Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Geo-VideoBlogging with the Nokia N95



There is a new cellphone on the horizon that is billed as a "multimedia computer". Nokia intends to release this camera in the second quarter of 2007. It finally integrates good optics (Carl Zeiss) with an integrated GPS and up to 2GB storage. Using the Nokia SDK, it may be possible to do photo geo-tagging and even video geo-tagging on the device itself. If not, certainly it will be possible to send a web service location information and media to do the geo-tagging on a remote server.

See this review for more details.

Here is a sample low-resolution photo from the N93 -- a 3.2 megapixel camera. The N95 is billed as a 5 megapixel camera. Both use Carl Zeiss optics (unlike the very poor sensors on current cellphone cameras in the US).



US carriers won't carry this. If you use T-Mobile or Cingular, you'll be able to plug-in a US SIM card into these devices to use them.

Is the camera any good? Currently, videobloggers are using the N93 cellphones on wifi networks. That is, they wait until they are in a hotspot and then use a wifi network to send photos and videos.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Update on GPS Cameras


Somewhat surprisingly, in the 8 month hiatus since the last post on this site, there has been relatively little activity with regard to commercial cameras that also capture and embed location information in photos. There are only four options (that I can find) of cameras that geotag photos:
  • Nikon semi-pro cameras.Nikon has several camera models that encode GPS position information (latitude, longitude, altitude and UTC) if the camera is connected to a NMEA 0183 Ver. 2.01 GPS receiver via an optionally available GPS Adapter Cord MC-35. These are relatively expensive cameras that I've not had an opportunity to use. However, Ruth Happel has published her experiences using one of these cameras.

  • Ricoh Pro G3. I've reported on the camera briefly before, but have had a an opportunity to use it since then. This Ricoh camera is quite expensive for the quality of the device. However, it is very easy to embed location information using it. You can use either a compact GPS card (the antenna, unfortunately, points downward, so you have to do some finagling to get good signal before shooting your picture) or you can use a Bluetooth GPS. I prefer the BT GPS, though this means charging and managing two devices instead of one. Ricoh will, hopefully, come out with an updated model in 2006 that improves on the Caplio G3. One, potentially, very valuable feature is the ability to make voice notes with photographs. However, currently, you can capture only 30-second notes and the interface is very clunky such that you have to go through a menu sequence before shooting each audio photo.

  • CoyotEYE Pro and Ike 300. I've used both of these devices and they are of little utility if you are actually interested in taking good quality photos. Both devices are pocketPC-based devices that utilize sensors associated with this platform. CoyotEYE Pro is built on the TDS Recon platform and relies on sensor compatibility with this device. It supports an optional laser range finder, CF or BT GPS capablity, and FlyCam CF digital camera. This is a CMOS 1.3M pixel camera with digital zoom only. The Recon is not well-suited for the form factor of the flash model camera, and in any case, picture quality is very poor. The Ike 300 has more sensors and greater capability, but is very large and bulky. It uses the same sort of CMOS camera so is also a poor substitute for a a standard consumer-grade digital camera. The Ike includes additional sensors such as built in laser distance meter, digital compass and inclinometer. It has both BT and wifi and comes with additional software such as a DGPS post processing kit, ESRI ArcPad Application Builder and Ike SDK. At last look, this device cost in the neighborhood of 8K.

  • Cellphones that are GPS-enabled are likely to become standard in the near future. The only one I can find that is currently available is the Nextel / Sprint (Motorola) i860. The picture quality is not great. Here's a search on "i860" on GeoSnapper. Garmin just introduced Garmin Mobile that lets you get maps and turn-by-turn information on a few Sprint cellphones. Siemens' SXG75 is a phone with integrated GPS and optional A-GPS as well as a 2.0M camera and video recording and playback. My mouth is watering to test this phone.... Ulocate.com is just itching to support your GPS camera phone.

