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Tag "location based information"

Gaming at large scale is a hot topic with the new technologies available. It makes for a great spatial experience where locations can be rediscovered and reclaimed in a new way with a new purpose. The practice of the production of space is very present with this new breed of games that make uses of location based technology and smart phones as well as social networking platforms. Earlier posts HERE and HERE.

Around Foursquare a few extensions have been developed such as oust.me or MobZombies. There are also games such a shadowCity or situationist operating platform independent but are crowd oriented. All these games turn real world spatial movement recorded by the mobile phones GPS in to virtual achievements and traces that allow for other players to interact with.

Image taken from mapAttack / An AR view of the game board with the locations as they are captured by the different teams (colour) and the number of points each on contributes.

MapAttack is one of these new breeds of real time, real location, virtual games. It is a game platform that runs on iOS and Android. It was developed from the Geoloqi platform. It is a multiplayer game for 4-12 players in two teams battling for supremacy over a terrain by conquering virtual locations in the real world that will count as points towards the team overall rating. Locations are conquered by being there first which will be registerd by the mobile platform and transmitted to the centralised mapAttack server. In real time all players have an overview of the current stats of the game.

MapAttack gaming session can be hosted anywhere and might come to a city near you. Check out the twitter page for updated on games and locations.
If your interested to use the API to build your own version of the game there is a developers page. The code s open source, including the mobile app.

“MapAttack is a real-time location-based GPS game powered by the @geoloqi platform. Coming to a city near you.
This video shows a visualisation of the territory captured by each team during gameplay.
Why? So you can turn the real world into a game, of course! To get to run around while doing awesome things and have fun! The feeling while playing a real-life game is one of the best things on earth. It’s not common, but it’s becoming an increasingly awesome possibility with mobile technology. We hope millions of these games occur and that we can make more of them possible. We’re always inspired by Jane McGonigal and AreaCode and we’d like to increase our ability to bring more people into real-world gaming.”

via roomthily via programmableWeb.

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The spatial dimension of reading is an interesting aspect in so far as to how far it can actually become the main subject. A lot of narratives make extensive use of space and lace description and the location is often as important as the characters who really come to live from the description of spatial interaction and as to how they are set in the place.

There are genres based on location both from the stories, but also based on the authors. With for example a Scandinavian tradition for crime thriller and detective story. But how could this spatial aspect be translated to organise books?

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The interaction tool is the touch table with the map and the wheel for navigation. At the top is a bare showing search result for books and stories.

A student project called lit from the University of Potsdam in Germany (2010), Urban Layers module (SS 2010) (WS 2010), came up with an interactive software design for location based literacy research. It was developed by Jan-Erik Stange and Sebastian Meier supervised by Till Nagel. The tool was developed for a touch table interface providing direct interaction and handling. The project won a Core77 design award in the category Interactive, Web and Mobile.

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The map showing the sequence as to how the locations are the stage for the story.

On a large map background the location can play a number of different roles. For one it can define a search criteria, by defining places or boundaries to find books. Location however, can then also play the key role from within the book and the software can show the locations this story plays at. For this the project has developed a visualisation to link the linear book text and dots on the map. It is achieved by using an interaction wheel, showing the text as a circle, and drawing lines to the dots. This way the sequence becomes clear and everything can still happen at the centre of the table.

lit location based literature research
Image taken from lit.sebastianmeier / The map now showing two books in different colour to visually compare.

It is then possible to show the sequence also on the map connecting the dots, thus providing a spati narrative. Further more additional books can be brought in and be compared to one another based on the location.

Via Wrightbrian3, via the Atlantic

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Flickr has newly introduced a feature to automatically limit geographical details of photographs based on criteria. The so called geofence is introduced on the Flickr blog and is a defined area within which the location of photographs is not shown. Furthermore, different groups can be assigned to be included and the lover level to be excluded.

Basically users can set up a parameter around their favorite public park and choose only their friends tag as the group family to be able to see the exact location of the picture taken. Since the groups are arranged, similar to Facebook groups, hierarchically, the other groups anyone, contact and friends will not be able to see the location.


The new setting is very good implemented and easy to use. You either search for a location by name or directly on the map. The marker can be draged around to mark the spot and the adjusted in size between 50 to 10000 metter. Interestingly flickr doesn’t say whether this is diameter or radius so the feature is basically a visual one. You have to decide according to what feels about right. But it is the radius that is the parameter.

