I found this wicked cool video over on Gizmodo on a Google Earth Hologram Device You’ll Want and want to see. It is pretty cool to see how many new interfaces are being built to interact with maps and virtual globes.
During Sony’s keynote at the Tokyo Games Conference in 2006, the former head of Playstation, Ken Kutaragi, briefly mentioned his vision for the PS3 and specifically talked about a global mapping system for the PS3 (see our previous post here). Last week in Tokyo, Sony held a strategy meeting open to the press, where they showed video previews of 2 upcoming Sony products that are part of this vision of an interconnected local and global virtual world. Since I was trapped in North Carolina without broadband access, I didn’t get a chance to post about it until now. The first preview, for Home, has already gotten a lot of attention and is currently in closed beta with a release later this year. The second demo, however, is much more interesting and I had not heard anything about it until now. It is called the Life With Playstation service, and seems to be a virtual globe application with real-time web services. Over at Digital World Tokyo, you can see the brief video demos for Home and Life With Playstation (the second video). Since the audio is in Japanese, I wasn’t able to get the particulars that were being discussed with the video. Still, it looks pretty cool, and is part of a growing interest in offering virtual globe applications and web services through networked gaming consoles.
While the new Google Earth 4.2 release got a lot of attention for Google Earth Sky, another cool hidden feature, a flight simulator navigation mode, was included as well, although it’s taken a little longer for the word to get out. I gave it a whirl this evening, although I appear to lack any coordination when it comes to flying. It is definitely cool, but you will want to consult the help page that lists the keyboard shortcuts for navigating and controlling the plane before you start.
To engage the hidden mode, you press Ctrl + Alt + A (or Command+Option+A for Macs) and a dialog pops up that lets you choose between and F-16 fighter jet or a propeller plane, and you can start from your current view or go to one of the world airports listed in the drop down menu. So, make sure you’ve downloaded and installed GE 4.2, and fly the friendly skies!
Ok, I’ll grant you this is a bit of a stretch for a Spatial post. However, it does have something to do with Virtual Worlds. Kinda. Sorta. And Metaphysics. Anyway, an article in the science section of the NY Times hypothesizes we might all be living in an “ancestor simulator” that people from the future might have built to see how the past worked. The notion is based upon the belief that it is technologically possible to develop processors so powerful they can mimic human brains and nervous systems perfectly. From a philosophical point of view, I can see where the idea has some merit. From a programmer point of view, I can’t fathom how these hypothetical “posthumans” avoid system crashes…. because EVERY system crashes eventually. Either way, how can you ensure your survival in this sim? According to economist Robin Hansen, it’s pretty simple – “you should try to be as interesting as possible, on the theory that the designer is more likely to keep you around for the next simulation.” That really needs to be a T-Shirt.
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.
I finally got tired of lugging my Thinkpad around, and decided that I needed to somehow get an even smaller, lighter portable device, yet with full laptop capabilities. So, I managed to spend all my money on an OQO Model 02, which is the ultimate in geeky tech. It is part of a new family of devices known as UMPC (UltraMobile PCs). My OQO is a mere 5.6″ x 3.3″ x 1.0″, but packs in a 1.5GHz VIA processor, 1 GB of RAM, and a 60 GB hard drive. It runs a full installation of Windows XP (and you can buy models that come with Windows Vista), and is basically a laptop PC in a tiny package that weighs just around a pound.
The OQO is really for the techie on the go. It has built-in wireless and Bluetooth and you can pay more for integrated Wireless WAN and other options. If you want to know the specs in more detail, the OQO website has everything. Now, on the more cool part. I decided to see what the OQO could really do in terms of letting me do my work on the go, so we installed a full ArcGIS including extensions (see ArcGlobe and ArcMap running on a 5 inch screen is a little weird). Then, during one of the morning breaks at ISDE5, I decided to take advantage of the wireless in the room and see what I could play with. I downloaded ArcGIS Explorer, Google Earth, and the plugin for Virtual Earth 3D. Then I decided to see if I could in fact run them. I was a little surprised that ArcGIS Explorer seemed the least fazed by the little screen and so-so resolution, and the only real slowdown I noticed was in relation to the network. I had no real trouble navigating around in Virtual Earth 3D, although the 3D buildings in San Francisco did not have time to load fully, and I don’t know if the OQO display graphics are really capable of handling the textures. Google Earth was the last globe I had time to try, and it of course told me that I might not want to run it on such a low resolution screen (I believe 800×480), but when I actually went ahead and started, we did OK and I tried out a few info windows and such.
Overall, I love my OQO and it’s exactly what I hoped it would be. It’s not for everyone, however. The tiny screen and lower resolution might bug some people and the keyboard is small, so effective typing pretty much has to be BlackBerry-style. So, even though I didn’t really intend this post to be a review of the OQO Model 02, if mobility and connectivity matter to you, you should definitely check it out.
We have Bern Szukalski of ESRI, Bill Gail of Microsoft, Patrick Hogan of World Wind, Chuck Stein of Geofusion, and Brian McClendon of Google. Overall the discussion started off with general discussions on Digtial Earth and Virtual Globes from ESRI and Microsoft and has narrowed to detailed discussions of software from World Wind and GeoFusion, then finishing with a focus on KML from Google.
Questions: KML in VE…standard MS answer of maybe. GeoRSS in GE…simple Yes. NetCDF or other time knowledgeable data format…ESRI yes but not in AGX yet…others talk about time series viz. Efficiency in using Lat/Long for Virtual Globes, especially for the poles…there are issues, but check GeoFusions projection that addresses this issue…sometimes a globe isn’t the best way to go…Definitely check out GeoFusions square projection. Bathymetry question…WW, GF, and AGX yes…VE and GE not so much. Education, did GE leap into edu too quickly for a general choice…everyone wants to support education. Serious Games and VGs…NASA grants. Volumetric atmosphere data…some options already in each VG.
Over on YouTube there is an interesting video that uses Google Earth to talk about the loss of caribou habitat in an interesting way.
Microsoft has awarded over $1.1 million in grants to winners in their Virtual Earth and SensorMap grant competitions. The SensorMap project include work on Harvard’s CitySense project, which will utilize a network of 100 sensors aroudn Cambridge, Mass. that record various types of data related to local conditions, such as current weather and traffic levels. The data will then be published on the SensorMap platform. There are a number of other interesting projects related to various types of sensors and data collection, as well as dealing with issues of integrating different types of data into the SensorMap platform.
The Virtual Earth winners hint at some of the research priorities Microsoft is interested in, including local search, building 3D models from photos (a winning proposal from Steve Seitz of the University of Washington, one of the people behind PhotoTourism, which is part of the Photosynth project), and utilizing StreetSide imagery to help generate models. Basically, all the winning projects are looking to further refine the ability to representate and navigate 3D virtual representations of the world around us.
I’ve only really touched on a small portion of the winning proposals, so for a full list of winners of these and other Microsoft Research grant programs, head to the Research Funding Opportunities page, and click on the individual grant competitions.
The March 2007 issue of MSDN Magazine in now online, and Duncan Lawler’s column features a short writeup on the development of Virtual Earth 3D. Duncan is Development Manager for the Virtual Earth 3D team, and it’s interesting to get an insider’s perspective on the development process, especially on the 3D buildings’ development. I have begun to experiment with VE 3D myself, and I am liking it more each time I use it, even though there are some issues.