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June 2009 Monthly archive

At yesterdays WWDC TomTom has announced to release their in car navigation for the iPhone (also for the new iPhone 3GS) including car kit for secure docking. The docking attaches to the windscreen and allows portrait and landscape mode.
The TomTom application including the latest maps will be available from the iTunes store soon they say.
Some first shots from the conference shown at engadget.
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Lets hope soon, so that we can have a look at it. So far we have to enjoy the clip on Youtube:

See the TomTom announcement here.

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Trailrunner is managing software for exercising. It supports a broad variety of exercising forms, ranging from manual records, pulse meters, shoe pods to GPS trackers. The software has been around for a few years and has evolved quite a bit. Especially now with the new 2.0 release that is available now as a beta release. The new feature that caught the attention is the integration of Open Street Map.
With Trailrunner you would always get a base map. Even in the early days you could choose from different free mapping services. For a free online available software this was something special. Although the maps and aerials have been crude and often in a low resolution it was something that differed Trailrunner from others.
Things have changed dramatically across the internet regarding free mapping services and very detailed and accurate information is available in different forms. Trailrunner managed to develop in sync with this and when you look at the product now, the map integration is probably still the best feature. With the integration of Open Street Map (OSM) the software allows access to the open source platform and ensures a certain independency from Google or Microsoft Virtual Earth. Both other services are available too, but to give the user the choice between the completely different projects is a big plus. Out there in the mapping community is a great divide, or better a number of divisions. Some swear on Google maps, other only use Microsoft and a third group would only go for open source projects such as OSM. Integrating all of them is a clever move and pleases a wider user group. It is even possible to manually ad your own maps.
But apart form this Trailrunner knows to please with a series of other features too. From the range of supported gadget, to the range of file formats and the detail of visualization and settings, all the way to the customization there is something for everyone.
The software supports directly the import from iPhone/iPod, the Nike Pod, LoadMyTracks, SonicLink and a variety of Garmin formats and software including the Ant Stick. Manually files can be imported from a GPX, TCX, HRM or KML file format.
The visualizations are on the map or as diagrams and include a nice playback feature. The tracks can be manipulated right in the software by splitting or merging and new tracks can be added also by drawing them directly on the map. For exporting there are options to choose from such as, GPX, TCX, KML, PDF or text available. There are lots to the Trailrunner and elements like dairy and exercise plan I haven’t discussed here. Compared to other similar services such as the online service Garmin Connect or Nokia’s Sports Tracker it demonstrates how much fun managing your exercises can be. For up to date news visit the Trailrunner blog. The latest software version of Trailrunner can be downloaded here.

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“For President Obama’s 100th day in office, the MIT SENSEable City Lab has created visualizations of mobile phone call activity that characterize the inaugural crowd and answer the questions: Who was in Washington, D.C. for President Obama’s Inauguration Day?”
The team arond Carlo Ratti has not only recently visualized and analyzed mobile phone data. They have been experimenting with this data source for a while and produced number of interesting projects. There are the great visualizations for Rome that show mobile phone activities during the Madonna concert, done mainly by Jon Reades.
Reads is again involved with this project set up round Obma’s inauguration day back in January. This time the mobile phone call data from around the ceremony’s location is analyzed. It is analyzed regarding amount of activity and destination of the call, either world wide or per american state. THe time period they are looking at is the full week in which the inauguration took place.

Isn’t it amazing what can be done with a mobile phone call data set? Yes and No. Yes, because there is a great deal of information hidden in the data and results of who is watching and presumably reporting this back home is interesting compared to the results of the election. Questions like did states who voted for Obama attend the ceremony or did mainly states that voted for McCain follow he ceremony live, are of interest. But it has o be said, that the visualizations from the clip are very difficult to understand. There is probably too much being communicated at the same time. The two lines of information along the left hand side and the bottom together with the animation in the centre are confusing. Earlier visualz comming out of the lab where using a different graphic and I fond where simpler to understand, such as the New York Talk exchange or the Puls of the Planet.

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Image from senseable.mit.edu/obama – click for beter resolution version)

The No for the second part of the answer probably goes for “if we can do it, we might not wana do it” or not everything we can do, we actually want to do. The MIT shows here that it is possible to map and animate this kind of information. Potentially even in real time, although they are taking 100 days to do it (this is most like a problem with the mobile phone companies, but nevertheless it might be possible to generate instant visualz of this kind of data. THe problem lies with the interpretation of it. This is not as instant as the visual. It takes time to understand the content and to define a reasonable bit to compare it to. As shown in this example the pro Obama votes.
So it is not quite what they sel it to be, but it is still a great visualization of space-time data – the Obam aquarium if you want.

