The online version of the latest issue (July/August 2007) of Technology Review has a fairly comprehensive article by Wade Roush about Second Life, virtual globes, social mapping, and the prospects for merging geospatial technologies and virtual world to create a Second Earth. None of the topics is especially new, but Roush does a good job of providing an overview of the various technologies and players. The main focus of the article, though, is to discuss the possibility of a Second Earth or metaverse and how that might come about. Roush starts off with the most obvious possibility, combining Second Life and Google Earth, but notes that both Google Earth and Linden Labs deny they are working on it. All in all, the article offers a nice synthesis of what’s going on in relation to the development of the metaverse and the convergence with geospatial technologies, and some intriguing possibilities for the next step.
In that twisty-turny world of patents, it seems that Encyclopedia Britannica is going after TomTom and Magellan for infringement of patents it holds for a “computerized mapping system.” The suit was filed in Wisconsin and also includes a retail store, American TV & Appliance of Madison Inc., with no explanation as to why they were included. A number of news outlets are reporting that TomTom has confirmed the suit, but no specifics seem to be available as yet.
LocatioNet Systems, a UK-based mobile mapping and LBS company, announced a partnership with DigitalGlobe to provide high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery for their amAze mobile mapping application (yes that is how it is spelled), which was launched a few weeks ago. The idea is to combine mobile maps and GPS navigation with the same real-time navigation of high-resolution imagery that you can enjoy with full-size Internet browsers, only on your mobile.
Currently, the application is free to mobile users with the appropriate service and phone types (Java-enabled), and can be downloaded from the amAze website I really want to see how well amAze is able to stream and render the imagery on the mobile platform, but of course, none of us has a Java-enabled mobile phone so, while we can’t try it out. Maybe some of you out there will be able to check it out, and let us know how well it performs or even send us some screen shots.
Apparently next year will see the debut of a new project in Japan to set up a wireless zone on one of its islands that will include sensor networks using IC tags (RFID-based) to monitor residents’ health, pedestrian movements, and even the movements of fresh produce. No word yet on how the tags will be used to monitor people participating in the project. Although the location for the wireless zone has not been decided yet, it will most likely be northern Hokkaido or an island in the Okinawa chain.
This project probably has already had some coverage, but I just found out about it, and thought it was worth mentioning. Basically, the mscape project is an initiative from HP Labs to explore location-based services from a social media angle, by creating a set of tools that allow users to create, access, and explore mediascapes, which they define as “mobile, locationÃ¢â‚¬â€œbased experiences that incorporate digital media with the sights, sounds, and textures of the world around you. A mediascape blends digital images, video, audio and interactions with the physical landscape.” In order to participate in the project, you need a GPS-enabled Windows Mobile device, and you need to download the player software. There is also a toolkit for creating mediascapes which can be downloaded from the project’s software page
The mscape project already has some examples of mediascapes that have been created by HP Labs people and early users, and some of the mediascapes include walks through Bristol in the UK, and in Shanghai. There are also more game-oriented mediascapes and, of course, you can make your own. There are of course numerous applications for a project like mscape, and I think I am going to try it out myself.
Christian Nold, the creator of the BioMapping Project (which made the blog rounds back in November for the Greenwich Emotion Map), is spending 5 weeks in San Francisco in his latest emotion map project. Using volunteers equipped with GPS receivers and polygraph devices, Nold maps their paths through various areas and records biomechanical data such as elevated heart rate or blood pressure. By combining these data with each volunteer’s personal account of what they experienced, Nold generates maps that show the changes in volunteers’ bio responses, as a way of gauging their emotional reactions as they experience various parts of an urban environment. One interesting point in the news article, is that Nold receives almost daily inquiries about the practical applications of his project for business and marketing.
We will be in the San Francisco area for ISDE5 at the beginning of June, so maybe we will be able to catch up with Christian for an interview if he is still in town.
While taking a break at the Dev Summit, I was catching up on tech news and noticed that yesterday AT&T launched their new GPS-based workforce management service, TeleNav Track, which is provided by TeleNav, but sold through AT&T. The service allows companies to track employee vehicle locations, mileage, send tasks and alerts to employees in the field and gives turn-by-turn GPS directions. So, now The Man can always know where you are, even if they can only guess what you’re doing there.
Yet another move to expand web mapping into the mobile and location based services markets, as Google and Vodafone, the world’s largest mobile phone network operator, just announced a partnership to develop maps and local content for mobile phones for its Vodafone Live! services. The companies are also developing a service that will provide some customers with an automatic user-location capability.
I ran across a press release today for TDC Group’s Freeance Mobile, a suite of web mapping and database applications that promises to bring GIS to your BlackBerry.
Freeance Mobile consists of 3 BlackBerry applications: MapViewer, GPS Collector, and Search, that combine with database capabilities to allow users to perform GIS tasks in the field. However, it carries a heft price tag of nearly $15,000 US. If you’re a large organization that already has BlackBerry’s deployed to your staff, that might not seem like a lot, but is definitely out of reach of many people.
That led me to wonder if any other applications were out their for mobile mapping or GIS on the BlackBerry, and I did find SkyLab Mobilesystems’ Spot for BlackBerry, which has basic mapping and GPS capabilities for only $49 US, but not any kind of database application support.
I am not a BlackBerry user, so I am curious if anyone out there knows of other BlackBerry web mapping applications out there.
I was glancing through my issue of GITA’s Conference News that came today and I noticed a little writeup about the expansion of GITA’s “Location for Education” program, which allows middle and high school teachers to include GPS and location based exercises in their classes. Kits are available for 2-week periods, and include 12 GPS units, a video, a geo-caching book, and instructions. The teacher only has to pay the shipping costs to get the kit to them and back to GITA. There isn’t a lot of information up on the GITA website yet, just a landing page basically, but hopefully there will be more soon, and maybe even some supplementary materials to go along with the physical kits. Right now, you can call email for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone GITA at 303-337-0513. I know I am going to be forwarding the info to some teachers in the area that we have done outreach with before.
I think this is a great program, especially for schools who would like to include more geography and geospatial technologies in their curricula, but can’t afford to purchase specialized equipment like GPS receivers. I’d really like to see other organizations partner with GITA to really expand a program like this, and maybe start others.