To date, my best experience has been with the Ricoh camera. It is easy to use and takes reasonable quality photos.

For more information on cameras, check out this site on Geomatic Photography that popped up in November.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

MSNBC reports on vlogging

Vlogging is starting to make it big... MSNBC reports on it and Robert Scoble of Microsoft talks about it on his own blog every couple of days (Robert...where is yours?).


Basically, the article points out that the most prolific vloggers come from a videography or media arts background. Any one can make a video these days, but it takes skill to turn that video into art... and let's face it, we all gravitate toward either high quality videos or those that capture important events in the world. What's making it easier for videobloggers are great new cameras such as the solid state Sanyo MPEG-4 camera, Xacti c4 or c5, and also a couple of new tools such as Vlog It! for creating and posting video and ANT not TV for viewing videoblog feeds.


Sanyo Xacti C5

Vlog It!

Ant viewer (for Mac and PC)

The idea of ANT and other video blog aggregators is to enable people to rapidly scan video blog feeds much as they do with text feeds in an RSS feed reader. There are others... mefeedia and vimeo for creating shared playlists, for instance. But the videoblogging world has plenty of room for expansion and new ideas. Modestly speaking, of course, this site advocates the notion of mobile and ubiquitous videoblogging. Hopefully, soon we'll have something to show you.

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wi-pics -- aim, snap, transmit

If you have a CF slot in your camera, you can attach this gizmo and upload photos to a pre-determined site wirelessly. You can also get one of these puppies with a barcode scanner or harddrive.

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Flickr bought by Yahoo

Flickr swears it won't change their service drastically and that we'll like them even better... and prices on pro accounts will drop. Anyway, you can read more about it on the flickr blog. I wonder what this might mean for folks like Greg Elin at FotoNotes...
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Monday, March 21, 2005

Garmin GPS 10

Garmin has produced it's first bluetooth GPS. The GPS 10 is waterproof and has a battery life of 12 hours. It even comes with Garmin's MapSource City Selection North America for PCs and Pocket PC.

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Saturday, March 19, 2005

Geo-referencing Photos

This article will discuss two topics in geo-referencing. First, we'll talk about how you geo-encode, or geo-reference, photos so that you can link them to a map. Second, we'll talk about how you display your GPS on a map and then link photos to particular locations.

Geo-encoded photos are photos that have location information stored inside of the image itself. There are essentially two ways to geo-encode, or geo-reference, photos.

The first method is to geolink location to the image on-board the camera. The advantage to this is that if the photo media become separated from the GPS log, the images contain location context as metadata inside the image header. Recently, Ricoh developed a device that has both a GPS and camera. The Ricoh Caplio Pro G3 has a number of excellent features: wifi, bluetooth, compact flash and SD card media, gps and a 3.24 megapixel camera with 3x optical zoom. GeoSpatialExperts GPS-Photo Link software can be used in conjunction with the Caplio Pro G3 to organize photos and generate web-based reports on a PC. There is also an ArcGIS plugin to use the GPS-Photo Link software with ArcGIS. Photos are stored as JPEG images, text as TIFF, video in an AVI format and audio as wave files.




The second method of geo-encoding involves geo-linking on a PC by using a GPS log in conjunction with date-stamped digital photos. The GPS-Photo link software mentioned above can also do this, and thus be used in conjunction with a variety of GPS devices and cameras. The advantage to this is that you can use any GPS, camera and a multitude of software. Of course, the disadvantage is that should the images or track log become separated before downloading to a PC, images will lack location context. Additionally, users need to ensure that the GPS and camera are synchronized temporally since it is the time stamp that is used to link GPS location information to photos.

In general, JPEG images are preferred for geo-linking because EXIF is a JPEG image format and is widely supported by digital camera manufacturers. There is a variety of software available for writing to JPEG EXIF headers. Excellent examples are RoboGeo for the PC and the free GPS PhotoLinker on the Mac. There is also photo editing software that also lets you to add location metadata in EXIF manually. For example, see iView Media Pro for the Mac and PC.