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Visualisation is part of our daily lives and we re constantly reading, interpreting or producing this kind of communication. In today’s book visualisations are described, as “Visual metaphors are a powerful aid to human thinking.” It goes o with referring to the modern time and the newly found complexity with “As our experience of the world has become more complex and nuanced, the demands to our thinking aids have increased proportionally.”
Anyway, the book is about visualiing information and called Data Flow – Visualizing Information in Graphic Design. It is not new, new, but recent, published by Gestalten in late 2008. It brings together a great collection of recent graphic visualisations of information and data. Of course the book it self is highly designed and a real joy to look at.


Image from Data Flow – Cover

The book is structured into six topics, namely Datasphere, Datanet, Datascape, Dataoid, Datalogy, and Datablocks. This is a purely visual characterisation of the final products, but formally helpful and of course sexy. Actually sexy is pretty much everything in this book.
As these titles already tell you the represent circle, net, surfaces, blocks. Those are the simple ones, the hard ones are Dataoid and Datalogy, here some references are needed to explain what the editor means with the title. Datanoid is deriving from humanoid, meaning “having human characteristics or form”. It describes visualisations humans can easily relate to through different ways, by integrating people, photographs and actions. The Datalogy seems to derive from analogy and refers to “similar to”, combining comparison and experience.
To make things simper a complex structure is needed. The book certainly achieves this. They seem fairly formal groupings at first, but have some thinking behind.


Images from Data Flow – Chapter introduction

The introduction to each chapter stars with a quite poetic description of each topic. This makes reading the book fun but is little helpful if one is interested in details. It is followed by a summary of the chapter again in a fairly superficial manner, but comparing or introducing a few key examples. This gives a good impression of what follows. Each graphic is then described with a short text block of around 60 words. This is very brief an each creator could probably fill pages with contextual information, but the visualisation is designed to speak for it self so it might be a good compromise. This kind of defines the character of the book; it is more of a compendium than a reader, containing a collection and not a description.
Between all this there are a few interview with designers of some of the presented visualisations, they are, Lust, Jessica Hagy, Cybu Richli and Catalogtree. Some of their work also features over a number of pages, whereas normally through out the book, one page is one visual, with 256 pages this might be about 180 different visuals in full colour obviously.
The interviews are rather short, something around eight questions. The style of the interview is a rather school like question and answer game. A bit more of a flexible chat would probably make the discussion more interesting. In the end one gets the feeling that the questions generally have been rather implicit, which leaves little room for surprising answers. Anyway, I you have the patience to read through them there is interesting insight on who the designers approach projects and what they think about the topic of visualisation.

There are a number of diagrams we have seen published elsewhere before. One of Christian Nolde’s Emotion Maps, the San Francisco Emotion Map is published here. For his book Emotional Cartography see earlier post here. Funny enough this is in the chapter Datascape and not in Dataoid. Other projects are the cap spotting project that features with a graphic (see blog entry), or the “manual” visualisation of mobile phone activity by Nicolas Fischer, maybe something the MIT should be thinking about (upcoming blog post) or the plotting of the 90 minutes movement of footballer, taken from the Game England vs. Poland in the 2006 World Cup. Who won 2:1?


Images from Data Flow – Sample pages

Some of the other stuff, mainly the Dataspheres recently featured in the Computer Arts 2009 March edition.
To conclude on this review, the book is great and very sexy, as mentioned above. It is one of the sort of books that give you real inspiration and immediately makes you wana pimp all that recent stuff you have produced. And once more you find yourself saying, I knew it for long it is possible to actually produce great visuals! And for a very short moment you forget about all the crap and ugly stuff your are surrounded by, nice!


Image from Data Flow – Sample page, just because it is so nice.

The book:
R. Klanten, N. Bourquin, S. Ehmann, F. van Heerden, T. Tissot, 2008. Data Flow. Berlin: Gestalten

Some links to designer featuring in the book:
http://www.jeffreydocherty.com/
http://www.catalogtree.net/
http://www.cvanvleck.com/

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CASA has recently been awarded “Centre of Excellence“ by Autodesk, and they provide their software packages. The software no is available in CASA and a few projects are taking shape on them. See a recent post by digitalUrban on the latest project using LandXplorer to map aerial images onto a 3d Lidar London model.
An other software of the Autodesk package is the Map 3D, a sort of AutoCAD GIS. On their website it is described as ”AutoCAD® Map 3D software enables engineers, planners, mapping technicians, surveyors, and GIS professionals to directly access, edit, visualize, and analyze a broad variety of CAD and spatial data in a familiar AutoCAD® software environment.“
With the experience from the previous mapping of the UrbanDiary data, this product looked as if it would be worth having a look at. The initial came from a link I came a cross on the web while searching for something related to a csv file. On map3d.wordpress.com I cam ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ a blog post on how to import a csv file into Map 3D and as the UrbanDiary data was available in csv I thought I just give it a go.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

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Image by UrbanTick – Screenshots from Map 3D

