Posts Tagged 'Google'

Ingress could really augment your reality

Macquarie University

Macquarie University –     photo Wikipedia

Seems like Augmented Reality (AR) apps are about to change our daily lives in a major (epic?) way lately. A recent series of AR workshops convened by Macquarie University’s Learning and Teaching Research Cluster group (LTRC) elicited participant responses ranging from idle curiosity to something approaching Shock and Awe.  Not so much because of the graphic awesomeness of some of the projections used as exemplars, but rather the enormous potential for development that became apparent as attendees came to realize just what this technology can offer.  AU has only recently begun to emerge from a hacker community setting into the harsh reality of commercial networks with R&D dollars to burn – on anything that currently seems to be capturing the mind of early adopters and netizens generally.

Google is  backing and promoting an AR app called Ingress that leads participants to geo-locations in a city, then lets them “hack” the location and link it to other locs, capturing territory in the process.  It’s a game you have to play on a real landscape and involves physical and mental effort in spades. Here’s a longish vid that takes you through the Ingress setup:

They’ve chosen to promote the game through a series of viral video clips that provide more questions than answers about what the game is all about. Actually, a quote from the Ingress Initial Briefing page can probably explain the purpose of the game better than I can:

“The primary goal of the game is defend the takeover of the human race by an unknown “Shaper” force or, depending on your perspective, to assist in an “Enlightenment” of mankind through an alliance with the Shapers.”

Basically, you have to choose between the Resistance and Enlightenment factions, not unlike Tris choosing Dauntless over Erudite in Divergent, the first book in Veronica Roth’s futuristic trilogy. Read  Rachel Metz’s excellent overview of Ingress in e-mag MIT Technology Review. This game is currently invitation-only and runs on Android-based phones for the moment, with an IOS version promised in the near future.

While waiting,  IPhone owners may want to opt for a similar cityscape game called Shadow Cities. The free app can be downloaded from the iTunes App store.  Here’s the trailer:

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Video Panoramas Really Drop You in It

Video panoramas are the next logical step in visual media synthesis, merging still panos with “flatview” videos.  The capture system developed by Netherlands-based  technologists yellowBird is the video equivalent of the camera used to create StreetView shots in Google Earth and Google MapsYellowBird’s camera has 6 lenses and can be mounted on a walking frame (see image at right) or a vehicle using fibre-optic cables to deliver a data stream of 1200 Mbit per second. The integrated surround-sound mike system can record hi-fi audio at 96 khz.

Video panorama - Haiti

Video panorama, Port-au-Prince

Here’s a pano video shot in Avenue Martin Luther King, Port-au-Prince, Haiti using Immersive Media‘s 11-lens Dodeca 2360 system (the screenshot is to the left). Try panning around the full 360 degrees or up and down as the video plays. This added control of the video playback really gives you a sense of being in the scene.

Pausing and panning around lets you pick up details you’d miss in a straight video, so this is really extra information under the user’s direct control.  The subject matter is confronting – endless streets of buildings reduced to rubble – but also heartening as you follow individuals walking through the scene.  You get a sense that Haitians are really trying to get on with the business of survival and reconstruction of their shattered world.

Immersive Media’s camera has also been used for strictly commercial purposes.  Have a look at this ad for Armani Jeans with teenagers running through alleyways and managing to sell expensive jeans along the way.  Key points in the video let you zoom in or access the Man/Woman catalogue.  The immersiveness of the technology gives you the feeling of being part of the gang.  This could be the ultimate “lifestyle” commercial – where you don’t just get a glimpse of how carefree, stylish young people live (think Coca-Cola), you virtually experience it.

Swiss company Globalvision has integrated video panos with Google Maps, giving you a 360 degree video tour of main streets in Geneva.  The interface includes controls for panning, tilting and zooming as the video plays. See the first Related article below for more detail.

(images: camera – yellowBird, Haiti –

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WolframAlpha: a computational knowledge engine

If it’s computable knowledge, WolframAlpha wants to know about it. This knowledge engine is a bit like Google on steroids. It was developed by Wolfram Research, the makers of Mathematica, which is one of the drivers of the knowledge engine. Have a look at this Screencast where Stephen Wolfram gives you a “quick introduction” to WolframAlpha and the types of queries it can handle.

Here’s an article on ZDNet that dissects WolframAlpha from more of a geek perspective.  Wolfram Research is building a  knowledge base of computable data that ranges from musical scales complete with audio playback to complex formulae and graph displays on the physical properties of matter.  Ask WolframAlpha about the melting point of copper, for example, and apart from computing the answer in Celsius  (1084.62 deg C) – or Fahrenheit or Kelvin if you prefer – it will also offer the fact that this is 190 deg.  hotter than a large log fire, and offer spectral radiance graphs based on frequency and wavelength over a range of 6000 degrees.

You can download a WolframAlpha add-on for IE 6+, Firefox 2 or 3, or as an iGoogle Gadget, from the WA downloads page.

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Social Mapping with Google Latitude


Google Latitude

Google Latitude is either a fantastic browser add-on that will bring you and your friends closer together than ever, or a civil libertarian’s Big Brother nightmare, allowing users to track the movements of their employees/relatives/spouses/children down to the metre. Here’s an article in Wednesday’s Sydney Morning Herald that takes the cyber-stalker angle (in the headline at least) on this iGoogle gadget release.

Latitude uses GPS, mobile phone tower data or manual position settings to map subscribers onto a Google Map. The map display can be viewed on a GPS/Web-enabled mobile or PDA, or on a desktop browser. If installed on a desktop machine, users need to have an iGoogle account running Gears, and an optional Profile. The position of subscribers (who opt in to the system) is calculated with either GPS or tower data or is manually set to a Google Map location by individuals. You can download the gadget and add it to your iGoogle page here.

Implications for Ed Tech
I think this type of software has the potential to expand a learner’s view of the world, particularly if used in an international context. Students from different locations could locate themselves and their exchange counterparts on the world map, adding another dimension (geographic location) to the learning context.

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