Currently, you can use tools such as GPSBabel to convert between various GPS formats on a variety of platforms. Sometimes you need to do this before using tools such as RoboGeo or GPS PhotoLinker so that your GPS log is in a format supported by a particular tool.

So now you've managed to geo-encode your photos. How do you now link them to a map? Some tools such as GPS PhotoLink give you an option to display on a map on the web using services such as TopoZone. Both TopoZone and TerraServer have web services but are limited to maps in the United States. Another mapping service, MultiMap, is also popular in the United Kingdom and other parts of the world.



If you also want to display your track log on a map, you'll find that there is often a fairly complicated workflow involved. Phil Torrone describes how he uses USAPhotoMaps in conjunction with his Garmin ForeRunner 201 to create a view of his running route on a satellite map. USAPhotoMaps downloads aerial and topographic maps from Microsoft TerraServer and plots the XML-based ForeRunner log on the map.





Another example of plotting a GPS log can be seen at the MacDevCenter in an article by David Goldwasser where he describes using TopoFusion for photo linking. TopoFusion uses maps from TerraServer as well as NASA's OnEarth server. Visit David's site to see photo-linking in action on his map-based track log. The workflow is quite complex in creating this site, but the demonstration illustrates the utility of combining location-based visual media in a web-based format. What is lacking is the ability to dynamically generate these views using tagging or semantic mark-up as well as an ease of use needed by mobile users.







For some exciting new directions in geo-linking, there is a flash photo blog here where flickr photos are tagged with location and projected on a world map. Similarly, Tokyo Picturesque is a project enabling people to upload their geo-located cellphone photos to a map of Tokyo. Also, BlogMap aspires to use geo-coded blogs and a map to show "neighblogs". BlogMap uses Microsoft MapPoint to map geourls. Now imagine that your personal device is a blog...



Finally, Google maps is inspiring a lot of creativity. Glen Murphy has created a GPS interface to the XML-based Google maps. In a previous post, we reported on Jon Udell's description of an annotated multimedia google map (also at Engadget). There are also some google map hacking sites emerging that are filled with useful information:

So now that we've geo-referenced photos... what about information about direction, azimuth, altitude, or distance? And what about video mapping? Well, there's not much use for this yet in consumer-based products. However, there are some high-end tools such as Red Hen Media Mapper and SAIC GeoRover that will do some of this. However, the workflow is still complex and the price point high. Again, looking toward the consumer hacker we may see new use cases for these technologies at an ease of use and affordability that may spark interest in commercial vendors.

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Night Vision Camera

Night vision relies on amplifying what little light exists at night so that you can see more clearly. However, it is limited to a narrow range of wavelengths and, therefore, images typically lack color. Worse are thermal imaging cameras which are used when there is no light available.

New Scientist reports that the dutch military are using color information to enhance night imaging by sampling the environment in daylight and mapping colors onto night time images. Currently, mappings are created for field, urban, woods, etc. Ultimately, researchers hope to use GPS positioning information to map day location colors to night location images. These color-augmented photos are hoped to improve soldier reaction time and reduce eye fatigue from trying to interpret grey or green images for objects of interest.



image credit: Engadget

Wimax delivers feature film wirelessly

The first feature film was delivered wireless at a mountain ski resort in Park City Utah. As Wired news reports:

Here's how it worked: Intel technicians in Hillsboro, Oregon, encrypted Rize, which was shot on high-definition digital video. The file was streamed to Salt Lake City, then beamed via microwave to Park City and through a WiMax connection to the top of a 10,000-foot mountain.

A receiver at the ski lodge sent the file to an HP Media Center PC, where it was decoded and projected through a high-end digital projector. Intel's wireless connections allowed huge amounts of data to travel quickly -- at up to 24 Mbps, about 20 times as much throughput as DSL provides.


