Augmented Reality – Only for Social Media?

I can’t but help try out the Yelp app for the iPhone and not be amazed. We’ve all been lucky enough to see augmented reality in the geospatial world for the last couple of years, but not at the consumer level. For most of us, the closest we got to augmented reality was when we road in a Lincoln Town Car that projected the digital speedometer on the windshield. Clearly though we are much further along than that considering that my iPhone can find Margaritas while I blog by just holding up my iPhone.

Now if I could only order that margarita as well…

But really has my head spinning is what if there was such an app like Yelp that helped you discover spatial data? WeoGeo uses maps to help you find spatial data, but what if you just used your smartphone in the field and walked around seeing what datasets where available?

Now tell me that wouldn’t be useful!

Wait! Sensor webs do exist in the real world thanks to Google Maps Mobile

OK, I admit it. I’ve laughed at all these sensor web applications that I’ve seen over the years. Really who is going to be able to bring this to the general public (at least that public using Google Mobile apps not on the iPhone). Google of course!

What if you could do a little something to improve the world during your daily drive to work Here are a few ideas: tell everybody in the city when you’re stuck in slow-moving traffic; warn the drivers on the freeway behind you that they should consider an alternate route; tell the people still at home that they should spend another ten minutes reading the morning news before they leave for work; tell your city government that they might want to change the timing of that traffic light at the highway on-ramp. Of course, you can’t just get on the phone and call everybody, and your one traffic report from your one spot on the road might not help much anyway. But if everybody on the road, all at once, could tell the world how fast their car is moving, and we could make it easy for anybody to check that information on their computer or cell phone, well ‘ then we’d be getting somewhere.

Of course I don’t always have open Google Maps when I’m rolling around Phoenix, but I’m sure many people do. Lack of iPhone support isn’t surprising, but I’m sure it will be in the works soon. It took a company with large resources like Google to pull this off, but I can’t help but gaze to the sky to just think about all the sensor web applications out there that are just around the corner. Maybe Goodchild was right after all, VGI is a huge promise that may get fulfilled really soon.

I can’t help but think about my post from yesterday though. Just really great data being collected by Google, but locked up in their API. Maybe if we had our act together, there would have been a viable open sensor web that companies such as Google, Verizon, AT&T, Microsoft, Oracle, etc could have joined and we’d be able to share data between platforms. Taking part in Google’s transit project will only continue to reinforce their dominance over content. I’m torn, but still excited.

Looking at OGC’s sensor web graphic you have to wonder how much of this will actually come true. Clearly not all sensor webs will be open and usable outside of the platform they are intended.

Trying to unlock transit data

Something that has been bothering me somewhat these last few months is transit data and how we as a community can have access to it. Here in Phoenix, we are unlucky enough not to have access to Google Transit, Valley Metro is locked in to the 1990’s with their system and you should see how bad the mobile version is. So many of us here have been trying to free the Valley Metro data to get it incorporated into OpenStreetMap or even Google Transit. Since I’m not blogging about how successful that effort has been, you can guess that we are stuck back in the last decade still.

But that isn’t the whole story right? Just getting transit data into Google Transit is great for users of Google services, but not good for the community at large. Google has been really good at getting data locked up behind government bureaucracy, but they’ve done nothing to help free this data beyond using their own APIs. But at the same time, is this Google’s responsibility? Google seems to say they try to get people to share it, but it isn’t their job. I think I tend to agree with them. If an organization is willing to share data with Google, why aren’t they willing to share it with the public? That is where these organizations fall down and it would appear where public transit is a huge problem.

Public transit organizations are looking at protecting their data from being used by others. It isn’t everyone, but it does send a message that if you as a member of the riding public want to access public data, you need to do so under an application approved by that transit organization. I find it amazing that DMCA can be applied to public data and it should send chills to anyone who wants to use data they as a taxpayer are funding. Google is able to negotiate deals because they have the money and the eyeballs that transit organizations want. I just don’t like the path that we seem headed down where if I want to access public data that I helped create… I need to do so using a commercial API and possibly have to pay a vendor (paying twice is a tax on a tax) the right to use what should be free.

Keep away from that slope, you won’t like where it will lead!

Stay away from that slope, you wont like where it will lead!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinsaff/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

MapQuest Continues to Improve Their APIs

What can I say? MapQuest seems to have a new focus on their APIs that I don’t think I’ve ever seen.

So we have a bonanza of beta and preview updates to share with you. We’ve been busy making a number of updates to the MapQuest Platform and we’ve been creating new Web Services and revising our client-side SDKs.

Very interesting, the vector based POI stars are of course critical to most people’s workflows so that is going to go over big. Me, I’m more interested in the Mouse Wheel Zoom Control. Humor aside it is good to see MapQuest investing in their platform. We all used MapQuest back in the day and while in this crowd it has a huge uphill climb before anyone will start using it with their business processes, I can’t but get nostalgic?about putting a MapQuest map on a website.

Back in the 40’s, my Mom used to listen to MapQuest on the radio every night.

Back in the 40s, my Mom used to listen to MapQuest on the radio every night.

Back from WhereCamp5280

I had a very enjoyable time at WhereCamp5280. A huge thanks should go to Eric Wolf, Peter Batty, and Ben Tuttle. I think one of the best parts of the WhereCamp was the practicality of what was presented. So much we get fluff at Where 2.0 or other “bleading edge” conferences of projects and companies that aren’t really trying to solve problems. All I saw last weekend was person after person talk about what they were doing with their workflows with some great technology and the end result was an improvement in their services.

That isn’t to say that there wasn’t cutting edge stuff there, Chris Helm showing CouchDB and IMBY, DRCOG, their data portal and using OSM, Ben Tuttle using IDL and Ruby at NOAA and Tom Churchill showing how Denver PD uses augmented reality mapping to help them catch criminals. It isn’t just that rolling MapReduce is “fun”, but it needs to be practical and that is what I think the Denver geospatial community is great at doing.

What also could be happening is that we are crossing over from thinking about using these technologies and are actually using them in our everyday workflows. I’m not sure WhereCamp5280 could have been any more successful than it was and I’m looking forward to the next WhereCamp (WhereCampPDX?).

**Tom Churchill demonstrates augmented reality application from the Denver PD helicopter. **

Tom Churchill demonstrates augmented reality application from the Denver PD helicopter.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/robotbrainz/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ArcGIS Explorer 900 released

It looks like ESRI is releasing ArcGIS Explorer 900, just in time for WhereCamp5280. Some new features include:

  • New UI (the Office ribbon)
  • New basemap galley for easy access to different base maps
  • 2D/3D <- What I think really sets AGX apart from other globes. It is a 2D world out there!
  • Better KML support and support for layer packages (becomes a viewer for proprietary ESRI data0
  • New presentation mode (if you saw Bern demo this at the UC, you know how valuable that will be)
  • Bing Maps free to ArcGIS Desktop users (if you have ArcGIS Desktop license with Bing, you can use that on AGX)
  • Localization
  • Projections! Who says you have to work in mercator
  • .NET SDK

AGX has come a very long way so if you haven’t tried it in a while you’ll want to give it another shot. One thing I did note, it doesn’t run on Windows 7 very well. Might be me, but I’ll see Bern tomorrow and ask him about it (though I can guess his answer, “We’ll support it when Windows 7 ships”)