Book Corner: Programming ArcGIS 10.1 with Python Cookbook

My fairly constant position now-a-days is “late to the game” and in this case that means that there are plenty of folks who have already shared their thoughts on Programming ArcGIS 10.1 with Python Cookbook by Eric Pimpler from Packt Publishing. Robin Wilson, with his wife, summarized by saying

Overall, the book is a very useful addition to a GIS library for people who are new to automating ArcGIS using Python, and particularly those who want to find out quickly how to automate a particular operation.

James Fee wrapped up his review by saying

So the bottom line here is this is a great introduction to ArcPy with ArcGIS 10.1. But if you’ve already started using either Python or ArcPy, you’d be best to use your time/money elsewhere.

These reviews, and others, indirectly highlight the issue of audience with each of the ArcGIS and Python books that have come out in 2012 and 2013. The books are intended for an introductory audience, but each is for a different introductory audience. Nate Jennings’ A Python Primer for ArcGIS has a strong focus on what I would consider a community college/professional development audience. Esri Press’s own Python Scripting for ArcGIS by Paul Zandbergen is geared toward an upper-level undergrad or grad course to get students who already have a strong(ish) ArcGIS background up and running with Python.
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Book Review – Python Scripting for ArcGIS

PrintPython Scripting for ArcGIS is a new text from Esri Press by Paul A. Zandbergen (2013). It isn’t the first Python book for the geospatial community or even focused on ArcGIS, but it is the first that has the Esri logo on it. Much like other recent books on Geo/Python we have seen, it focuses on integrating an introduction to Python with the industry specific materials. As Frank mentioned when he highlighted the book in a previous podcast, this allows users to gain exposure to Python, but it doesn’t fall back on the (in my opinion) bad habit of most programming texts of spending half of the book on the language and concepts before even getting to the application in the specific area. There is a time and place for that approach in Python specific books. When you add another software library to a book, then use it from the get go.

The text is broken into four parts including 1) learning fundamentals, 2) writing scripts, 3) carrying out specialized tasks, and 4) creating and using scripting tools. As you can imagine each of these parts builds on the previous through the book fourteen chapters. Early chapters take advantage of Model Builder to help the reader get into Python through geoprocessing tools, but by Chapter 4 the focus is on building and running code. The book comes with a DVD which includes data and code samples so that you can use the same data and code that the authors are running.

If you are looking to learn Python for use with your ArcGIS workflow, or a reference on the topic, this book is a good option for a growing bookshelf on the topic. The fact that you are using both Python and ArcGIS all the way through the book gets our support. With an MSRP of $79.95 and a current Amazon price of $48.45 the cost puts it in the range of similar books.

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

3D Street-style Mapping with Kinect

Almost daily, I see a new cool and amazing hack that someone has accomplished with Microsoft’s Kinect that tops the last one. I’m hoping to try my hand at some much more modest attempts this summer related to my immersive simulation project, but I couldn’t come close to what Martin Szarski has done: 3D street mapping with a Kinect, his Google Nexus One phone for GPS, and his trusty car. If you haven’t seen this yet, the results are pretty awesome. The Kinect captures images for real-world objects as he drives along the street, and his phone GPS allows him to tie the image data to real-world coordinates. Up till now, you had to have some pretty expensive equipment to pull this off, and he demonstrates that you can do it with fairly inexpensive hardware and some great coding ability, of course. Martin already has some plans on how to improve on his first setup which began as an indoor experiment, and you can read his explanation of how he did it over on his blog.

Via TechTree

Microsoft Research’s Street Slide

If you haven’t seen the demo of Microsoft Research’s Street Slide, it’s a pretty cool addition to Bing Streetside that is not available yet, but will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2010. While Google Streetview and Bing Streetside allow you to see photo representations of an area as you navigate through it, you’re basically limited to the perspective from your position on the centerline of the roadway as you look left or right. What Street Silde allows you to do is zoom out and take a side scrolling type of look at the whole side of the street moving side to side and panning over the streetscape. It looks like you can also get a panoramic view as well. If you want to see Street Slide in action, check out this video:

Via Engadget and MIT Technology Review

Microsoft Live Labs’ Blaise Aguera y Arcas demos AR features for Bing Maps

As you all know by now, I am a fan of Photosynth. Just a few days ago, the creator of Seadragon and co-creator of Photosynth, Blaise Aguera y Arcas gave a great presentation at TED 2010 and showed a demo of some new augmented reality type features being integrated into Bing Maps, including Indoor Panoramas (enhanced in the demo by the integration of real-time video that was embedded into the imagery – this cool augmented reality type functionality is still in the concept stage), Streetside Photos which mines geo-tagged Creative Commons photos from Flickr and incorporates them into Streetside, and finishing off with a demo of the integration of Worldwide Telescope that would allow the user to look up while in a street view and see the stars and constellations above them. Check out the video:

CrisisCamp Haiti – Saturday crisis mapping event

Sorry for the short notice, but I just found out about CrisisCamp Haiti, a crisis mapping volunteer event being held in multiple locations tomorrow, Saturday January 16th, which is going “to bring together volunteers to collaborate on technology projects which aim to assist in Haiti’s relief efforts by providing data, information, maps and technical assistance to NGOs, relief agencies and the public.”

For more information about CrisisCamp, check out the CrisisCommons Wiki. Here is a list of planned events. If you are near any of the CrisisCamp Haiti locations, head over and help out!

  • Crisis Camp Haiti in Washington DC, 16th of January http://crisiscamphaitiwdc.eventbrite.com/
  • Crisis Camp Haiti in Silicon Valley, 16th of January http://crisiscamphaitisiliconvalley.eventbrite.com/
  • Crisis Camp Haiti in Los Angeles, 16th of January http://crisiscamphaitilosangeles.eventbrite.com/
  • Crisis Camp Haiti in Brooklyn, 16th of January http://crisiscampbrooklyn.eventbrite.com/
  • Crisis Camp Haiti in London is being planned here: Crisis Camp London
  • Crisis Camp Haiti in Boulder/Denver, 16th of January http://www.eventbrite.com/event/539521724
  • GeoVation Challenge and NYC’s BigApps Competition

    A couple of great competitions for innovative ideas and applications are going on right now, the GeoVation Ideas Challenge and GeoVation Awards Programme in the UK and New York City’s BigApps Competition, and you can participate! For the GeoVation Ideas Challenge (GeoVation was founded and is currently supported by the Ordnance Survey), you simply sign up at the GeoVation website, and submit a cool idea for using geography. If your idea is picked as one of the best, you can win a tour of the Ordnance Survey’s office in Southampton, UK. You can also participate by helping to rate the ideas submitted.
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    UK GIS developers – Only 1 more day to enter the ESRI-Bing Maps Mashup Challenge!

    That right – if you’re in the UK and you’re a GIS developer utilizing ESRI products, ESRI UK is sponsoring the http://www.esriuk.com/micro_sites/mashup_challenge/. All you have to do is build a GIS-based mashup utilizing Bing Maps and ESRI’s web mapping technology, and you could win an Xbox and a free seat at an ESRI UK web API training course.

    The deadline to submit your entry is Friday September 18th, 5pm(UK time). The winner will be announced at the AGI2009 Conference, which will be held on September 23rd and 24th in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

    So get coding, and good luck!