For more information:

Wrist-watch Personal Video Receiver

The Israeli army is using a PVR (personal video receiver... not to be confused with PVR - personal video recorder) for monitoring video feeds from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). These 3" PVRs developed by Tadiran give soldiers on the ground the ability to see what's happening from above and this improves their ability to assess the situation around them. The V-RAMBO system (video receiver and monitor for battlefield operations) gives 30 frames per second video on a wrist-mounted LCD leaving the soldiers' hands free for holding weapons.


image credit: Defense Review

More information available at Defense Review. Though these folks don't speculate on consumer use... we imagine that wrist-mounted LCDs would be useful for monitoring and, potentially controlling, wearable camera output for videobloggers or roaming news reporters.

"Steadycam" for pointing

"A special adaptor that helps people with hand tremors control a computer mouse more easily has been developed. The device uses similar "steady cam" technology found in camcorders to filter out shaking hand movements." [Via BBC]

[image credit: BBC]


The idea of using "steady cam" technology seems potentially useful in unstable environments such as in moving vehicles where there is a lot of vibration or perhaps even as a wearable input device where the user is running or breathing heavily from exertion.

Eye-controlled video camera

“At CeBit, Stanislavs Bardins of Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians University demonstrates the prototype of a video camera controlled by the eyes. It’s believed the device could be useful in psychology and market research.” - reports Cnet Asia. [ Via Engadget ]


Credit: Sebastian Willnow/AFP/Getty Images

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Fickr Pools


whatsinmybag
Originally uploaded by karlo.
Flickr has come up with group pools where multiple members can share photos of a common interest. Of course, flicker has RSS feeds so that you can immediately know if there have been any changes to the photostream. Flickr has an api that includes posting and getting photos from pools. Check out this great photo from the "what's in your bag" pool". You need to click through and visit the site to see all of the object annotations on the photo.

49PM Mobile Photo Newsreader

49PM has created a photo newsreader that lets you read any RSS or Atom feed newsfeed and formats photos to fit on your cellphone devices. This includes photos from flickr and Buzznet. All you need is a java-enabled cellphone, push a button, and any new information from your feeds get pushed to your cellphone. You can download and save photos to your cellphone so that you can view them offline later.

Vanu Software Radio

From the vanu website:

Vanu, Inc., in cooperation with General Dynamics Decision Systems, has created a handheld software radio prototype that demonstrates the potential of Vanu Software Radio to support smaller, more compact form factors. The current prototype is capable of switching between an analog FM two way radio and a digital APCO Project 25 radio. These two waveforms are in different frequency bands. The handheld is an iPAQ handheld running Vanu Software Radio under Linux, exchanging digital RF samples with a GD radio transceiver. Neither the Vanu, Inc. portion nor the GD portion of the system had been designed specifically to work together, yet a handheld demo was working six weeks after the project was conceived.


Human-Area Networking (RedTacton)

RedTacton has come up with a fascinating concepts for body area networking that requires no wires. In fact, human area networking uses the the electric field emitted on the surface of the human body to transmit to a RedTacton tranceiver.




RedTacton advertizes three main functiona features: touch, broadband and interactive and any media. Now imagine that you have a wireless headset and an ipod... all you have to do is put your headset on and you hear music! Or imagine that you come into contact with a friend and want to share your photos. Sharing data becomes as simple as shaking hands.

Annotating the Planet

We are likely to see more of these emerge on the scene: multimedia maps. Engadget reports how we can "hack" the new google maps by linking images and photos to locations.




John Udel gives a screencast here showing how to make an interactive walking tour of his hometown.

A9, an Amazon company, is doing something equally remarkable for the yellow pages. Here is an excerpt.

Yellow Pages “Block View,” ... brings the Yellow Pages to life by showing a street view of millions of businesses and their surroundings. Using trucks equipped with digital cameras, global positioning system (GPS) receivers, and proprietary software and hardware, A9.com drove tens of thousands of miles capturing images and matching them with businesses and the way they look from the street.