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Image by UrbanTick – Screenshots from Map 3D – attribute box

It is actually straightforward once I figured out that the data formats in the csv file have to be set to number rather than text. Anyway, the data can be linked in via the OCDB data base link. This will include all the attributes from the csv table.
So far so good the data is there and can be used. With the help of the attribute table, changes in the visualization are simple. The rule builder is easy to use and produces good results, including an automatically generated key

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Image by UrbanTick – Screenshots from Map 3D – generated key

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Image by UrbanTick – Screenshots from Map 3D – data displayed per week day including a label

So for not having used the software before I am quite satisfied with the result. Importing the data, sorting it according to the attribute table and apply visualization characteristics depending on features, not bad.
It appears that the program slows down quite quickly. The first run was with a subset o the UrbanDiary data, some 10’000 points and this was fine. Going up to 45’000 points used quite a lot of power and slowed down the machine drastically. Switching from 2D mode into 3D did not really work and it was a struggle to get back without quitting the program.
The next thing was the analyzing functions. Using the buffer worked ok, again on a subset of points, but the machine got slower again. Meaning it was not responding at times and I would get the funny message by Vista ”The program is currently not responding would you like to quit or wait for the program?“ Of course I want to wait for the program and eventually it would come back. The first crash was not far and after the importing some aerial imagery of London to give the points some context I gave up. But only for today, because I was impressed by the program’s user-friendly approach. Compared to other GIS that are very technical, Map 3D was a little bit intuitive to me. I am now telling myself that the performance problems are all down to me not being experienced enough and it will be all better next time.
The next thing to try is eventually to get the GPS data from Map 3D into Autodesk 3D Studio Max for visualization purposes. This would be the software way, people here in CASA are currently working on a programming solution for this.

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As a by-product of a research project called “Mapping the World’s Photos” a nice movement map was generated. The work by Davis Crandall, Lars Backstrom, Daniel Huttenlocher and Jon Kleinberg from the Department of Computer Science, Cornell University is looking at organizing a large collection of geotagged photos. Large in this context means something around 35 million images, collected from Flickr via the public API. The main hypothesis of the project is “that geospatial information provides an important source of structure that can be directly integrated with visual and textual-tag content for organizing global-scale photo collections”. They where using image recognition software to locate the photos together with the interpretation of the photo tags.
In this context the computation bit behind this is not the focus of the interest, although it sounds very impressive. If you are interested in this bit, have a look at their paper directly, which is published online here.
The bit I am interested for this post is the bit where they plot the geospatial information. As they describe it in their paper it was more of a by-product that came with the project, but never the less it generated interesting visuals.
By using the time stamp and the geolocation the movement of the photographer can be traced. Similar to a rough GPS track the different locations a photo is taken can be mapped as a sequence in space and time. Crandall et all where plotting this information and the result was a series of urban tourist’s movement maps. In the paper they published two of them on of Manhattan, NY and the other one of the San Francisco Bay area.

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Image courtesy of David Crandall / New York – To produce these figures, we plotted the geolocated coordinates of sequences of images taken by the same user, sorted by time, for which consecutive photos were no more than 30 minutes apart.

A great way to collect data by mining the existing and continuously growing, as they call it “global photo library” by using the public API and the published image information. It is a project very similar to the recently posted project “Just landed”, where the Twitter API was used together with a tweet analysis regarding phrases containing “just landed” to map global movement.
The selection of the image generators, the photographers and sharers is again, just as it was with twitter a critical point. Who does this represent, who is this group and what can we learn from this groups data?

An other city mapped by the photos taken is London.
London generated from FLickr photo locations
Image courtesy of David Crandall / London as seen through the camera clicks shared on Flickr with geolocation.

Quoted paper: David Crandall, Lars Backstrom, Daniel Huttenlocher and Jon Kleinberg, 2009. Mapping the World’s Photos.

Found through 7.5th Floor by Fabien Girardin – As he points out in his blog post there are a number of related projects including Currid and Williams’ work on Mapping the Cultural Buzz.

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A beautiful clip documenting a video installation about the city. 36h city is multi layered, but also a multi dimensional projection merging different aspects of the city in order to paint a more comprehensive picture. The very interesting point here is how time can be integrated in a spatial representation. The narrative is simple and only concerned with the city but very complex on how it can be told.
This work was produced by dottodot as a design for an exhibition. They where using only one projector for this and it was put together in a software called vvvv.

Lea 36h City Projection from Ankit Shekhawat on Vimeo.

And just because this is so beautiful, I put in a second clip from the same producers using the same technique. This time it is built around a hotel room.

lea ceramiche 36H hotel scenario 3d projection from dotdotdot on Vimeo.

dottodot have also produced lots of other nice interactive exhibition designs such a SkyWalker or Valcucine’s skyscraper.

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