Photosynth, amazing 3D imagery from your snaps!

Typically those of us who travel a lot, whether it be for work or pleasure enjoy photography. How often have you looked over your photo’s from a trip and wished you could stitch them together digitally?Photosynth Vatican

In an urban setting this could mean stitching together all the images of the Taj Mahal or of the Vatican, giving spatial clarity to urban area or gardens, laying out the 3-D space and size and enable one to zoom in on detail. Indoors this might this might enable one to visually walk around a space choosing to zoom in on detail or pull back to the broader perspective. A series of photographs taken over time could show different stages of development of an art project. Take the interior concept further and it could become a virtual guide to a museum, enabling a viewer to zoom in on the detail of artifacts as they choose.

If the concept is extended to landscapes, it wouldn’t take many photographs to complete a broad 3-D image and might enable the viewer to zoom in on photographs of activity, say canoers advancing down rapids, golfers moving over a course or climbers scaling a cliff. And the more photographs the greater the experience would be, photographs from different angles would all add to the 3D experience improving depth, scale, spatial dimensions and detail.

Thanks to Microsoft labs and Photsnyth this possibility is already a reality, though not commercially available. Scoble has posted a video of a demo by Gary Flake at the O’Reilly Web 2.0 Summit, or go direct to demo’s online. Photosynth software takes a large collection of photos of a place or an object, analyzes them for similarities, then displays the photos in a reconstructed three-dimensional space, showing you how each one relates to the next.

There are clearly many interesting practical applications one can imagine from monitoring environmental degradation, to observing flooding across an area relative to normal state or visually recreating the image of the Buddhas at Bamiyan after their destruction from multiple photographs, also see The Bamiyan Project to recreate them using computer graphics. Of course given a few professional tools the ability to use such imagery for measuring distances, or combine it with available remotely sensed data could potentially transform this into a powerful tool for post disaster assessment.

This is truly exciting, the next time you are part of a team that mobilises to assess a disaster, perhaps all those holiday snaps uploaded by tourists will provide detailed baseline data, improving effectiveness of response.

“apple Mac’s” put simply … are a pleasure !

I have to confess I recently shifted to apple (laptop in my case) I’m not a graphics or high end user, but absolutely the right move… having used MS Windows for what seems like a lifetime (and still do), I can really appreciate it. OK so the hardware is well designed and comes in neat boxes and forget the “apples are cool” hype. The software and community support is what makes it tick.

Firstly the software just works, install and you’re off, no fiddling, no settings, you are informed of updates and they just… well install.

Then there are the interfaces, it takes a short while to get used to … but all programmes are consistent, they work well, look good, options easy to understand and have a great feel.

Of course there are hundreds of little apps and widgets to make life easy (see Neat Little Mac Apps), and they really do, whether it is keeping codes aligned to apps and sites (Wallet) automatically inputting text (RapidoWrite), totally removing apps (Appzapper), putting a sleeper / alarm and fader on i-Tunes (Awaken) using widgets (clocks, system interface, games, dictionaries… you get the picture) that when called up float over the screen. Even better Automator allows you to make your own apps real easy (drop and drag)… or of course download others ready prepared (and mostly free) for example, run routine maintenance, heh… even a luddit like myself can develop simple repetitive actions in Automator ( or automatorworld).

The i-life suite is full of goodies, i-tunes just being one… photo management (i-photo), automatcially update web-sites (i-web) with podcasts (garageband) make your own movies (i-movie) and burn everything to DVDs (i DVD) in chapters like a professional. I won’t go on.

Advice and help is always there on the web, all those obsessive apple nerds provide huge amounts of free tips, support, recommendations and software, but I find it consistent and not overwhelming … and really, it is for the pleasure of it! Trust me you don’t want me to start listing sites…

Cost… Mac Vs PC… not an issue if you are buying a well spec’d PC. Support… its true that it is hard to find tech support in most middle income or developing countries, but after talking to others it seems that they simply don’t need to be returned, phone support can of course be purchased (about 10% of cost for 3 years).

Yep, MS may be the market standard and have the world of variety but I don’t need it all, indeed I always use MS Office for Mac (excel, word, powerpoint)… the one downer is that Outlook is not compatible.

However it is actually a pleasure to learn how to use my Mac… unlike my Mac I would never spend personal time on a PC simply because I enjoyed learning how to use it!

… yours hoping to return to the real world soon…

Ubuntu … user friendly Linux software suite is taking off!

How much do we all object to paying the exorbitant costs of using microsoft windows? Not just the licence fee but all the additionaly costs for support, updates, maintenance and of course Virus checkers, firewalls …..

Linux has oft been touted as the solution… open source software that those with the ability can adapt themselves, sadly it has never been too user friendly, so whilst it dominates the server market it has tended to be marginal for common PC users like the rest of us. – – – No longer!

MS Windows licence fees are exorbitant in countries where labour is cheap. The cost of a PC put together by skilled labour may be less than the cost of purchasing MS software! As a result in some middle income countries where there are huge disparities in income but a demanding, increasingly vocal and ever growing middle class Linux has taken off, for example supporting 7% to 10% of small business and home PCs in Brazil.

In South Africa it has literally become the mother of invention. Ubuntu is a free linux based operating system providing a complete suite of software like MS Office. Unlike MS it is easy to install, use and maintain as witnessed by and digg, the software is intuitive and ‘tinker’ friendly. This is no pipe dream, it is operating in at least 6 countries and take up is spreading to Europe. Ubuntu, perfectly attuned to the needs of special interest groups with specific cultural or language needs, has been adopted by minorities in Germany, Spain as well as larger groups in Brazil and of course South Africa.

The BBC’s Digital Planet discussed Ubuntu with its brain child, Mark Shuttleworth (famously the first space tourist), made his fortune as an entrepreneur using linux whilst isolated in South Africa, he wishes to it unleash possibilities for others also.

Edubuntu a popular package, will in South Africa be complimented by a complete online educational curricula developed and evolving through teacher, parent, student collaboration… in effect an educatoinal Wiki.

Ubuntu may well become a huge success since it maximises the one oft available resource, enthusiastic capable youth, (if you can put a computer together then you can install and operate Ubuntu). It negates needs for external expertise and money, breaks the cycle of dependency on feature heavy software with unneeded functionality and ever increasing demand on computer power, memory and upgrades, but most importantly it places the opportunity to develop digital competency where it should always have been, in the hands of communities, their youth and their future.

It seems likely that Ubuntu will genuinely take great strides to tackling the digital divide by starting where it matters most, in the minds and understanding of people without sophisticated education, reliable access to the internet or more than minimal access to cash.