The whole process (except for the driving!) is completely automatic, making it fast and efficient. Block View allows users to see storefronts and virtually walk up and down the streets of currently more than 10 U.S. cities using over 20 million photographs. We are driving and at some point hope to cover the whole country.




A related, interesting concept, mspace, is an interaction model for exploring information relationships.

From their site:
mSpace helps people build knowledge from exploring those relationships. mSpace does this by offering several powerful tools for organizing an information space to suit a person's interest: slicing, sorting, swapping, infoViews and preview cues.

An mSpace presents several associated categories from an information space, and then lets users manipulate how many of these categories are presented and how they're arranged. In this way, people can organize the information to suit their interests, while concurrently having available to them multiple other complementary paths through that information.





In other words, mspace is a context-rich, multimedia browser. Mspace has also been applied to the Internet Movie Database (IMDB).

Now imagine organizing the visual, geographic world as a G-space....

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Sunday, March 06, 2005

Wearable GPS -- Garmin

Garmin has two popular sorts of wearable GPS devices in a wrist-watch form: the Forerunner and Foretrex. The Forerunner is marketed to the running crowd while the Foretrex to the outdooring crowd. Simply by looking at the availability of software and the presence of user groups, it's clear that the Forerunner outstrips the Foretrex in popularity.




Recently, Garmin released the Forerunner 301 which is advertized to work well with the web-based performance analysis and mapping tool provided by Motion Based. This is because the 301 integrates a heart rate monitor. The 301 monitors heart rate, speed, distance, pace and calories.




Motion Based creates custom reports of workouts including charts and analyses. It also displays routes and simulations on Scalable Vector Maps (SVG) on the web. The great thing about SVG on the web is the small size, clarity and sharpness when zooming and potential for interactivity.

For more information on the Forerunner and applications that are compatible with it see:
On the wishlist for women joggers is real-time, secure web-based tracking so that when they are out alone running, someone can keep an eye out on them.

More on GPS and photo linking to come!


WiFi and Cameras

On the telescopic end of video, so to speak, Kodak has come out with the first wireless, digital camera that uploads photos to the web when it is in range of a wireless network.





Kodak EasyShare One has a 3-inch LCD screen, 256MB of onboard memory, and a 4-megapixel CCD sensor



The only wifi movies that I've seen posted automatically to the web still come from cellphones. Shawn Every posts them automatically to his MT blog.

Personal Video Recorders

Personal Video Recorders (PVPs) and Personal Media Players (PMPs) are storming the scene. The are slightly larger than PocketPCs and have been developed for both playback and recording of video and audio. Most have large harddrives in the range of 20-100GB and the ability to input and output to a number of devices via S-video, RCA A/V jacks and USB2.

A couple very interesting devices currently on the market are the Archos PMA 400 which is Linux based and is both a PMP as well as a PIM device. Like many of these devices, it has a translective screen so that you can view video outdoors. It also has built-in wireless and can record near SVCD quality 512x384 @ 30 f/s, in AVI format.



A drawback might be it's low battery life which is 4 hours in video playback mode. I will be testing this soon, so more to come.

A second interesting device is the Mustek PVR-H140. It has a 3.6 inch screen, 40 GB hard drive and can store media on an SD card. Really, it's just the idea of being able to write to an SD card that makes this particular device appealing.



The fascinating things about PVRs and PMPs, in general, is that they are so incredibly multi-functional. They can be used to both record analog in (which means you can hook your Viosport cam up to this device) and also for playback. One thing they don't do yet, which videobloggers might see as desirable, is be able to do some simple audio, photo and video editing. Given that the Archos has a development SDK and also wireless communications, this is a great platform for exploring a wide array of creative ideas.

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Saturday, March 05, 2005

Viosport

Check out Viosport's helmet cams. They are small, ruggedized, come with a variety of lenses or mounts and are compatible with a wide variety of recording devices.



