All posts tagged ‘Location’

Mining Flickr to Build 3D Models of the World

Microsoft’s PhotoSynth tool is jaw-droppingly awesome. But, because it’s a Microsoft project, the technology is unlikely to appear on some of your favorite non-Microsoft online apps, like Google Maps or Flickr.

However, our friends at ReadWriteWeb stumbled across a very similar tool — at least in terms of the end result — developed by the University of North Carolina in conjunction with Swiss university, ETH-Zurich.

The team has developed a method for creating 3D models by pulling in millions of photographs from Flickr and using some fancy algorithms to generate 3D models of local landmarks. Perhaps even more impressive the results can be generated using a single computer in under a day.

Project lead Jan-Michael Frahm touts the project’s efficiency saying, “our technique would be the equivalent of processing a stack of photos as high as the 828-meter Dubai Towers, using a single PC, versus the next best technique, which is the equivalent of processing a stack of photos 42 meters tall — as high as the ceiling of Notre Dame — using 62 PCs. This efficiency is essential if one is to fully utilize the billions of user-provided images continuously being uploaded to the internet.”

While the results are cool and would make an impressive addition to any number of geo-based services, more serious use cases include helping disaster workers get a better idea of where they’re headed and the extent of damage.

So far the researchers have released a movies demonstrating the technique on landmarks in both Rome (get it? built in a day…) and Berlin, and the results are impressive. For more information on how the process works, check out the UNC website.

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File Under: Location, Web Services

Personalize Your Map With a Custom Map Marker

If you’re adding a map to your website, why settle for the vanilla design when you can customize it and leave your own personal mark?

This tutorial will show you how to create a custom map from scratch, then add a little unique flavor to it by replacing the standard “map pin” icon with a custom icon of your own design.

To do this, we’ll be using Mapstraction, a library that creates map code that can be reused across all the big mapping providers (Yahoo, Google, et al). Mapstraction also allows for multiple types of customization such as custom info bubbles and graphics like the one we’ll be dropping onto the map.

Note: This tutorial is adapted from the book Map Scripting 101 by Adam DuVander. Adam is a former Webmonkey contributor and executive editor of Programmable Web. In his book, he shows how to use all of the features of the most popular mapping APIs, and how to mash them up with data from other sources like events calendars, weather services and restaurant review sites to make a variety of custom maps.

This exercise comes from chapters 1 and 2 of Adam’s book, and it is reprinted here with his permission and that of the book’s publisher, No Starch Press. It isn’t a word-for-word excerpt. It has been slightly adapted to work as a web tutorial. You’ll find dozens of in-depth exercises — including the full version of this one — in the book itself.

Create a Mapstraction map

Mapstraction is a little different from Google Maps and Yahoo Maps. Mapstraction is an open source JavaScript library that ties into other mapping APIs. If you use Mapstraction, you can switch from one type of map to another with very little work, as opposed to rewriting your code completely.

Using Mapstraction limits your risk to changes being made to an API. For example, if your site’s traffic takes you beyond the limit for your chosen provider, or the provider begins placing ads on the map, Mapstraction lets you switch providers quickly and inexpensively.

To use Mapstraction, you must first choose a provider. In this example, I’m using Mapstraction to create a Google Map.
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File Under: APIs, Location, Web Services

Where 2.0: Geomena Launches API to Feed its Open Location Database


SAN JOSE, California — A new web service called Geomena is trying to build a geolocation database practically from scratch, and it’s taking a page from Wikipedia’s playbook to do it.

Geomena is an open wi-fi geo database — using a method similar to services from Skyhook and Google, any app plugged in to Geomena can use nearby wi-fi access points to determine your location.

The database is tiny right now. It has around 3,400 geo-tagged access points in the system, most of them around the project’s home base in Portland, Oregon. So, to grow the database as quickly as possible, the Geomena team has launched a new API that lets developers build apps that can enter new wi-fi access point locations.

So, if you’re making a location-based game, a location-sharing Firefox plug-in, or a web-app that relies on geodata, you can rig it up to write new wi-fi location points directly to Geomena’s database, helping it grow through good, old-fashioned crowdsourcing.

The emergence of location as an application platform has led to a bevy of new web services, each of them eager to provide developers with geodata to fuel the current flood of mobile and web-based apps. Most of the buzz at the all-things-location Where 2.0 conference, taking place here this week, has centered around SimpleGeo, a new web data store that just launched its “iTunes for geodata” — a pay-as-you-go solution for developers building location-based apps.

Continue Reading “Where 2.0: Geomena Launches API to Feed its Open Location Database” »

File Under: Location, Web Services

Where 2.0: SimpleGeo to Launch ‘iTunes for Geodata’


SAN JOSE, California – If you’re building an app that incorporates location — whether it’s a game, a local search service, or even a Twitter client — you’re going to have to go somewhere to get your data.

As we noted Tuesday, location is now an application platform, and there’s a whole crop of location data stores opening up to serve the emerging market of applications.

SimpleGeo is the latest such company to join the scrum. The web startup is announcing the debut of its geodata service here at Where 2.0 on Wednesday afternoon, but Jenna Wortham of The New York Times leaked the news a little early.

From the NYT Bits blog:

The company has been working to create what he describes as “iTunes for geodata.” The idea is simple: Create a wide sampling of geographic datasets and technologies that developers can access free or, for heavier users, at a range of prices. [...]

The company offers two tools. The first is the SimpleGeo Marketplace, which gives developers access to different location datasets and technologies for a monthly fee. The second is called the SimpleGeo Storage Engine and allows developers to perform location queries on a pay-as-you-go basis.

To gather its data, SimpleGeo began consuming datastreams from Twitter, Gowalla, Foursquare, Brightkite, Flickr and other location-sharing web services.

The pay-as-you-go model will work well for SimpleGeo, which allows the first million API calls for free, according to TechCrunch. Prices then start at $300 for the next level and go up from there. The company claims to have over 4,000 partnered developers using its service.

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File Under: Location, Mobile

Where 2.0: Fly a Drone Helicopter and Fight Killer Robots With Your iPhone

SAN JOSE, California — First unveiled at CES in January of this year, the Parrot AR.Drone is a flying wireless toy that’s the center of a new augmented reality game. It streams video and sends location information as it hovers and zips around, and you can control it with your iPhone or iPod Touch.

As you control it, you see the drone’s POV video stream on your phone’s screen. Tipping the phone in different ways makes the drone turn and fly around, as the software senses the iPhone’s accelerometer.

As if a remote-controlled helicopter isn’t cool enough: The Parrot drone’s control screen has cross hairs, and you can “shoot” at things you see on the screen. The drone detects tags that people have applied to inanimate objects, and as objects are tagged, they can be replaced on-screen by virtual objects. So, as you fly around, you can shoot at virtual killer robots that are layered over the real-world background video. You can also put two drones into battle mode and shoot at each other.

Martin Lefebure of Parrot, the company that makes the device, demonstrated the latest version of the drone on stage at the Where 2.0 conference here Wednesday. The thing flew around the room, and everyone in the audience was able to look up onto the big screen on stage, where they could see themselves waving at the drone’s video camera. Lefebure then did battle with some insect-like evil robots that were holding us hostage in the conference ballroom. Unfortunately, he got his ass handed to him.

Parrot first showed off its iPhone-controlled car — the first concept that eventually evolved into the Parrot — at the 2009 edition of Where 2.0.

The iPhone and the drone talk to each other over a standard wi-fi connection. It has a range of about 150 feet (it’s limited by the range of your wi-fi) and the battery lasts about 15 minutes.