Fighting with computers

Computers are not always friendly.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Your phone is your 3D scanner

Or it can be, with the amazing ProtoFly project. In short it allows you to take a few pictures of an object and using their Windows-only software pictures are uploaded to Autodesk servers and a 3D model of your scene is obtained.

Either small objects, the interior of a room or the outside of a building can be "scanned" just with a cellphone camera. And don't underestimate the power of this technique (photogrammetry). I have been more than impressed with the quality of the output mesh. And given that the service is free of charge I cannot complain about the price :-)

Once you've got the 3D model of your scene the next problem is how can you start editing it and showing it to others. I have found a very nice piece of software called MeshLab that does a great job and it is a multi-platform open-source solution.

But the coolest thing is that there are some cellphone apps that can show a 3D object too. I am still fighting with one of them called "Shader Devel and 3D Viewer" that might do the job once I figure it out.

The video below shows the first capture I have attempted using just 2 Megapixel images. Please note it is not a video but a 1080 rendering of the textured 3D-model (scene has not been properly cleaned up so some objects are levitating into the air).

Monday, July 18, 2011

Location recording Big-brother style

A few weeks ago there was a lot of noise on the news about how different providers were handling the location information obtained from smartphone users. I had a look at what was available (user level) on the Android platform. Latitude is a software from Google that allows you several types of location information storage and processing that can be fun, scary or terrifying depending on how you think about it.

Most of the recording is disabled by default (at least this is what we are told) so you do not have to worry. Whether some recording is done on the provider's side or not I do not know. We all know, however, that cellphone carriers do collect location information of all their customer's cellphones.

What Latitude offers you is the possibility of using your smartphone location capabilities (GPS+GSM+wifi based) to provide updates to your Google account so you can:
  1. Check your (cellphone) location anytime on Google Maps.
  2. Check the location of other users that willingly share it with you. You can track your kids, employees, work mates, etc.
  3. Get a report of your total traveled miles in the last month, week, etc. With details of all the different locations you've been to.
  4. Get a detailed usage of your time: hours at home, at work, on the road, etc.
  5. Get recorded data in KML format (XML based).
There is an API to enable the creation of applications that use this information for new purposes too.

I can think in multiple useful uses of this service and of some not so nice ones too.

Next time you're telling your husband you are at a meeting in the office, think it twice :-)

Saturday, July 09, 2011

So what is this Google+ thing?

I've got an invite from a former student to join Google+ social network. Yes, I'd say it is a social network which, as Buzz was an attempt to mimic Twitter, tries to mimic Facebook (others may use a more agressive term).

I like the idea of having a way to create more categories than just the "friend" relationship of Facebook and the fact that this categories (they call circles) are not closed but you are free to open as many as you want. I like the idea of this circles to be able to intersect. For example you may have a coworker that happens to be a friend too, so you can have her in both circles (work + friends).

Android Google+ application includes a cool feature of automatically uploading pictures taken with your cellphone (and videos). Ok, maybe the latter may deplete your battery quickly, but you have the choice of limiting when uploads may or may not happen.

The number of invites you have initially is not high, but as soon as you start adding people to your circles you get more invites so I'd say the growth of the network is not very limited at the moment.

As a user that started trying out Buzz and later giving up I am not certain at the moment on what the future will bring to this new service. On the graphical design & GUI side I'd say that Google+ seems to require much more screen real state that Facebook.

Google+ has the big advantage of good integration with some other Google services like Picasa and Gmail (and I guess some other I have yet to discover).