However, it is less the exact distance that is important, rather it is the number of other possibilities. If there is only one house within the fenced area you could still guess that someone must be living there. And on the other hand if a fifty meter radius in a dense street can cover already


Flickr sais to have more than 300 million geotagged photos and videos on its site. the service has also been blamed to be very slow with updating and adjusting its privacy settings in the past, not offering many sharing options. With this new addition it definitely updates these settings in a rather radical and probably industry changing way. Through out the comunity this change has been received very positive, ars technica, wired, mashable

As Wired describes the problem: “It means you can snap a picture of your awesome 42″ plasma TV or your kid’s fun run day, without worrying about burglars and perverts from examining the photo’s geographical metadata and making a beeline for your hometown.”

It is very likely that other services will follow and offer similar options. So that in the future users can draw these geofences around their tweets and Facebook messages, hide Foursquare checkins and so on. It is hard to see the point of geo referencing in this scenario, but it seems that this is the tool the user groups currently want to be able to ave in their hands.


To some extend this is understandable because the overwhelming dominance and power the service provider has over the user making it a very difficult relationship to build up some trust. The services like Facebook, Twitter and Flickr, can just change their policies and rules or conditions of use at any point without consulting the user base. Furthermore they have such a monopoli of use and information that it does look scary to the individual user.

However, maybe the problem has to be fond and addressed elsewhere than the user end. This feature is mainly enabling the user to limit himself. What the service does really is providing a tool to limit the users options, but it is self inflicted rather than superimposed. With this the provider is distancing it self from the problem. But the user end is suffering the consequences of being excluded from the location sharing benefits. This is, because the service is built on the principle, the more you share the better the service is.

Nevertheless, it is already good to see the option being implemented. Together with he option to assign groups to the exclusion zone some flexibility is there too. In the long term it would however be better to see a shift in the way location information is handed and processed, eliminating the problems associated with knowing where one is. Currently the trend of sharing positions of everything everywhere at anytime is big and is going to be even bigger in the very near future. With it growing and extending to any sort of information the management on the user end wil become impossible and geofencing the Flickr photographs wi be the least of the problems.


It is not about a single location and it is not about an exact location either. It is definitely not about the plasma TV or a photograph of a child. The problem lies in the amount of data and the repetition of information. If there is one picture taken outside a school little can be concluded from it. However if there is a string of photographs over a year between a block and a block down the road where a school is located and the timestamps mach roughly the school-run hours, one can assume that there is a link between the locations.

It is the pattern resulting from activity that is of interest not the actual location.

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Many different location based apps have surfaced recently making excellent use of the localising capacity of the latest generation of smart phones. However the trend is going through phases. everything from transport app to news feed now wants to use the current location for whatever. In the beginning there was a lot of excitement that it actually works and apps where pars. The check-ins came along and made it big with Brightkite and Latitude, then Foursquare and finally Facebook pushing the train. Now we’re in a sort of location bubble with every app inside. This is not going anywhere, so better getting into a niche as things are still rolig.

Wanderlust is such a tool for the smart phone developed for a niche, however closely related to other specialised fields. Wanderlust (the making of) is a mobile story telling platform integrating with the cohort of Foursquare, making use of their massive database of check-ins. Via these location the narratives unfold. The clever concept of the Wandelust stories is, that they play at generic type locations instead of actual unique locations. The narrative relates to the type ‘Bar‘ and this is not a specific bar, but just any bar you can find.

If the story starts at a ‘Shop‘, off you go, into the next shop and the narrative unfolds. The location plays an important role in so far that it is used to determine the type of location you are in. In some sense this is location type hopping according to storyboard. The narrative will tell you where to go next to find the next part of the story and hear how this bloody mess is resolved (in the story obviously).

The platform is very helpful in finding the right place as it ties in with the Goole Maps routing service and finds the quickest way to get there. So it is hard to get lost, but it is especially hard to find an excuse not to play or listen in this case. Not even the platform provides an escape, it runs across platforms. Quite cleverly it is built as a webpage, using JQuerry, any browser capable mobile phone can load. No complaints, out you go, pull these stories in!

Tourism by Naomi Alderman: A chilling urban fantasy, beginning in a bar. Tech by Tom Chatfield: A thousand words of science fiction in one act, beginning in a restaurant. Ivy by Andrea Phillips: A dark and dreamlike fairytale, beginning in a nightclub or music venue. In The Shadow Of Her Tail by Matt Wieteska: An urban fantasy, beginning in a shop. South by Southwest by Adrian Hon: A homage to Hitchcock’s spy thriller North by Northwest set during SXSW 2011, beginning (of course) in a convention center.

If you have an ide for a story get in touch with the guys at @wanderlustapp.

Image taken from narrativenow / Wanderlust graphic.

Via roomthly

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As Google introduced Google Buzz back in 2009 they simply delivered it straight past the existing location based service. Back then, the introduction came with a bang an Google put a lot of effort pushing into the location based application segment. Even though Google basically has a monopole on everything location based, one year on Buzz has been sleeping for most of its existence.

Services popping up, mainly Goala and Foursquare raised instead. With it a whole bunch of similar apps like Brightkite and later in 2010 also facebook managed to more or less successfully integrate the location feature into the platform.

Foresquare released some stats last month claiming a growth of 3400% in the past year! Not sure what exactly this means, but generally it can be said that this sort of application is currently very popular amongst smart phone users. What I haven’t seen so far are gender stats on how girls and boys compare in the usage of location based self tagging. From my experience, not at all empirical, when ever I check in at a facebook place, there seem to be a lot more boys already checked in at this place than girls. Maybe I am in the wrong place, but maybe its a boys thing.

foursquare stats
Graph taken from foursquare / Honestly, 2010 was just insane. The numbers tell the story better than we can, so we put together this little infographic. (Also, our 6,000,000th user signed up last week!) See similar twitter stats in this earlier post HERE.

Anyway, here comes Google and resurrects Latitude from the dead (see earlier post on the death of Latitude HERE) to play alongside these platforms letting users check in. This, for those who have missed the short earlier live of Latitude, is quite a development from what L was at the beginning. It was a location sharing platform based on location not venue. Al you coud see was the dots of your friends on the map. Of course this was a major inovation back then and it was one of the first large scale applications of this kind. It was cool, but noone understood it. There was just too much negative press and too many concerned voiced tearring it all back down for Google, only to make way for the ‘younger’ generation of app that are now this successful.

Privacy concerns were at the forefront of the discussion and one of the odd things that was introduced by Google was a reminder message, sent roughly every two weeks to respond to concerns about people knowing the where abouts of a person without his or her knowing. I still receive this message I guess.
Hopefully Google has now stopped sending them, this would clutter the mailboxes of the potentially now growing user group unnecessarily.

New Latitude New Latitude
Images taken from Google Lat Long Blog / See where your friends are on a map and where they’re checking in. Latitude check-ins are built right into Google Maps and Place pages.

The new service lets people check in at locations and also, this is new, check out. There are various options for automatic check in or reminders to check in and so on. I especially like the line in the promotion clip where it says “you can automatically check in, there is no need to interrupt the conversation to let your friends know that you have checked in.”

The new app has so far only been released for the new Android 1.6 and runs on the updated Google Maps 5.1 iPhone users can so far only use the updated Latitude version 2.01, where the locations of your friends are visible, but for yourself the check in function is not yet available. More details on the Google Blos Official Blog and Mobile Blog.

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How the world is connected across large distances has recently be shown by projects analysing phone calls and mapping origin and destination. The MIT SensableCity Lab has done some work, Barabasi and his colleagues worked on it and also Jon Reades from CASA.

The latest work by MIT and UCL, above as circulated a couple of weeks ago, has redrawn the regions of Britain according to phone calls. The maps result from the analysis of a large phone data set covering the whole of the UK.

These large data sets are all held by the phone companies together with presumably a whole lote more interesting stuff. It is rather difficult and complicated to handle and only accessible for a few people.

However with the rise of apps on smart phones such data sets are generated by small independant companies. FTFun is one of them. They have developed an app for the iPhone focusing on facetime. Facetime was introduced by Apple with the release of the iPhone 4 and allows people to see one another during the phone call. These video calls are made possible by a second camera on the front of the iPhone 4. This works however only between two users of an iPhone 4. FTFun have developed a desktop app to allow other users to join in these video calls without the need of an iPhone 4.

As a byproduct the company sits on a data pool of location based connection information. At the beginning of the year they have decided to make some of it available as KML files viewable in Google Maps or Google Earth.

The company so far has 11k users and 185766 face time calls in the last four month since the release of iPhone 4. The data is release in three sets, the past three hours, yesterdays data and live data updated every two or so minutes. Below you can see a map showing the connections over the past three hours of the day.

View Larger Map

Found via Geo2web.

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Twitter communications span the globe and the pinpointing of end locations of conversations in this animation shows how the network spans around the planet. It jumps between the hot spots of cities and even continents.
In the description of the project the authors discuss the rather interesting point of the meaning of ‘Location in the case of twitter. In fact this not only applies to twitter but many location based services, the here is not always here. “‘Location’ has 2 meanings in the world of Twitter. It can mean (1) where someone was when they tweeted provided they are using a GPS-enabled smartphone, or (2) where someone lives (users can specify their home location).” (Geography 970)

In a second version the locations were mapped on a rotating globe which give a good impressionof how we communicate around an axis. For details please see Geography 970.

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Augmented reality application have developed rapidly over the last year and have reached a number of platforms by now. Also there are now multiple providers to run AR services. This is a dramatic change from the early days were Layar was the only open plattform. Same thing with location based services. Google Latitude and Brightkite have been overtaken in the meantime by Foursquare and Gowalla as the leading applications. Actually one dosen’t even think of them as applications but communities.
Anyway to push their position Google now tries a new approach, integrating image recognition in to the AR environment. This could potentially improve the service in terms of accuracy. So far the technology relied on the location from the aGPS and the direction via the compass. However this is within a range of a couple of meters up to ten twenty meters. So in this sense you could have actually already walked past the trendy Sushi place you are desperately trying to find.

Image taken from AddSite / Scanning a contact card.

However, now with Google Goggles (its sounds a bit like Googoo Goggles, the Dr Seuss character) your mobile client will detect the place via its features, scanned from the camera image. It still links back to a massive database containing the background information but the identifiers were delivered by the camera. In this sense a true visual search.
It is still in beta and overall the technology is still in the beginnings. Unfortunately it runs on Androids only. Currently it can scan contact cards and translate them into a digital contact on your phone, recognise art work (I would like to see it recognise this Giacometti sculpture?), recognise landmarks (incase you are usure whether or not this is the Eiffel Tower you are looking at), detect logos (this could be helpful with the sushi place) or also book covers and presumably posters like theater plays or movies.
Search and related services are the core business of Google and this is the sort of innovation they are looking for. Already the term visual search makes a lasting impression, and linkes to all sorts of relations.
It sounds like a great application of technology and it will probably work very well at some point. However on the other hand it does start to rais the question of how dependent on the mobile client do you want to be? Do you really want to look at the world through the ridiculous small screen of your touch screen? Maybe to fins the sushi place?

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The Twitter data is still top of the list and we are experimenting currently with different models in Google Earth.
Here we have a version using the 3D London Model developed here at CASA.
In the flight through you can now see where the tweets actually were sent and in what context. It covers currently central London using approximately 10,000 tweets only, because we are experiencing performance problems. We are working on it and hopefully will have a solution shortly.

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Together with the tweet-O-meter project run at CASA as part of the NeISS research project we have collected location tagged tweets around London (M25). As described in an earlier post on this HERE, the idea is to capture the urban narrative. The current data covers a whole weekend from Friday evening to Monday morning and the set holds some 380’000 individual tweets. However this brakes down to 60’000 truly geo referenced tweets, by 5’500 individual users. The thing is, that these are only the mobile tweets and they are captured only if the locations sharing is activated in the twitter profile. Still this makes an average of 10.6 tweets per mobile user over the weekend. Overall we have 39’222 individual users witch makes some 9.7 tweets. So the mobile users seem to message slightly more, but not significantly as one could maybe expect.
In terms of density per location as one could expect the focus is in the centre. There are local hotspots as the weekend progresses, such as Kings Cross and Old Street. But then there seems to be a accumulation of density along the transport lines into and out of the centre.
To visualise the temporality of the data tweets are in the below clip output as a message cloud rising and hovering above London. It is a simple time-space aquarium were the time is plotted as the hight information. The later in the weekend the tweet is sent the higher above the city it floats. As the density develops the low times can be clearly spotted, when it thins out the lines and London sleeps. The animation is rendered in Google Earth, with the KML file brought in through a VB script from Excel. Once set up this is quite a flexible combination. However, the KML file can get quite big, since there is a lot of information contained with all the messages.

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