June 22, 2010


I haven't been doing much programming in my spare time lately. I did play some more with the Google maps API and the geolocation services in HTML 5. Here's a screenshot of how far I got:

You might remember me freaking out a little about Firefox knowing my location quite accurately. Seems to be a fluke though. I gave my app to a colleague who tried it from his home, and his location wasn't anywhere close to reality. So it's not the most reliable way of finding where you are.

However, try running this on a device with GPS (say, an iPhone), and things improve quite a bit (which should be no surprise). I consistently got accuracy to within a few meters. This means that you can actually do some very interesting, fun and useful applications straight in the browser. E.g. leaving virtual tags in physical locations.

The Google maps API is pretty awesome, by the way. Adding maps to your website takes no more than five minutes of your time. And the flexibility offered is really quite amazing (select your zoom, map type; choose your controls, or define your own; add markers, popups, statistical data;...).

Also, Rails made it pretty easy to store and retrieve locations I've been to. That too was set up in no more than an hour (that's for someone who hadn't looked at Rails in quite some time).

So overall a fun and educational experience. And again some code to throw on the already quite sizable pile of unfinished projects.

June 14, 2010

Augmented shadows

This is related somewhat to an earlier post on interactive displays. Very cool and original use of this technology. And much nicer than waving your arms in the air. :-)

Via creativeapplications.net (go check it out).

June 11, 2010

Where am I ? Sidetracked.

Hey, Blogger finally has some new layouts to play with. Nice! The choice still is quite limited, but you get a lot of customisation options to help make up for it.

Right, I was going to tell you I'm sidetracked again. I was working on my 2D scenegraph based document renderer, of which I posted some screenshots earlier. But right now I'm really experimenting a combination of Ruby on Rails, geolocation services, the Google maps API, and my iPhone.

I discovered something scary in the process: Firefox has this built-in geolocation technology (well, it's a combination of FF tech and a Google service) which quite accurately is able to tell me where on earth I am. Without the use of GPS. Without me having given it my address in any way. With only my own network around to possibly recognize. Sure, they could have linked that to my location, but I don't think they've been wardriving around here.

If you're not slightly freaked out about your laptop being able to tell where it is and, hence, where you are, then you have a stronger stomach than me... Though I guess it would come in handy when you lost it. Just remotely connect to it and let it tell you. :-)

June 01, 2010

Making real science fiction

Via TED. This is cool, but I don't yet see how we're going to make everyday use of something like this. Standing in front of a video wall waving your arms around is going to be tiring. In fact, I think that this still fails with the distance which exists between what you're manipulating and your hands (it's still just a point-and-click interface). That's why I like the videos he showed at the start of his talk much more. Direct interaction with real and virtual objects, without the distance, is what really makes this work. And if every surface gets these capabilities then we're talking about something very different entirely. Imagine when your desktop doesn't stop with the edges of your screen, but flows over onto your actual desk, walls, etc. Then the interface becomes really spatial, and you can start doing some really funky stuff. If we can get to that, that would be more than amazing.

But I don't see that happening in just five years time...