E-Commerce Times has posted an interview with Brian Knapp, a VP at Loopt, the mobile social networking and mapping software company. The article is actually focused on how Loopt deals with privacy issues for its users, which is a different focus than the usual coverage that details the features or functionality. The issues raised in the interview, including what data Loopt collects and how they manage it, are going to become increasingly important as social networking applications actually begin to be adopted by a broader segment of mobile device users.
Was it just back in October that I was pondering how long it would take Apple to introduce Core Location to provide developers a simple hook into location information for new apps, much like Core Image and Core Audio. While Core Location isn’t coming to the laptop yet, it is going to be available through the iPhone SDK. I am really hoping that companies build on this to make some great ideas into reality. Linked with the cell and Wi-Fi location (Skyhook Wireless interview on AVSP Ep 131) you have to imagine that there are going to be some great location apps available when you can start to get 3rd party apps in June. Now if we can get a hook from the bluetooth radio for a bluetooth GPS stream we can bug Elvin until they rewrite ArcPad for the iPhone. As you can imagine there has already been some discussion of developments, but I am waiting to see how others begin using it. Hmm…write or download SDK.
Update: I think I am going to have to look at OpenGL for the first time in 7 years. The games look great in fact there has already been a suggestion to use the accelerometer for map control over on the GeoWanking list.
Microsoft’s XNA announcements were not the only news to come out of the Game Developers Conference related to user community development tools for games. Sony will be releasing their PhyreEngine tools, which will allow development of games that can be recompiled for the PS3. PhyreEngine has already been used to create several games that are available on the PlayStation Network Store, including Flow, but the availability of PhyreEngine as a free download will really open up the opportunities for developing games at a reasonable cost, and then sharing them with other users. PhyreEngine supports cross-platform development on the PC and PS3 (and apparently possibly the Xbox360). It will also support a number of leading 3D model formats, including Maya and COLLADA.
There’s no official word from Sony on when PhyreEngine will be available, but I really want to give it a try and compare it to the development experience with XNA, which I have had a lot of success with so far.
In their journey to get everyone hooked on their dev tools, Microsoft has rolled out DreamSpark, a site where students can download:
These products are great for folks who are just starting out in development and design. They are free to students on a 12 month renewable basis for as long as you are a student.
**Update: if your school isn’t in the preexisting list you can go through JourneyEd to verify student status as well.
Our reader Ed always sends us great links to cool applications and projects, and Globe Glider is another great find. According to the site, it’s a “geo-browser” with an interface that allows users to search and browse by location. Both a Google Maps and Virtual Earth interface are available (you can also use it in Google Earth), with the top half of the browser window given over to a larger view of one of the web mapping apps, while the other is still available in a smaller frame in the lower left corner. If you want to switch the views, there’s a button to flip the two. What the heart of Globe Glider is, though, is its linkages to other sites and resources that are all linked to the locations you are browsing in the mapping interface. For example, I used a Virtual Earth 3D interface in the upper window to navigate to northern Wisconsin, and typed hotels into the Google Local search bar, which gave me results for the nearest hotels to the location. I could then click on the GeoURL tab and see websites from IP addresses nearby, Flickr for geotagged photos, and even weather (a ridiculously cold -27F). Globe Glider brings together tools from Google, Microsoft, Wikipedia, Flickr and others to create a one-stop shop that gives a great example of how location-based search can really change the way we navigate the Web and find information.
I am, as usual, a bit behind on the blogs and podcasts. But as I am catching up (aka procrastinating writing) I wanted to highlight a couple of podcasts that have come out recently.
Our good friend and GIS Day Mate (GDM for short) Rick Lawson sent me a note about the 2008 ArcGIS Server Code Challenge. If you’re the programming sort and have a hankerin’ for an extra $25,000 bucks, you might want to enter. Entries have to use ArcServer 9.2 and must be uploaded to the ArcScripts library by February 29th to be considered. The winner will be announced at this year’s Dev Summit in March. Second and third place winners will earn a nice payday for their work as well! So don’t hesitate to enter if you’re doing any interesting programming work with ArcServer!
DataPortability announced today that Google, Facebook, and Plaxo have joined the DataPortability Workgroup on creating open standards for social networking data. DataPortability’s mission is ” To put all existing technologies and initiatives in context to create a reference design for end-to-end Data Portability. To promote that design to the developer, vendor and end-user community.” In the world of social networking, the big players like Facebook and Google currently have proprietary and competing data formats and standards, and there are no easy solutions to integrating information from various platforms. DataPortability is essentially a group that is advocating the adoption of various open standards that are often used in social networking/Web 2.0 applications, such as RSS, so that data from these sites can be taken by the users themselves and reused elsewhere or can be exchanged and enhanced. This announcement follows on the heels of the Robert Scoble/Facebook data tussle, where Scoble downloaded some data about his Facebook friends and Facebook blocked his account. After much furor, Scoble’s account was reinstated, and Chris Saad from the DataPortability Workgroup issued the open invitation for Facebook to join, which they have now accepted. Other members of the group include Yahoo, MySpace, and the BBC.
Of course, the privacy issues are always a challenge, but the issue of ownership of one’s own data that is contributed to sites like Facebook and the value of such data continues to be debated and a proactive approach to opening up these datasets could have a really huge impact on social networking and the Web, if the big boys follow through.
A couple of projects by Japanese researchers show that work in the area of augmented or mixed reality is really pushing the boundary between the real and virtual worlds. Michihiko Shoji, a researcher at the Yokohama Nationa University Venture Business Laboratory, has developed a virtual humanoid called U-Tsu-Shi-O-Mi. The robot is covered in a green cloth skin and a head-mounted VR system virtually maps a human avatar onto the robot. The user wearing the display can then interact physically with the robot to add a sense of touch to their virtual interactions with the avatar.
The second project relates to the very specialized field of brain-computer interface (BCI), which relates to technologies that are able to allow humans to mentally control computers. Researcher at the Keio University Biomedical Engineering Laboratory have actually developed a system where a user wearing a headpiece that monitors brain activity in certain areas can actually cause an on-screen avatar to move in Second Life. The research is in the early stages, but the lab has a video online that shows their project in action (the page is in Japanese, but if you look above the photos, you’ll see the video links to either Windows or Macintosh versions).
I am sure all kinds of Matrix and Minority Report analogies come to mind, but it’s just unbelievable sometimes how fast research is moving in these areas, certainly faster than our ability to deal with a lot issues related to the use of these kinds of technologies in the future.
Via Pink Tentacle
I just read an article at NewScientistTech about a cool software application called 4D Cities, developed by Frank Dellaert and Grant Schindler of Georgia Institute of Technology and Sing Bing Kang of Microsoft Research (His group worked on some of the technologies related to the Photosynth project). The project is being funded by NSF and a Virtual Earth grant from Microsoft. It seems to work like Photosynth, but arranges photo collections of the same area into a temporal sequence. A 3D animation can then be generated to show how the area changed through the time period covered.
Check out the cool animations demonstrating the software on Grant Schindler’s website and the 4D Cities project website.