Free Media Archiving and Videoblogging

With the rise in popularity of personal video, more and more people are turning to blogging with videos. Videoblogs contain often unedited, highly compressed and short video clips. The nature of these clips is generally very personal --- commentary or documenting activities in daily life. Some journalists and politicians are beginning to see the power and potential for videoblogging. Also, videobloggers are raising the attention of internet media hosts and software developers as well as more traditional media artists.
Even corporate giants are getting into videoblogging. Robert Scoble just joined the Yahoo Videoblogging list. He is well known for his pioneering efforts to bring technologies such as wikis and blogs to Microsoft. Videoblogging and podcasting (internet audio broadcasts) are techniques employed on the Channel9 Forums.

Because hosting and bandwidth are such an issue for videobloggers, those who cannot afford to host much video (the effect of slashdotting can have a huge impact), there are a couple of options.

First the Internet Archive can serve as a host repository for video and other media. Media are licensed under the Creative Commons license and are freely searchable and viewable by the public. The disadvantage to the Internet Archive is that you will have to wait for about 24 hours for your media to be available.



Ourmedia is a more nascent grassroots option. It is still under alpha testing and a user name and password is needed to get in. However, this combination is freely available to those who wish to try using this service. There are some size restrictions in terms of how big videos may be. This is around 10-20 MB. These videos are also licensed under the Creative Commons licence.

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Photos and metdata - FotoNotes

In general, there are two ways to associate information about the content of media: you can create meta-data that is external to that media or you can create data that is internal to that media.

So, for example, Flickr allows users to "tag" photographic media with a set of arbitrary labels. Applications or search engines can index these tags and perform functions over them. These tags describe all sorts of properties of associated media, but the description is external to the media. That is, if you were to grab the photo and dump it somewhere else, that information is lost.

However, Flickr also allows users to describe what's in a photo by defining a region in the photo and labeling it with arbitrary text. These annotations are stored inside of the JPEG and can now travel with that image. This functionality actually comes from a fascinating application called FotoNotes.

FotoNotes is described as a framework (data schema, reference model, user interface conventions and API) and specification for managing Photos. In fact, the folks who developed FotoNotes see this capability as much grander than implemented now. Developers would like the ability to create links not only to descriptions but also audio, web pages, and other photos. They'd also like to be able draw polygons on images and integrate geographical imformation. Say what?! Okay. Now this is getting to be a really exciting concept.

Importantly, they are keeping their eyes out on current schemas such as Atom, W3Photo and XMP. That is, they wish to be compatible with other schemas and, in fact, create an open standard for developers to use.

Visit here to play with a demo of FotoNoter. Check back and there will be a working FotoNoter demo on this site, too. Or you can visit Flickr and start marking up the web.

Flickr Photos

Flickr is an emergent phenomenon in social computing: shared, taggable photos. Users can create tagsets and tag photos in any way they like. These tags can be used by aggregators, search engines, or blogs, such as WordPress for inclusion into posts.

"Hello" is a product by Google that works with picasa and blogger (more Google products) to enable both point-to-point sharing with friends as well as easy posting to blogger using a "blogger bot" in a chat session.





Flickr also uses a tool called fotonotes to enable users to annotate regions of an image itself. Annotated regions and textual comments associated with those regions get stored inside the jpeg image and can easily be searched using simple tools. More about this in another post.

FeederReader

Shamlessly copied off Greg Smith's feederreader website:

FeederReader is a full-featured RSS Aggregator with podcast listening ("podcasting" or "podcatching") and enclosure support, running on Windows Mobile. It is designed for downloading and reading RSS feeds on a Pocket PC run without the assistance of a host computer. You can update the feeds when the Pocket PC is connected to the internet (i.e. through a LAN or Mobile Phone) and read them while offline.







As great as feederreader is, you still need support for playing media files...