August 29, 2010
Wikipedia for the 3D Internet
That's what the headline ("A backroom team in the UK have built a world map that they hope could become the Wikipedia of a 3D internet") over Victor Keegan's October 28, 2009 Guardian story says, more or less.
Shows what I know: I'm so far behind the dimensional curve I've yet to see "Avatar 3D" — but that's gonna be remedied this week.
In his blog post about the project Keegan wrote, "If I hadn't sampled it I wouldn't have believed it."
Caption for the video up top: "Sneak preview of an amazing three dimensional model of the entire planet on which anyone can build their own homes or shops anywhere. It was built by a team led by Michael Fotoohi, managing director of Micazook.com and a bunch of friends all working in their spare time.... Think Wikipedia meets Google Earth (Google Earth it isn't)."
Below is Keegan's most interesting article about the small group of British software engineers who, over the past five years, working in the their spare time, have built a 3D version of the entire planet that they believe is better than Google Earth.
I intended to give the 3D internet a miss for a while after writing last week. But that was before Mike Fotoohi, a freelance software engineer from London, emailed me. When he told me that he and a few friends, working for five years in their spare time, had built a 3D version not just of capital cities, as others have, but of the entire planet that was better than Google Earth, my first reaction was to get off the phone pronto.
But his enthusiasm was infectious and it ended up with him bringing his own bulky PC to our house for a demo. I was impressed. He uses public resources such as US aerial maps, geographical data from GIS.com and the wonderful openstreetmap.org, in which people the world over are mapping streets for public benefit. His team has welded the data from these sources together using their own 3D engine to reproduce every street on the planet in three dimensions. Unlike Google Earth or other versions you can, in theory, walk around the entire world with your avatar, or "virtual you".
They have mapped streets in central New York in detail and an avatar – customised to look like me – successfully wandered around the Times Square area (hhttp://bit.ly/timessq). Buildings further away become 3D shells as his team hasn't the resources to fill in details.
How can he get around this? Simple. Anyone, anywhere can build on the 3D foundations of any mapped house in the world. He wants it to be the Wikipedia of a 3D internet with a revenue stream to finance expansion which their own company, micazook.com, can't afford. When those who build houses get to a trusted level they can become moderators, just as happens with Wikipedia. He hopes to make money by having three levels of membership (homeless, visitors and residents) allowing anyone to buy and sell land, buildings, clothes etc or run clubs with his company getting a percentage. There could be a speculative land grab when it goes public. There is already a virtual casino and he demoed an engaging kids' game of sheep being rounded up into a pen.
That there is a market is shown by Second Life, which will generate $500m this year from buying and selling virtual goods such as land and clothing. Eventually, they hope to let residents elect mayors to govern in a democratic fashion. Second Life cost tens of millions of dollars to build.
It is amazing that a few backroom guys in the UK even dare to challenge giants like Google by working in their spare time, using up less than £50,000 so far. They are very focused and have made very clever use of public resources. Their unique contribution is a software "engine" that takes raw data and converts it into a 3D space. There are no patents on it – apparently it is hard to get them on physics engines – but they claim a two- to three-year start over Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, from which they didn't even get a reply when they asked for help.
On the basis of other virtual worlds I have seen, they ought not to have much trouble raising venture capital despite a lack of patents. They will need a lot of money to buy servers to support lots of users. A wider question is whether something that relies partly on the geeky art of self-building (though it is very easy to do) will prevent it getting a massive popular base. Also ownership of buildings in virtual worlds that have a real life equivalent is beset with problems about IP rights and "brand degradation". Do you have any rights to a building or shop in a virtual world that has the same co-ordinates as your own in the real world?
They will know more when they go into public beta-testing later this year. I have no idea if there is a serious flaw within it or whether someone else in a bedroom in California is doing something similar. But what I saw worked well and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a serious success.
Update: Micazook has named its creation Project X and it's in beta.
Want to be a beta tester?
Much more about Project X by its grand panjandrum here.
Mister Steamy Dryer Balls — "Turn your dryer into a wrinkle releasing machine"
Flautist, don't go there.
Now, where was I?
Oh, yeah, Flyer goals.
From the website:
Mister Steamy™ Dryer Balls eliminate ironing and turn your dryer into a wrinkle releasing machine
Add water to dryer balls and toss into dryer —
as dryer heats up, the balls will steam the wrinkles away.
Shirts, pants and slacks will look freshly pressed and wrinkle-free.
It even works on sheets and pillowcases for a fresh, smooth look.
Works on all fabrics, cotton, poly, blends.
No need to iron.
Matching set of two in classic bookofjoe green: $14.98.
Top 5 airports in the U.S. for laser strikes on planes
1. Chicago O'Hare
2. Los Angeles
3. Phoenix Sky Harbor
5. San Jose
"Hundreds of times a year, pranksters using powerful laser pointers that can be purchased for as little as $8.99 are shining their lights at aircraft, posing a danger to the flight crews and passengers," wrote Sean Webby in an August 26, 2010 San Jose Mercury News story.
More: "Laser strikes have been reported by pilots all over the world with increasing frequency since the mid-2000s. During a single night at Seattle-Tacoma Airport last year, 12 planes were struck with laser beams as they were landing. All reportedly had to pull out of their landings and try again. Federal officials say they are not aware of any crashes caused by a laser strike."But officials say that the problem is growing 'exponentially' with the increased power, affordability and availability of laser pointers.
"The FAA reported 947 strikes on commercial aircraft in 2008; 1,489 in 2009. And so far in this year, there have been 1,251 reported strikes on commercial aircraft in the U.S. About a third of the incidents nationwide have been reported in California, officials said."
Just like the ones in restaurants.
Who knew where to get one till now?
From the website:
Taken from the food service industry — the order rail moves easily to the home kitchen or office.
One-hand spring clips precision mounted on heavy anodized aluminum back-plate.
Performs efficiently lying flat on worktable or counter.
Install on edge or underside of shelf.
Hang at eye level on hood or wall.
Clips are easily replaced.
24"L x 3.5"H x 0.25"D.
Hot dog variations
Wikipedia's article is chock full of interesting stuff.
Fair warning: there goes the day.
Measuring Tape Tape
It's not just DNA that has repeats....
Perfect on a wall or doorjamb as a height chart for a growing child.
From the website:
Measuring Tape Tape is a yellow paper tape printed with black markings every 1/8 of an inch.
Ideal for cramped spaces and uneven surfaces.
Accurately measures imperial measurements.
Perforated at the end of each foot.
Low chloride content.
Tear by hand.
Not a spoof or hack but a real Google creation, which went live three days ago.
Long story short: "Realtime Search lets you see up-to-the-second social updates, news articles and blog posts about hot topics around the world."
Try it, you might like it.
Fair warning: there goes the day.
Limited-Edition Hello Kitty x Dr. Martens
For Sanrio's 50th anniversary celebration, Dr. Martens has announced a collection of three Hello Kitty-themed shoes, including a black-and-pink Mary Jane-styled shoe,
a lace-up boot with a special print featuring Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, ChocoCat, My Melody, and others,
and a black and pink Hello Kitty lace-up boot.