TomTom’s HOME application. TomTom will certify users’ changes before adding them to their database or sharing them with other users, and the Map Share feature won’t replace the company’s own commercial updating system.
The new models are scheduled for release in the fall in the UK and Ireland, but no word on when or if they will make it to the US, and they are not yet featured on TomTom‘s website, but I’m curious to see how well the sharing aspect of the new functionality will work in practice.
Back at the beginning of June, Sony released its PlaceEngine technology for use on its portable handheld device, the PSP, in Japan. PlaceEngine uses Wi-Fi signals to determine locations, but adds a twist by relying on the help of its users to add to and refine the accuracy of the Wi-Fi locations. PlaceEngine isn’t the first time we’ve seen this technology (Skyhook Wireless comes to mind), but with the outlet to the gaming users via Sony’s PSP, it is taking a different route to the consumer market.
The PlaceEngine website is in Japanese, but Digital World Tokyo has a good summary of the technology in its post about the Sony Computer Science Lab’s annual Open House in Tokyo and a nice image of the PlaceEngine display.
I’m posting about PlaceEngine today because the technology is generating a lot of buzz outside Sony gaming circles, and Digital World Tokyo also reports that Japanese mapping company Edia, which provides navigation software for many devices in the Japanese market, will be releasing a new software product, Pro Atlas Travel Guide, that will incorporate Sony’s technology and make use of the collaborative mapping functionality of PlaceEngine. It will first be available on UMD disk for the PSP in Japan, but expectations are that Edia may also incorporate PlaceEngine functionality into future release of its navigation software for other Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones.