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Archive for the ‘navigation’ Category

Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices | Autopia | Wired.com

Note this is a draft of an article I wrote back in June when Apple announced it was going to favor its own Maps app over Google Maps and take G-Maps out of the Apple Store altogether. This blog went on hiatus just 2 weeks after that. And a whirlwind number of staff changes occurred at Apple as a result of the debacle of iOS Maps product. Top people have been let go not the least of which was the heir apparent in some people’s views of Steve Jobs; Scott Forstall. He was not popular, very much a jerk and when asked by Tim Cook to co-sign the mea culpa Apple put out over their embarrassment about the lack of performance and lack of quality of iOS Maps, Scott wouldn’t sign it. So goodbye Scott, hello Google Maps. Somehow Google and Apple are in a period of detente over Maps and Google Maps is now returned to the Apple Store. Who knew so much could happen in 6 months right?

Garmin told Wired in a statement. “We think that there is a market for smartphone navigation apps, PNDs [Personal Navigation Devices] and in-dash navigation systems as each of these solutions has their own advantages and use case limitations and ultimately it’s up to the consumer to decide what they prefer.

via Apple, Google Just Killed Portable GPS Devices | Autopia | Wired.com.

That’s right mapping and navigation are just one more app in a universe of software you can run on your latest generation iPod Touch or iPhone. I suspect that the Maps will only be available on the iPhone as that was a requirement previously placed on the first gen Maps app on iOS. It would be nice if there were a lower threshold entry point for participation in the Apple Maps app universe.

But I do hear one or two criticisms regarding Apple’s attempt to go its own way. Google’s technology and data set lead (you know all those cars driving around and photographing?) Apple has to buy that data from others, it isn’t going to start from scratch and attempt to re-create Google’s Street View data set. Which means it won’t be something Maps has as a feature probably for quite some time. Android’s own Google Maps app includes turn-by-turn navigation AND Street view built right in. It’s just there. How cool is that? You get the same experience on the mobile device as the one you get working in a web browser on a desktop computer.

In this battle between Google and Apple the pure play personal navigation device (PND) manufacturers are losing share. I glibly suggested in a twee yesterday that Garmin needs to partner up with Apple and help out with its POI and map datasets so that potentially both can benefit. It would be cool if a partnership could be struck that allowed Apple to have feature that didn’t necessarily steal market share from the PNDs, but could somehow raise all boats equally. Maybe a partnership to create a Street View-like add-on for everyone’s mapping datasets would be a good start. That would help level the playing field between Google vs. the rest of the world.

Written by Eric Likness

December 15, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Posted in google, gpu, mobile, navigation, technology

Tagged with , , ,

Google X founder Thrun demonstrates Project Glass on TV show | Electronista

Sebastian Thrun, Associate Professor of Comput...

Sebastian Thrun, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Stanford University. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Google X formerly Labs founder Sebastian Thrun debuted a real-world use of his latest endeavor Project Glass during an interview on the syndicated Charlie Rose show which aired yesterday, taking a picture of the host and then posting it to Google+, the companys social network. Thrun appeared to be able to take the picture through tapping the unit, and posting it online via a pair of nods, though the project is still at the prototype stage at this point.

via Google X founder Thrun demonstrates Project Glass on TV show | Electronista.

You may remember Sebastian Thrun the way I do. He was spotlighted a few times on the PBS TV series NOVA in their coverage of the DARPA Grand Challenge competition follow-up in 2005. That was the year that Carnegie Mellon University battled Stanford University to win in a race of driverless vehicles in the desert. The previous year CMU was the favorite to win, but their vehicle didn’t finish the race. By the following years competition, the stakes were much higher. Stanford started it’s effort that Summer 2004 just months after the March Grand Challenge race. By October 2005 the second race was held with CMU and Stanford battling it out. Sebastian Thrun was the head of the Stanford team, and had previously been at CMU and a colleague of the Carnegie race team head, Red Whittaker. In 2001 Thrun took a sabbatical year from CMU and spent it at Stanfrod. Eventually Thrun left Carnegie-Mellon altogether and moved to Stanford in July 2003.

Thrun also took a graduate student of his and Red Whittaker’s with him to Stanford, Michael Montemerlo. That combo of experience at CMU and a grad student to boot help accelerate the pace at which Stanley, the driverless vehicle was able to be developed and compete in October of 2005. Now move forward to another academic sabbatical this time from Stanford to Google Inc. Thrun took a group of students with him to work on Google Street View. Eventually this lead to another driverless car funded completely internally by Google. Thrun’s accomplishments have continued to accrue at regular intervals so much so that now Thrun has given up his tenure at Stanford to join Google as a kind of entrepreneurial research scientist helping head up the Google X Labs. The X Labs is a kind of internal skunkworks that Google funds to work on various and sundry technologies including the Google Driverless Car. Add to this Sebastian Thrun’s other big announcement this year of an open education initiative that’s titled Udacity (attempting to ‘change’ the paradigm of college education). The list as you see goes on and on.

So where does that put the Google Project Glass experiment. Sergey Brin attempted to show off a prototype of the system at a party very recently. Now Sebastian Thrun has shown it off as well. Google Project Glass is a prototype as most online websites have reported. Sebastian Thrun’s interview on Charlie Rose attempted to demo what the prototype is able to do today. It appears according to this article quoted at the top of my blogpost that Google Glass can respond to gestures, and voice (though that was not demonstrated). Questions still remain as to what is included in this package to make it all work. Yes, the glasses do appear ‘self-contained’ but then a wireless connection (as pointed out by Mashable.com) would not be visible to anyone not specifically shown all the components that make it go. That little bit of visual indirection (like a magician) would lead one to believe that everything resides in the glasses themselves. Well, so much the better then for Google to let everyone draw their own conclusions. As to the concept video of Google Glass, I’m still not convinced it’s the best way to interact with a device:

Project Glass: One day. . .

As the video shows it’s more centered on voice interaction very much like Apple’s own Siri technology. And that as you know requires two things:

1. A specific iPhone that has a noise cancelling microphone array

2. A broadband cellphone connection back to the Apple mothership data center in North Carolina to do the Speech-t0-Text recognition and responses

So it’s guaranteed that the glasses are self-contained to an untrained observer, but to do the required heavy lifting as it appears in the concept video is going to require the Google Glasses and two additional items:

1. A specific Android phone with the Google Glass spec’d microphone array and ARM chip inside

2. A broadband cellphone connection back to the Google motherships wherever they may be to do some amount of off-phone processing and obviously data retrievals for the all the Google Apps included.

It would be interesting to know what passes over that personal area network between the Google Glasses and the cellphone data uplink a real set of glasses is going to require. The devil is in those details and will be the limiting factor on how inexpensively this product could be manufactured and sold.

Sergey Brin wearing Google Glasses

Thomas Hawk’s photo of Sergey Brin wearing Google Glasses

Written by Eric Likness

May 10, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Disruptions: Wearing Your Computer on Your Sleeve – NYTimes.com

English: This depicts the evolution of wearabl...

Image via Wikipedia: Bad old days of Wearable Computers

Wearable computing is a broad term. Technically, a fancy electronic watch is a wearable computer. But the ultimate version of this technology is a screen that would somehow augment our vision with information and media.

via Disruptions: Wearing Your Computer on Your Sleeve – NYTimes.com.

Augmented Reality in the news, only this time it’s Google so it’s like for rilz, yo! Just kidding, it will be very interesting given Google’s investment in the Android OS and power-saving mobile computing what kind of wearable computers they will develop. No offense to MIT Media Lab, but getting something into the hands of end-users is something Google is much more accomplished at doing (but One Laptop Per Child however is the counter-argument of course). I think mobile phones are already kind of like a wearable computer. Think back to the first iPod arm bands right? Essentially now just scale the ipod up to the size of an Android and it’s no different. It’s practically wearable today (as Bilton says in his article).

What’s different then with this effort is the accessorizing of the real wearable computer (the smart phone) giving it the augmentation role we’ve seen with products like Layar. But maybe not just limited to cameras, video screens and information overlays, the next wave would have auxiliary wearable sensors communicating back to the smartphone like the old Nike accelerometer that would fit into special Nike Shoes. And also consider the iPod Nano ‘wrist watch’ fad as it exists today. It may not run the Apple iOS, but it certainly could transmit data to your smartphone if need be. Which leads to the hints and rumors of attempts by Apple to create ‘curved glass’.

This has been an ongoing effort by Apple, without being tied to any product or feature in their current product line. Except maybe the iPhone. Most websites I’ve read to date speculate the curvature is not very pronounced and a styling cue to further help marketing and sales of the iPhone. But in this article the curvature Bilton is talking about would be more like the face of a bracelet around the wrist, much more pronounced. Thus the emphasis on curved glass might point to more work being done on wearable computers.

Lastly Bilton’s article goes into a typical futuristic projection of what form the video display will take. No news to report on this topic specifically as it’s a lot of hand-waving and make believe where contact lenses potentially can become display screens. As for me, the more pragmatic approach of companies like Layar creating iPhone/Augmented Reality software hybrids is going to ship sooner and prototype faster than the make believe video contact lenses of the Future.The takeaway I get from Bilton’s article is there’s more of a defined move to create more functions with the smartphone as more of a computer. Though MIT Media Lab have labeled this ‘wearable computing’ think of it more generally as Ubiquitous Computing where the smartphone and its data connection are with you wherever you go.

Written by Eric Likness

December 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Augmented Reality Maps and Directions Coming to iPhone

iOS logo

Image via Wikipedia

Of course, there are already turn-by-turn GPS apps for iOS, Android and other operating systems, but having an augmented reality-based navigational system thats native to the phone is pretty unique.

via Augmented Reality Maps and Directions Coming to iPhone.

In the deadly navigation battle between Google Android and Apple iOS a new front is being formed, Augmented Reality. Apple has also shown that it’s driven to create a duplicate of the Google Maps app for iOS in an attempt to maintain its independence from the Googleplex by all means possible. Though Apple may re-invent the wheel (of network available maps), you will be pleasantly surprised what other bells & whistles get thrown in as well.

Enter the value-added feature of Augmented Reality. Apple is now filing patents on AR relating to handheld device navigation. And maybe this time ’round the Augmented Reality features will be a little more useful than marked up Geo Locations. To date Google Maps hasn’t quite approached this level of functionality, but do have most of the most valuable dataset (Street View) that would allow them to also add an Augmented Reality component. The question is who will get to market first with the most functional, and useful version of Augmented Reality maps?

Written by Eric Likness

September 8, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Google confirms Maps with local map downloads as iOS lags | Electronista

A common message shown on TomTom OS when there...

Image via Wikipedia

Google Maps gets map downloads in Labs betaAfter a brief unofficial discovery, Google on Thursday confirmed that Google Maps 5.7 has the first experimental support for local maps downloads.

via Google confirms Maps with local map downloads as iOS lags | Electronista.

Google Maps for Android is starting to show a level of maturity only seen on dedicated GPS units. True, there still is no routing feature (you need access to Google’s servers for that functionality) But you at least a downloaded map that you can zoom out and in on to get a view without incurring heavy data charges. Yes, overseas you may rack up some big charges as you navigate live maps via the Google Maps app on Android. This is now solved partially by downloading in advance the immediate area you will be visiting (within a few miles radius). It’s an incremental improvement to be sure and makes Android phones a little more self sufficient without making you regret the data charges.

Apple on the other hand is behind. Hands down they are kind of letting the 3rd party gps development go to folks like Navigon and TomTom who both require somewhat hefty fees to license their downloaded content. Apple’s Maps doesn’t compare to Navigon, TomTom, much less Google for actual usefulness in a wide range of situations. And Apple isn’t currently using the downloadable vector based maps introduced with this revision of Google Maps for Android vers. 5.7. So it will struggle with large jpeg images as you pan and scan around the map to find your location.

Written by Eric Likness

July 28, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Apple patents hint at future AR screen tech for iPad | Electronista

Structure of liquid crystal display: 1 – verti...

Image via Wikipedia

Apple may be working on bringing augmented reality views to its iPad thanks to a newly discovered patent filing with the USPTO.

via Apple patents hint at future AR screen tech for iPad | Electronista. (Originally posted at AppleInsider at the following link below)

Original Article: Apple Insider article on AR

Just a very brief look at a couple of patent filings by Apple with some descriptions of potential applications. They seem to want to use it for navigation purposes using the onboard video camera. One half the screen will use the live video feed, the other half is a ‘virtual’ rendition of that scene in 3D to allow you to find a path or maybe a parking space in between all those buildings.

The second filing mentions a see-through screen whose opacity can be regulated by the user. The information display will take precedence over the image seen through the LCD panel. It will default to totally opaque using no voltage whatsoever (In Plane switching design for the LCD).

However the most intriguing part of the story as told by AppleInsider is the use of sensors on the device to determine angle, direction, bearing to then send over the network. Why the network? Well the whole rendering of the 3D scene as described in first patent filing is done somewhere in the cloud and spit back to the iOS device. No onboard 3D rendering needed or at least not at that level of detail. Maybe those datacenters in North Carolina are really cloud based 3D rendering farms?

Written by Eric Likness

July 21, 2011 at 3:00 pm

A cocktail of AR and social marketing | Japan Pulse

From top left: Shinjuku, Tokyo Tower, Rainbow ...

Image via Wikipedia

Though the AR element is not particularly elegant, merely consisting of a blue dot superimposed on your cell phone screen that guides the user through Tokyo’s streets, we think it’s nevertheless a clever marketing gimmick.

via A cocktail of AR and social marketing | Japan Pulse.

Augmented Reality (AR) in the news this week being used for a marketing campaign in Tokyo JP. It’s mostly geared towards getting people out to visit bars and restaurants to collect points. Whoever gets enough points can cash them in for Chivas Regal memorabilia. But hey, it’s something I guess. I just wish the navigation interface was a little more sophisticated.

I also wonder how many different phones you can use as personal navigators to find the locations awarding points. Seems like GPS is an absolute requirement, but so is one that has a Foursquare or Livedoor client as well.

Written by Eric Likness

July 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Posted in entertainment, mobile, navigation

Tagged with ,

Goal oriented visualizations? (via Erik Duval’s Weblog)

Charles Minard's 1869 chart showing the losses...

Image via Wikipedia

Visualizations and their efficacy always takes me back to Edward Tufte‘s big hard cover books on Infographics (or Chart Junk when it’s done badly). In terms of this specific category, visualization leading to a goal I think it’s still very much a ‘general case’. But examples are always better than theoretical descriptions of an ideal. So while I don’t have an example to give (which is what Erik Duval really wants) I can at least point to a person who knows how Infographics get misused.

I’m also reminded somewhat of the most recent issue of Wired Magazine where there’s an article on feedback loops. How are goal oriented visualizations different from or better than feedback loops? I’d say that’s an interesting question to investigate further. The primary example given in that story is the radar equipped speed limit sign. It doesn’t tell you the posted speed. It merely tells you how fast you are going and that by itself apart from ticketing and making the speed limit signs more noticeable did more to effect a change in behavior than any other option. So maybe a goal oriented visualization could also benefit from some techniques like feedback loops?

Some of the fine fleur of information visualisation in Europe gathered in Brussels today at the Visualizing Europe meeting. Definitely worth to follow the links of the speakers on the program! Twitter has a good trace of what was discussed. Revisit offers a rather different view on that discussion than your typical twitter timeline. In the Q&A session, Paul Kahn asked the Rather Big Question: how do you choose between different design alterna … Read More

via Erik Duval’s Weblog

2WAY Q&A: Layar’s Maarten Lens-FitzGerald on Building a Digital Layer on Top of the World

Image representing Layar as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

Lens-FitzGerald: I never thought of going into augmented reality, but cyberspace, any form of digital worlds, have always been one of the things I’ve been thinking about since I found out about science fiction. One of the first books I read of the cyber punk genre was Bruce Sterling‘s “Mirror Shades.” Mirror shades, meaning, of course, AR goggles. And that book came out in 1988 and ever since, this was my world.

via 2WAY Q&A: Layar’s Maarten Lens-FitzGerald on Building a Digital Layer on Top of the World.

An interview with the man that who created the most significant Augmented Reality (AR) application on handheld devices Layar. In the time since the first releases on smartphones like the Android in Europe, Layar has branched out to cover more of the OSes available on hand held devices. The interest I think has cooled somewhat on AR as social network and location has seemed to rule the day. And I would argue even location isn’t as fiery hot as it was at the beginning. But Facebook is still here with a vengeance. So wither the market for AR? What’s next you wonder, well it seems Qualcomm today has announced it’s very own AR Toolkit to help jump start the developer market more useful, nay killer AR apps. Stay tuned.

Written by Eric Likness

June 2, 2011 at 3:00 pm

Custom superchippery pulls 3D from 2D images like humans • The Register

Computing brainboxes believe they have found a method which would allow robotic systems to perceive the 3D world around them by analysing 2D images as the human brain does – which would, among other things, allow the affordable development of cars able to drive themselves safely.

via Custom superchippery pulls 3D from 2D images like humans • The Register.

The beauty of this new work is they designed a custom CPU using a Virtex 6 FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array). FPGA for those who don’t know is a computer chip that you can ‘re-wire’ through software to take on mathematical task you can dream up. In the old days this would have required a custom chip to be engineered, validated and manufactured at great cost. FPGAs require development kits and FPGA chips you need to program. With this you can optimize every step within the computer processor and speed things up much more than a general purpose computer processor (like the Intel chip that powers your Windows or Mac computer). In this example of the research being done the custom designed computer circuitry is using video images to decide where in the world a robot can safely drive as it maneuvers around on the ground. I know Hans Moravec has done a lot with it at Carnegie Mellon U. And it seems that this group is from Yale’s engineering dept. which is encouraging to see the techniques embraced and extended by another U.S. university. The low power of this processor and it’s facility for processing the video images in real-time is ahead of its time and hopefully will find some commercial application either in robotics or automotive safety controls. As for me I’m still hoping for a robot chauffeur.

Written by Eric Likness

September 16, 2010 at 3:00 pm